Cecilia looked down at the prostrate form of Rudy on the bed,
and once again felt tears come to her eyes as she recalled all
he'd gone through for her and Jack, all he'd endured. And yet
still she'd been shocked when she'd found that he was part machine,
still doubted, still made him lose trust in her. After all he'd
All during the quest for the two Guardians to heal Rudy's arm,
she'd felt... empty. Alone. Even though Jack was there, his
usual light-hearted self, she'd still missed Rudy, missed her
self-styled protector. All she could think about was healing
him... for what? For helping a friend? Or for apologizing for
thinking he was someone different, someone... dangerous? She
collapsed to her knees, and started to weep on the bed next
to Rudy. That was why his mind was closed right now, not wishing
to reawake - he thought his friends had forsaken him, not accepted
what he was, been scared of him. But now she wanted him back
more than ever. If only there... was some way... to tell....
Her thoughts faded to nothingness as sleep overtook her.
Where...where am I? said Cecilia, as she stared out
at the blackness all around her. Is this a dream? No... not
a dream. Not my dream...
A scene built itself in front of her. A town... boys playing...
Rudy... playing with them, as young as they. Swapping tales
of what they want to be when they grow up, Dream Chasers, adventurers,
mages. Then... one boasted about being able to pick up a large
box on the other side of the village. It was just an idle boast,
but they started running towards it and the seemingly naive
Rudy followed. The boy revealed it to be a joke, at which point
Rudy walked over and picked up the box, throwing it across the
The reaction was immediate, for both Rudy and the kids. The
kids, as one, backed away, throwing accusations of monster child
and mutant. Cecilia winced inwardly, knowing now how much these
insults must have hurt him. Rudy looked away, turned round despondently,
and slowly walked past Cecilia and towards the gate of the town,
obviously intending to leave. As he walked, an old man hobbled
down a side street towards Rudy and laid a hand on his shoulder.
That must be Zepet... No, Rudy! Don't stay in the past!
We need you!
The scene shifted again, Cecilia standing on a bridge, watching
Rudy and Zepet watch the sunset. Rudy turned to Zepet. "Grandfather...
why am I different?"
"...So, you're old enough to think about things like that,
then... you feel pain when someone hits you, correct? But you
also feel pain in your heart... one day, you'll care about people
enough to want to protect them, to stop their hurting. You must
practice with your sword and ARM until that time comes. Then
you must protect them with all your might. Only when you care
about someone can someone care about you. Don't try to take.
So that's why Rudy didn't become an agent of destruction,
a weapon - because Zepet made sure he was virtuous and good...
Another flash, another shift. A bleak cliff, overlooking a
dark valley, moon high in the sky. Rudy standing, wind rippling
his hair and bandana, in front of... oh, Guardians... a simple
cross as a tombstone, with a pendant dangling from it in the
wind. Rudy looked down, looked away... and walked away.
No, Rudy! Don't stay in the past, don't stay here, we need
you! Zepet is dead, don't linger in his memory, you must move
Again a flash, again a shift. A simple house, one room. In
one corner, Zepet sat, rocking gently in a chair. The door opened,
and Rudy walked in and sat with his grandfather.
Something's not right here...
"It's a horrible world, Rudy, and the people are closed-minded
and scared. They'll never accept you. Stay here with me, forever..."
Cecilia's eyes widened. She screamed outward with her mind,
No! Rudy, come back to us! You're not different, not a monster!
You're one of us, one of the team, a good friend! We need your
help, need you with us, Jack and I both! We need you! I... I
Rudy and the room faded from view, being replaced by Zepet,
whose eyes glowed in the light of wherever they were. "He's
mine, girl. He'll stay here with me forever in his dream."
No! I won't let you do that!
"He stays here! He has the most beautiful heart I've ever seen!"
Cecilia backed away a little. Could she do this? Could she
defeat this demon? Certainly she was strong in the group, when
she was protected by Rudy, but without him... Could she protect
him? Could she triumph when the roles were reversed? A picture
flew into her mind - Rudy, lying on the bed, lost, alone, injured,
no one to care for him. Her eyes narrowed. Rudy... for you,
She quickly drew her wand, and in the dreamscape world shouted
out with her mind once more. SAINT! The demon howled as white
bolts of holy energy slammed into it, knocking it back. It rushed
forward, slashing across her with it's long claws, and through
a mist of crimson Cecilia could dimly see the demon laughing
at her, throwing it's arms in the air.
No... she thought. The demon was already celebrating it's victory.
NO! I will not fall here! I have people to protect, people I
love! She reached her feet again, staring at the demon which
had turned to face her as she got up. She felt her rage fill,
at this demon stalking her friend's mind. Concentrating briefly,
she again shouted. "Dual Cast!" Immediately two sets of the
holy bolts streaked towards the demon, which howled once before
being banished into the void around them.
Another flash, and Cecilia was back in the room with Rudy,
who was now lying on the floor looking injured. The room started
shaking, collapsing, destroying itself from within as the dream
started to crumble. Without a thought, Ceclilia found herself
pulling Rudy close to her, shielding him from the dream-shards
falling all around them. A voice sprang into her mind.
Why are you risking your life for this one?
"Why... I think... it's because I thought I was fighting for
the good of Filgaia, because it was my duty as a princess and
as the Innocent One... but I realize now... I'm fighting because
I love Filgaia. Because I love my friends, love the people,
everything about it."
You've found the love you'd had hidden inside you, the love
everyone has hidden but refuses to admit in this age. You love
your friends and Filgaia, thus you fight.
The Goddess Icon Cecilia had had with her suddenly flew into
the air, shattering into a milllion pieces as a figure appeared
and started to grow. Somehow Cecilia instantly recognized the
figure - that of the long-dormant Guardian of Love.
You are truly the Innocent One. Take my compassion and heart
and add it to yours on the journey ahead.
Cecilia felt a feeling of warmth and happiness and safety spread
through her as she touched the Rune stone that floated from
where the goddess had been a moment ago, then looked down through
the still-collapsing dreamscape at the shape of Rudy cradled
in her arms.
"Rudy.... thank you for protecting me all the times you have
done, whether I needed it or not. I hope I can repay you someday..."
Their lips touched, briefly, as the world around them faded
Rudy opened his eyes to the sunlight of the morning. He turned
briefly to look at his new arm, flexed his fingers.
"Nice job, Vassim..."
He quickly shushed again when he noticed the sleeping form
of Cecilia, leaned awkwardly against the bed. A wry smile formed
on his face, as he thought of how much her back would hurt when
she woke up. Rising quickly, he gently picked her up in his
arms and laid her gently where he'd been laying. She murmured
something in the middle of her sleep, and turned to snuggle
into the pillow slightly. Rudy smiled, stroking the fringe of
her hair a little. Cecilia... thank you.
His smile faded slightly, and he turned to stare out the window
at the lush Elw landscape, his stare soon drifting to his new
arm as he became engrossed in thought.
Despite what she says, I am different, made of living metal.
Can I ever really be accepted in the world? Can I ever lead
a normal life...?
I have Jack and Cecilia, I know that, but will I ever have
any other friends besides them? Will they get ostracized by
being friends with me? Will... will I ever love...?
His attention was drawn to a figure pacing up and down in the
garden below. It was Jack, he could see, and it looked like
he hadn't slept. Rudy was startled at this - normally he got
kicked out of bed by the combined feet of him and Cecilia -
until he was hit with the realisation that Jack was and had
been deeply worried about him. He smiled a warm smile. It didn't
matter how many friends he had. Two were enough. He'd protect
them both forever, he vowed.
Cecilia shifted a little as she woke, wondering where she was.
She was... on a bed? But she'd not gone to bed... RUDY!!
She sat up quickly, everything else becoming second thought
to the priority of seeing how Rudy was. It took her a moment
to realise she was in his room on his... She blushed beetroot-red
for a second as the thought overtook her, before looking around.
Rudy was staring out a window but turned and smiled at her as
he heard her stand up. She stared into his eyes and felt her
heart melt for her protector, but all the words she wanted to
say melted away in her mind. She ran to him, hugging him fiercely.
"Thank god you're back... I was so worried...", she said, leaving
volumes unsaid. Rudy smiled and hugged her back, softly saying,
"Only thanks to you and Jack."
Cecilia broke the hug slowly and reluctantly, looking a little
perturbed. "Look... don't think I'm a loony for what I'm gonna
Rudy shook his head. "Never."
"Okay....well... I fell asleep next to you, and had a really
strange dream... you were in it, and so was this--"
"I know. I had the same one."
Cecilia smiled again, then quickly became flustered as a thought
overtook her. "How.... how much do you remember?! The whole
thing, or...?" Words, questions left unsaid - she cursed her
lack of courage.
Rudy smiled again, moving closer again. "All of it." For some
reason, rather than feeling embarassed as she assumed she would,
Cecilia found this more than a little relieving. Rudy stared
into her eyes, pulling her into a hug again. "Is it true?",
She relaxed happily into his warmth and hug, returning it in
kind and staring back into his eyes, taking a deep mental breath
as she did so. You'd best go for it now, girl...you may not
get many more chances... "It's true. I fight because I love
this world and all the people on it, and because I love my friends.
Some... in particular...". Her eyes told Rudy all he needed
to know, and as he stared into her eyes something clicked within
Can I ever love?
Cecilia, for you, I can.
Cecilia opened her mouth to start saying something else. "Rudy,
I--". He covered her mouth with one finger, and softly replied,
"It's okay. I know. I love you too.". Smiling warmly and with
his heart singing, he removed his finger from her mouth.
Cecilia was stunned, but grateful and ecstatic at the same
time. She hugged him tighter, murmuring thankyou after thankyou
until their lips touched again.
The young lovers held each other tight, finally together, neither
noticing the figure in a long overcoat watching them from outside...
Jack grinned lopsidedly and addressed the small blue windrat
on his shoulder. "Looks like the princess - and Rudy - have
both found their reasons for fighing."
Hanpan turned on Jack's shoulder. "What about you, huh? Now
you know about Elmina, you're not fighting for revenge..."
Jack sighed and looked down. "I still am, Han. She's...changed,
and if I can I want to help her. But that's not the only reason."
He looked up at the window again. "I used to be a loner. No
more. Dammit, Hap, I love those two, and I don't wanna lose
them. Don't wanna walk away from them either. I'm through running."
"So you're fighting for the same reason as those two, hm?"
Jack stared into the middle distance for a while before answering.
"I don't know for sure, Han, but I think I'll be certain soon."
He turned, walking towards the house. "C'mon, Han. Let's go
see our favorite pyromaniac."
As they walked off, Jack felt his step lighten a little, as
if a load was lifted from his soul.
"You know, you need to wash this coat."
"I do not!"
"You do! Yeesh, you think you have trouble with demons, some
of the fights I have to have with the other inhabitants of this
thing would make epics twice as large!"
"You're just mad Cecilia's hugging Rudy and not you."
"I AM NOT!"
"Heh. Gotcha, Han."
Cecilia wanted to stay in Rudy's embrace forever. She'd never
felt safer, happier, than with her protector, her love. Rudy
wanted to stay in Cecilia's embrace forever. She'd just, in
the space of less than a minute, assuaged all his doubts about
love and friendship and fitting in with just three words.
There was a knock on the door followed by the bursting in of
Jack, Hanpan perched on his shoulder. "Hey, guys!', he said
as he looked at the smiling Rudy and the beetroot-red Cecilia
standing next to each other. "Are you okay? I heard some scuffle
in here, like a fight or something!" He winked and sniggered,
as Cecilia fixed him with a look with daggers.
"You were watching us, weren't you?" growled Cecilia.
Jack smiled winningly. "Would I do something like that?"
"YES" replied Rudy and Cecilia in unison.
"Well... okay. But hey, don't think I'm taking the piss or
anything, 'Celia. I'm not. I'm happy for you both.". This seemed
to assuage Cecilia's rage somewhat, as she moved closer to Rudy
"Well... okay. What's Hanpan so upset about at the moment?"
"Oh, he's just a little envious, Cecilia."
Rudy stepped forward, putting on a falsetto. "Awwww, does Hanpan
wanna hug from Rudy too?" Despite Hanpan's objections, Rudy
then proceeded to thouroughly hug the windrat, Cecilia trying
her hardest not to laugh at the sight. Standing a little way
off, Jack smiled inwardly. Can I really learn to fight for the
sake of protecting? For you, Elmina, Ru', 'Celia...
For you, I can.