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PostPosted: Tue Oct 5, '10, 9:10 pm
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Here's another story about the characters from the PSIII alternate universe that I created starting in "Beyond Reality". This is more or less a capstone, although I may return to the well one day for some more since I like this universe so much. Here you can count on some in-name-only cameos from some EOTA characters.
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As I approached the door at the top of the tower, I could see from the staircase that it was opened halfway. I looked through the doorway and could see the nervously pacing figure of my husband, Corg. He walked back and forth on the hewn-stone floor the tower, muttering to himself and opening and closing his fists very quickly—a nervous habit he had that complimented his equally anxious pacing quite nicely. I made my way to the door and stood off to the side a little, watching him move around the tower while occasionally stopping to gaze upon the landscape and let out a huge sigh before continuing his gait.

Corg’s burdens had as ruler of the Hollow Valley had increased dramatically over the past few years; there were numerous conflicts between the different races inhabiting the valley, especially between beastmen and the Palman/Alisian settlements. The minotaurs, trolls, and gargoyles had also in the past several years removed themselves from the Hollow Valley Alliance, although luckily they were more territorial than outright hostile to others. With the human and beastmen tribes constantly on the brink of war, Corg had found himself doing everything possible to prevent conflict between the two races, only to discover that anything he did put himself at odds with one or both parties.

This was further worsened by the decay in the relations between the Lizard Men and Azcan races. The links between the Azcans and the Alliance had always been tenuous at best, so when they broke away and started fighting the Lizard Men, Corg took the latter’s side. While that put Corg in the good graces of the Lizard Men, their rivals responded by trying to turn the beastmen against him. The tension in the Hollow Valley at this point was so thick that you could cut it with a ceramic sword.

Corg had allowed all this to make nervous in the past few years. His sleep had become increasingly strained, his attitude more moody and brooding. He kept to himself a lot more, often spending up to an hour or two a day on the tower pacing and talking to himself. While he was still a loving and kind husband—he said that I was one of the few things that kept him sane—but he wore a long face for a greater part of the time. His inability to maintain peaceful relations between all of the races caused him to doubt himself as a leader, often causing him to random punch walls and declare himself a failure.

After observing him for some time, I knocked on the door, startling him.

“Wha-? Oh, my dear, it’s you.” He smiled lightly and walked over to me, giving me a kiss on the forehead. “Sorry, I didn’t hear you come up.”

“That seems to be a recurring theme with you,” I said with a mock-reproving tone, trying to lighten him up. “I’d ask you what you’re thinking about, but I have a few good ideas what it might be.”

Corg pursed his lips and nodded. “I haven’t been very good at anything lately, have I?”

I grabbed Corg by the elbows and gave him a playful shake. “Nonsense, my love. You’re still an excellent husband. A bit gloomy—you remind me of Sean—but still a good man. Don’t let this get to you. You and I both knew that these days would be difficult ones. The end of each Millenium always is. We just got to weather the storm until things get better.”

Corg tried to force a smile and then walked back to the edge of the tower. After a moment, he turned back to me and asked, “So, how’s Sophia’s training going?”

Sophia was one of Corg’s descendants through Wren’s lineage, a young girl of 18. Not long after Sophia had been born, Sari and Laya appeared to Corg and I one evening and told us that Sophia was to be taught how to use a claw in combat. We were a bit surprised with this at first, but when we considered how much time had passed since our marriage, we understood what they had meant. Corg had left me in charge of her tutoring, and after she turned fifteen, Corg would take her with him whenever he needed to help quell disturbances and put down possible rebellions.

“Sophia? Oh, she’s fine. Her magic skills are getting pretty strong and her fighting is satisfactory.”

Corg rubbed his tiger-paw hand against his chin for a few moments. “I worry about her, Mieu. Sometimes she seems far too happy-go-lucky for the mission she’ll probably have ahead of her. Doesn’t she have the slightest idea what she’s up against?”

“My dear, first of all, you worry about everything. Second, she’s an adolescent, still. She doesn’t even have a single clue what’s she’s up against because we’ve never told her. She’s not acting any different than anyone else her age.”

Corg’s heart rate increased—I kept my bio-scanner on him at all times just to monitor him and make sure that he didn’t give himself a stroke. “But—“

“Corg, it’s bad enough that you blame yourself for things that are beyond your complete control. Don’t do the same with Sophia. Sophia’s progressing well, has solid combat experience, and is—and I’ll argue that this is important—an emotionally well-adjusted young girl. Stop worrying. Sari and Laya will be by her side when the time comes.”

Corg lowered his head and shook it in desperation. “I’m sor—“

“And stop saying ‘sorry’”, I said disapprovingly.

We were interrupted by the arrival of Nian, a court official. “My Lord, it seems we have visitors. Four of them, in fact.”

Corg’s solemn face lit up for a moment and he looked at me in anticipation. “Four of them you say?”

“Yes, my lord. And they’re armed quite well, I must say.”


****


A few minutes later, Corg and I sat on our thrones and awaited the entry of our guests into the throne room. Corg seemed to be at ease now, which made me feel a lot better about the whole situation. In a few moments, the large double doors opened and four young people entered the room. As they did so, I felt Corg squeeze my hand.

Leading the group was a rather serious young lady. She had medium-sized teal hair that she wore in a short ponytail. She wore a brownish-orange, armor in-laid battle vest and what appeared to be a pair of royal boots, although the rest of her admittedly shapely legs were exposed. Her gauntlets and shoulder guards appeared to be made of laconium. She was peculiar in that each of her eyes seemed to be a different color: one was green and the other was blue. Hanging from her belt was a long scabbard. I was a bit surprised at first to see a woman carrying a sword, but then I remembered that in these past few centuries, weapons- training was a lot more open now.

Behind her walked two young men. One of them was a large, muscular man carrying a very familiar weapon—the Nei Shot. I’d recognize that gun anywhere. Its owner, however, looked nothing like my dear friend Wren who had used it so long ago. My bio-scanners quickly revealed the guy to be a human. Dressed in a blue shirt, military fatigues, and a carbon-laconium alloy protector adapted for human use, the man looked like your stereotypical hunter. His companion was a shorter, skinnier fellow. Dressed in light, armor-plated robes and wearing a rather distinctive pair of goggles, he looked kind of a Layan of old. I saw that he carried Laya’s Nei Bow on his shoulder. He wore a large, toothy smile that contrasted nicely with the serious demeanors of the other two.

The final member of the party was a woman; although quite different in look and demeanor than her other female companion. Her hair was dark brown with a peculiar whitish-grey streak in front. The girl wore a large beige overcoat which covered her entire body, allowing only a glimpse of the leather boots she wore. On her shoulder was an owl, which I found to be rather odd, considering that it’d be a ripe target in battle. There were two slashers stuffed in her belt, both of which I recognized: the Nei and Planar slashers. She grinned in a slightly amused manner.

Approaching the throne the four of them bowed to Corg and I. Corg looked over at me and nodded his head.

“Please rise, kind strangers,” I said in my authoritative voice. “I am Queen Mieu and this is my husband, Lord Corg.” Corg smiled and inclined his head slightly.

The four rose and stood still, the large fellow seeming as rigid as a mountain. The others looked at each other and nodded, smiling contently. I gathered that they were pleased that they had arrived at the right place.

“So,” I continued. “Who are you and where do you hail from?”

The teal-haired maiden spoke first. “Greetings your majesty. I am Raine Lenes, princess of the Kingdom of Landen on the Alisa III.” I nodded at her; that would explain why she carried a sword.

“Would you then be a descendent of the great King Sean and Queen Kara, then?” Corg asked, curiously.

Raine nodded respectfully. “Yes, my lord. I’m told that they are my ancestors and that the sword I carry with me was once wielded by Sean himself.” She pulled the sword from the scabbard and held it out to us. Corg looked at it and over at me. I’d recognize that shiny black blade anywhere: it was the Nei Sword. As I gazed upon the sword, I saw the black metal flash and change color for a quick moment. In that moment, I thought I saw the reflection of a large, black-haired man in the blade, winking at me.

“Wren…” I said under my breath.

The large man stepped forward, causing Raine to step back a few steps and sheathe her sword again. “My name is Flynn Zedek. I am from the city of Novo Paseo on the Neo-Palm.” His voice was deep and serious, but friendly.

“A great man once fought with the gun you carry now,” I said. “Please, do your best to do honor to that weapon.”

Flynn simply nodded in agreement.

The other young man, who had been staring at Raine the whole time, noticed that our eyes were turned to him and made his way to the front of the group. “Your majesty, your highness. I am Chris Federle of the Kingdom of Mystoke on the Alisa III.” With a mischievous smile, he scratched his black hair a little and added, “But please just call me Chris.”

The others shot him a warning glare, but Corg and I simply laughed. “Very well, Chris,” said Corg. “I like your moxy. You must be the comedian of the group. Every group needs one.”

Chris chuckled and looked over at the others. “See? I told you all that royalty always loves a good sense of humor and honesty.”
Finally, the dark-haired lady stepped forward and bowed. She seemed almost as pleasant as Chris was, albeit less peppy. “My name is Esmeray Younan. I’m from the town of Hesperia on the Neo-Palm.”

“Well,” I said. “It’s a pleasure to meet you all. So, what brings you here to our castle, my friends?”

Raine took the lead again. “Good Que—“

“Mieu. Just call me Mieu.”

“Mieu, we have been a long quest, seeking to restore peace and order to the two world ships that orbit this planet. We have been told that a powerful evil that once menaced the Alis III now resides on this planet.”

Corg looked at me uncomfortably.

Raine continued. “We have gathered up all of the legendary Nei Weapons save one, the famous Nei Claw. When we arrived on this planet, we met with the tribe of Lizard Men, who told us to seek you out, saying you’d probably know where it is.”

“I sure hope we know where it is,” Corg chuckled. “My wife here used it in battle about 1000 years ago.”

Raine and the others stared at Mieu in confusion.

“You see, I’m a cyborg. As the result, I’m practically immortal. I was indeed present at the battle against the Dark Force, whom you seek to destroy, 1000 years ago.” Changing my speech to something a little less formal, I said, “I do know where the claw is. My question is, do you have anyone in your party who can use it?”

Raine looked and the others, who all shook their heads. Raine looked at me a bit seriously and said, “I’m afraid not.”

I suppressed a laugh. “I think we can give you a hand in that department.” I clapped my hands twice. A door on the side of the throne opened and a young lady dressed in a white tunic, tresses of long strawberry-blonde hair with purple streaks on them falling over the fabric and contrasting against the white fabric, stepped in. It was Sophia.

“This is Sophia, a descendent of Corg. She has been trained to fight with the Nei Claw. I think she might be of use to you.”

I looked over at Esmeray, who seemed content. Chris looked at Sophia and lifted an eyebrow, after which he nudged Flynn with his shoulder and winked to him. Flynn simply rolled his eyes at Chris. Raine remained still. Sophia walked over to them and shook each of their hands.

After a few moments, Raine spoke up. “Que…er…Mieu. In our party we have only one offensive technique user, Esmeray here. The others either don’t know any techniques or only healing ones. Does Sophia know any offensive techniques? It would be most useful.”

Sophia looked at me. I gestured to her with my hand, giving her permission to speak for herself. “I’ve been taught in the magic arts, which include some offensive spells.”

“You mean techniques?” Raine said, with a slight hint of condescension in her voice.

“No, magic. You people from the ships use techniques. We here in the Hollow Valley use magic.” Sophia returned Raine’s hint of condescension with three measures of arrogance.

“So you don’t know foi, zan, or tsu?”

“I know fire, ice, lightning, and others.”

The teal-haired warrior muttered under her breath, “Those are creative names.”

I don’t know if Sophia had heard it, but I sure did. I giggled to myself, remembering the silly rivalry between Thea and Sari during the early days of their questing together.

“Come, I’ll show you an example of the magic I know,” said Sophia tauntingly. She looked over at Corg and smiled.

Corg got up from the throne and pulled a simple iron shield from the wall and threw it through the air. Sophia pointed her arm at the shield, muttered something under her breath, and then made a quick jerk of her wrist. And arrow flew out of her palm and sailed through the air, striking the shield.

The shield began to burn and sizzle, landing in front of Raine and dissolving completely before her eyes. She jumped back a little.

“That’s one of the most basic magic spells. It’s called ‘Melf’s Acid Arrow.’ I know spells that make this one look like a parlor trick.”

Corg and I looked at each other and laughed. “Some things change, and some things stay the same,” I said to him.

Then Corg addressed Raine. “So, where you plan on going, now that you have the all the Nei weapons in your possession?”

“We have been told that the root of all this evil that has been plaguing the two ships and this planet resides in a place known as the Immortal Cavern. Have you heard of it?”

I saw Corg bite his lips. “Yes,” he said, slightly nervous. “I have been there myself.”

Flynn, who seemed to be quite the quiet one, spoke up. “My lord, can you please tell us how we can arrive there?”

Corg smiled weakly. I knew that the mere mention of that place filled him with horror. “I have a small collection of maps that will help you arrive at your destination.”

Flynn looked at Raine, who looked at the others and nodded contently.

“Enough of this,” I said. “You are our guests for tonight. You have a long journey ahead of you, so I insist you dine and stay with us tonight.”


***


Later that evening, Corg and I were in our bedroom. I sat in front of the mirror brushing my hair while Corg was taking a shower. We had an excellent dinner with our four distinguished guests; we insisted that they stay at the castle tomorrow, after which they would continue their journey, only this time with Sophia as part of their team. I noticed that Corg seemed a little more relaxed now, as if he now knew that soon things would get better. Corg had left the door open, so I watched him as he cleaned and scrubbed the fur on his arms and leg. Corg had been killed centuries ago, but was restored to life as an immortal, but with a catch, he was transformed into a beast man, with the physical traits of a bear, wolf, dragon, and tiger appearing on his arms and legs. He didn’t notice my staring at him, but just kept washing himself, humming some tune that I had heard countless times before. It reassured me to know that he seemed to feeling more himself now.

I turned my attention back to the mirror, humming my own tune and brushing my hair. It was as I was doing so, a low feminine voice, almost a whisper, rang in my ears.

“Mieu, Corg needs to go with the others tomorrow.”

I recognized the voice; it was Sari’s. For a moment I sat there, motionless. There was no mistaking what I had heard, and cyborgs aren’t know for “hearing voices”. I say whispered under my breath, “Sari? You mean to the Immortal Cavern?”

The voice spoke again. “Yes, Mieu. He needs to go there with them.”

“Why?” My sensors showed my heart rate increasing dramatically. I had always known that this might happen, but had always tried to delete that thought from my memory. “Why does he have to go with them? He doesn’t even have a Nei weapon.”

Another voice, this time belonging to Laya, sounded in my ear. “Mieu, you must trust us. It is Corg’s hour. He must go down into those caverns and face his demons once and for all.”

“Yes, Mieu,” said Sari. “Like Laya said. You must put your trust in us. Everything will be okay. But you need to convince him to go.”

Corg’s voice shattered my concentration. “Talking to yourself, my dear?”

Startled, I almost jumped from my chair and turned to my husband, who was emerging from the shower in a white robe and was drying his hair with a towel. “Sorry, Corg. I was just lost in my thoughts.”

“Sorry for startling you.”

“Corg, my love, I have something to say to you.”

Corg lifted an eyebrow. “Yes, my dear?”

“You need to go tomorrow?”

Corg paused. “Go where?” My bio-scanners showed that his heart rate was irregular; he knew what I meant.

“You need to go with the others to the Immortal Cavern.”

Corg’s milky white skin grew pale and his smile turned quickly into frown. For almost a minute, he stood there, silent. I saw him start opening and closing his fists again. After a minute, he opened his mouth to speak, but then remained silent.

I didn’t want to be the one to tell him this, but I knew that, as his wife, it was something I had to do. “Corg, you need to confront your demons once and for all. You’re not sleeping well and you’re nightmares are getting more intense, your reactions more violent. You won’t find any peace until you go with them and face whatever’s in there for the last time.”

“And you?” he muttered weakly.

“I shall stay here, waiting for you.” Corg pursed his lips. I went on, “My love, I don’t like this as much as you do. Both of us know what will probably be lurking in that horrid place. Both of us have already been down there. I’m scared to think about what might possibly happen to you down there. I don’t want to lose you, ever. But if you ever want to find peace again—“

“I get your point,” Corg said coolly. He hesitated for a few moments. “Of all places, it had to be there.”

I got up and walked over to him, laying my head gently against his chest and caressing his back with my hands. “Don’t worry, my dear. I know that you won’t be alone. Piotr and Jack will probably be with you. I can just feel it.”

“And you?”

I pushed him back gently in the direction of our bed. “I’ll always be by your side.”


***


During the next seven days, I sought comfort in the notion that Corg would not be alone, but would be under the watchful gaze of the gods of the Alisa III, Sari, Laya, Piotr, and Jack. I knew, however, that if I simply waited around the castle idly, I’d probably start finding reasons to worry. So I kept myself busy with a plethora of different activities, including giving history lectures at the castle, receiving distinguished guests from the Lizard Men and Neo-Palman settlements, visiting some of the small villages, and other things to keep my mind off of my husband and the others. I missed him dearly; but I trusted my two close friends when they told me that everything would work out for the best.

It was on the seventh day that I was returning to the castle and was met at the gate by one of the chamberlains, who seemed to be quite excited.

“My Queen, they have returned.”

My heart leapt within me; I truly hoped that it was all over. “That’s great news! Where are they?”

“They’re waiting in the throne room.” The chamberlain bowed and headed back into the castle. I followed behind him, trying not to look over-excited about their return.

I entered the throne room to find Sophia and the other four standing near a wall. I didn’t see Corg. I looked at the five adventurers. They were tired and exhausted. Their faces were covered with bruises, cuts, and scratches. Raine had a nasty-looking vertical scar near her blue eye. Their clothes were torn in some places and burned in others. One of the lens on Chris’s goggles and been burned and partially melted. Sophia also looked mildly battered, her face matted with layers of dust and ash. They all walked toward me; I noticed that Esmeray walked with a slight limp.

I made my way towards them and Sophia ran over to embrace me. “Godmother, it’s over. It’s all over now.”

“You mean—?”

Esmeray interjected, “Yes, the Dark Force has been vanquished and banished for another thousand years.”

I smiled. “Wonderful! I knew you could do it! I’m proud of you all!”

However, my enthusiasm was quickly dampened by the dour looks on the five’s faces. I then remembered that the sixth member of the party wasn’t present. I placed my hands on Sophia’s elbows and looked her directly in the eyes. “Sophia, where’s Corg?”

Sophia trembled a bit.

“Sophia—“

Raine spoke up. “Queen Mieu, we don’t know where he is.”

“What do you mean?” I felt the desire to raise my voice, but fought to maintain my calm.

“When we arrived at the ruins of the Schattenalfen Elven City, we were attacked by a large army of monsters. We were going to fight them—“

Chris entered the conversation, “But Lor—Corg told us to make a break for the temple while he held off the army. He said that we’d never be able to fight off all the monsters and still have enough strength to take on Dark Force.”

“So we made a run for it,” said Flynn. “Corg stayed above in the city while we descended into the Immortal Cavern to fight Dark Force.”

“Don’t tell me you left him there!” I said, incredulously.

Raine, who was visibly overcome by emotion, continued. “When we defeated the Dark Force, I unleashed the Megid technique on it.” Her voice began to quiver. “I didn’t know the technique was so strong. It destroyed the entirety of the cave and brought the city down with it.”

“We only got out of there alive because I had previously been taught the Grantz technique,” Esmeray said matter-of-factly. “But we don’t know if Corg got out or not. The technique transported us directly to the castle.”

Raine looked me square in the eye. “I’m sorry, Mieu. I didn’t know what I was doing at that moment.”

I struggled within myself to control my emotions. Finally, I said, “It’s okay. I’m sure he’ll be okay. Come, I’ll have one of our healers take care of you all. Later, we can discuss your victory over dinner. I have some business to take care of.”

I walked out of the throne room and headed upstairs to my room. Once inside, I slammed the door and struck the wall several times with my fist.


***


I sat down on the bed and buried my head in my hands. If I could weep, I’d probably be doing so now. For several moments I thought about what might have happened to Corg. I tried to reassure myself that he was alright, but the image of him taking on an entire army by himself was just to overpowering. I mean, he had been granted immortality, but we had always understood it as being more against aging and not actual physical invulnerability. I tried to direct my thoughts to Laya and Sari’s reassurances, but I couldn’t help but feel a sense of desperation simmering within me.

As I sat their fretting, I noticed what appeared to be a pillar of light descending through the ceiling of my room until it touched the floor. In the midst of the pillar, two female figures floated in the air, descending slowly until the touched the ground. As the light disappeared, I saw that it was Sari and Laya, my dearest friends. They were dressed in long, white dressed. Their long hair flowed down their backs. A faint glow emanated from their skin. They wore large smiles on their faces. I got up and ran over to them, wrapping my arms around both of them. They both patted me lightly on the back.

“Sari! Laya! Co—“

Sari interrupted. “It’s okay, Mieu. Corg will be okay. Piotr and Jack will soon be here with him.”

Hearing those words put my soul at ease. “Were you there? I mean, were you there with Corg and the others?”

Laya smiled. “Yes we were. Well, Sari and I accompanied the other five on their fight against the Dark Force. Piotr and Jack stayed behind with Corg when he faced the army.” Laya’s music-like voice was always very soothing to hear.

Sari continued. “We would never let the people take on Dark Force alone. When Raine and the others faced it, we stood by their side, even though they couldn’t see us.”

I was curious. “Why did you do that? Could Dark Force see you?”

“It sensed our presence, but there’s nothing he could do about it. We were there to guarantee that the forces of good would come out in victor. However, we wanted Raine and her party to do all they could first, which they did. Whenever it looked like the battle was turning in the Dark Force’s favor, we’d give them the strength they needed to continue.”

Laya said, “Indeed. We basically watched from the sidelines casting res and fanbi and shu to help them. Dark Force never had a chance.”

“And Sophia, how did she handle herself?” I inquired curiously.

“Quite well,” Laya practically sang. “It was her who came up with the idea to attack Dark Force in conjunction with Esmeray, switching back and forth between Sophia’s ice spell and Esmeray’s foi. The succession of sudden temperature changes ended up cracking Dark Force’s armor, which gave Raine the opportunity to deliver the killing blow. Quite brilliant, really.”

“Yeah, Corg needn’t have worried so much. Sophia was an excellent fighter.”

I smiled slightly. “Glad to know that the protectors of the land were in good hands. And Corg, do you think Piotr and Jack did the same thing with him?”

“I imagine so,” Laya said. “Like we told you before, you simply need to trust us.”

At that moment another illuminated conduit opened in my room and two figured descended in the column of light. One of them carried a large object in its arms. As the two figures touched the ground and stepped out of the pillar, I saw that in Piotr’s arms was the body of Corg. It was motionless. I put my hand to my mouth in horror and bit down on one of my fingers. I stood perfectly still and watched as Piotr gently placed the unmoving body of Corg on our bed. Piotr and Jack then stepped over to be by their wives’ sides.

I sat down on the bed next to Corg. His body was badly beaten and bruised. Numerous deep scratches and cuts adorned his peaceful face. His animal-like limbs were mangled, slashed bloody and, as I gently caressed them, I could feel numerous fractures in his bones. Corg’s armor was ripped open in several places like a tin can, revealing scarred flesh beneath. There were places where it looked like the armor had melted and bonded to his skin. Some of the fur on his arms had been singed off. Corg looked like somebody had thrown him into a dragon den during feeding time.

For a few moments, I, without saying a word, caressed Corg’s bloodied face and silvery-blonde hair. I lifted his head up and cradled it in my arms for a few moments, murmuring to him how much I loved him and trying to pretend that everything would be okay. I looked over at Sari and the others, who stood still, smiling serenely at me. How could they? They, my best friends, promised that he’d be okay. And he wasn’t. He was dead. And their reaction was to smile?

I finally opened my mouth. “Why?”

“It’s okay, Mieu,” Jack said with an uncharacteristic calm. “Corg’s just resting.”

I ran my bio-scanner, which detected no sign of life nor pulse. “Resting?” I asked, beginning to raise my voice in disbelief.

“Yes, Mieu. He’s resting.” Piotr spoke this time. “He’s had a hard time, Mieu. He took on an entire army by himself.”

“I know,” I muttered. “He did it to save the world.”

“No, Mieu. He did it to save five people, four of whom he had only met the day before. They were outnumbered, Corg held them off so that they could fight the Dark Force on fair terms, something that the Dark Force wasn’t about to allow.”

“I know my husband did the right thing,” I said impatiently. Looking down at Corg’s face, his closed eyes and slightly open mouth gave me the impression that he was finally sleeping soundly, for the first time in a long time. “Did it have to end like this?”

Laya chimed in. “I know you must be thinking that my husband and Piotr weren’t there for them. I guarantee you they were.”

“Yeah,” said Jack. “We were by his side the whole time, healing and strengthening him and helping him to continue when things got…well…difficult. There was no way he could’ve lasted more than two minutes against them, that’s why we intervened.”

“Why didn’t you just cast a bunch of zan and tsu techniques and do the work for him?” I asked, making the hurt in my voice evident.

“Because this was his test. It was his time to shine. We just helped him along. It wasn’t easy for him, obviously. There were times he would fall to the ground, crying from the pain, wishing it would end then. We’d heal him and remind him that he had a mission: Keep the monsters away from the temple. He’d then fight until he couldn’t anymore, and we’d help him continue.” Piotr’s work conjured graphic images in my head that made me clench my fists.

Jack jumped in, his words being far more somber than they ever were. “Mieu, Corg was given the gift of immortality, but he had to prove that he deserved it. The fact that he had to go to the one place he most abhorred in this world, the place that caused so much mental suffering for him, made the test more meaningful. He passed. You’d be proud of him if you saw him in action. There were moments where all he could do was repeat the words ‘No retreat, no surrender’ in order to keep on going. But he did. He kept on fighting until the battle between the others and Dark Force was over.”

“After which you let him die when Raine destroyed the place?” I asked, trying to hide my sarcasm.

“No Mieu, we didn’t. We transported him out of the cave using Grantz. This is the part where you have to trust us.”

That word again. “Trust.” I asked myself how I could do just that, knowing that the love of my life had been taking so violently, so horribly from me. I knew that Piotr and the others spoke the truth, but I had a hard time wrapping my thoughts around their words. At long last, I sighed and looked up my dear friends. “You’ve always been my friends. I’ll trust you.”

They looked at each and nodded. Sari spoke up. “When we got Corg out of there, he was still alive, albeit barely. We congratulated him for his courage and sacrifice. It was then that we told him that it was time for him to rest from his adventures for a season. He agreed. His last words were, ‘Tell Mieu that I love her.’ We told him that he’d be able to do that again. We then relieved him of his sufferings and brought him here.”

I tried to find words to answer that with, but nothing came from my moving lips.

Laya then said, “Mieu, Corg had been alive for basically an entire millennium. He needed to rest. There will be other adventures, but for now, the two of you need some time away from all of this.”

I looked at Laya in awe. “The two—“

“Yes, Mieu,” said Piotr. “You yourself have been around for longer than any of us have. Your hour has come.”

“But—“

“Don’t worry,” said Sari happily. “We’ll still have lots of new experiences together, just a little later.”

I got up and walked over to my friends and embraced each one of them. I reflected on my life for a few moments. I had gotten so used to being alive, to being married, to being loved, that I no longer considered the idea of ever dying. They days where the risk of dying in combat was ever present were long gone now. Nonetheless, I told my friends that I trusted them, so I determined to do just that. “I-I-I’m just a bit…scared.”

“It’s okay, Mieu,” said Laya reassuringly. “Jack, please”

Jack walked over to me and lifted me up into his arms. “Just close your eyes and think happy thoughts, my dear Mieu.”

I closed my eyes. I felt myself being carried in the direction of the bed. I noticed that my auxiliary systems began to shutting down. First went my bio-scanner, followed by the system that allowed me to perform techniques. Soon my visual systems went offline. When Jack set me down on the bed, only main life support system was functioning. I reached over to felt Corg’s face for the last time. The energy in the life support system began to wane and my consciousness started fade.

“I love you, Corg.”
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