The Sakamota Journals: Sera and the Dragon

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The Dragon

We moved carefully through the tents; the dragon made regular sweeps across the Bizarre Bazaar, but its large size and noisy nature made it easy for us to stay hidden as it passed overhead.

“Thanks for the save.” I said at roughly the halfway point between the castle and the main entrance. “Where is Arc?”

“Back at the Ascendant.” Terry said. “I knew you'd want someone there in case Meryli came back.”

“Yeah, I do.” I glanced at Terry. “So, any ideas on how we can bring that thing down?”

“Short of me dead-shotting a moving, flying target in a weak spot I'm not even sure really exists? Not really.”

“What about the Ascendant?” Casey asked. “It can fly.”

“Yes, but it has no offensive weapons.” Mick said.

Glancing at One, I said, “A dreadnaught could take it down. Any chance of borrowing one, One?”

“Sorry, Jimmy.” One said, “I lent my Dreadnaughts to the Knights of the Star for their rebuilding efforts. Even if I could get the Final Fantasy back in relatively short time, it's not configured for combat at the moment.”

“Okay, so scratch that.” I said, wishing I hadn't put off forming a proper plan before coming here; that dragon looked a lot more complicated than the one I had destroyed in Wukice.

Or was it? That gave me a reckless idea. It must've shown in my expression, as One said, “You're about to do something stupid, aren't you?”

“Probably.” I admitted. “We need to get that thing out of the sky. Fortunately, I've got experience with that sort of thing.”

“Experience?” Terry said, “You mean the prop in Wukice? You can't be serious. Even if you could get up there, Glint isn't going to be cutting through that thing's wings!”

“Not alone.” I said. “First things first; Mick, do you think you could throw me onto the back of the dragon?”

Mick nodded. “You're pretty light. I'm no Dreamer, but I think I can manage it.”

“Right. Next, we'll need a distraction to get the dragon close and to keep it still long enough for me to take out a wing.”

“Yo.” One said. “Terry and I will take care of it.”

“We will?” Terry said, looking at the Joe-bot.

“Yeah. You draw its attention with a warning shot or two, and I'll take care of the rest. Trust me.”

“Excellent.” I said before Terry could argue. “Okay Casey, I hate to ask this, but I need to borrow your camera to weaken the base of the wings.”

“I'm not going to just watch from the sidelines!” said Casey, her hands trembling but her face resolute. “Count me in.”

“I'll fly her up there after you land.” Mick offered.

I gave him a strange look. “Fly?”

“Alaina's upgrade.” Mick said. “I can fly for short distances. I'll toss you, then fly Casey up there to take her shot.”

“All right.” I looked at my friends' faces for a long moment. There was fear there, but also excitement, and even a degree of eagerness. “Everyone ready?”

Everyone nodded.

“Okay. Terry, give us a ten-count to get into position before you start firing.”

“Understood, sir.”

“And be careful.” I added. “That goes for everyone.”

One snorted. “You're the one getting tossed on a dragon. We're just being a distraction.”

Mick, Casey, and I hurried away from Terry and One. The dragon seemed to be watching us, but given its distance, it might have just been my imagination.

I secured Glint as best as I could. Casey tightened her grip on the camera, trying very hard to stay calm. I flashed her a reassuring smile and said, “Well, this ought to make for a good scene in one of your screenplays, eh?”

A ghost of a smile appeared on her face. “If we win.”

“One step at a time.” I told her.

A burst of energy shot from Terry's position. With a roar, the dragon dove in the direction of the plasma burst. Just as it prepared to breathe fire across the Bizarre Bazaar, however, another dragon appeared with a loud popping sound. This dragon, however, had purple scales and brilliant orange eyes, and seemed to be breathing a stream of bubbles. The blue dragon reared back in surprise, which was understandable; I had a hard time looking away myself.

I grinned, despite the gravity of the situation. “That's got Dreamer written all over it. You guys ready?”

I looked at Casey. She shut her eyes and nodded.

“Okay.” I said, steeling myself for what was to come. “Let's do this!”

Mick picked me up easily and flung me at the dragon's back. For the second time since the whole adventure started, I found myself flying through the air toward a dragon. For the hundredth time since the whole mess had started, I wondered if I had gone completely crazy; perhaps I would wake up any moment now, my feet in the river as I lay on my bridge.

The first droplets of cool rain brought me back to my current situation just as I drew near the dragon. Mick's aim was exemplary; I landed on the dragon's back just as I started to fall, stumbling only slightly against the scales on his back. The dragon didn't even notice me; it continued to stare at One's dragon, its claws raised in anticipation of an attack.

Nodding, I turned and motioned for Casey. Moments later, Mick was flying beside me with Casey in his arms. The blue light of the thrusters on Mick's back left trails of light in the evening sky.

As he set her down, I helped her catch her balance. “Steady now. You okay?”

She nodded, but I could see the fear in her eyes.

“It's a piece of cake. Just stay close, and everything will be fine.” Looking back at Mick, I shouted, “Mick, stay close to pull her out of here.”

Huddled together, we moved unsteadily to the base of the dragon's wings as the dragon hissed at One's creation. Somewhere in the back of my mind I wondered whether the dragon One had summoned was real or just an illusion. With a Dreamer, there was no telling.

“The base of the wings,” I reminded her.

“I don't know if I can get them both.” Casey said.

She had a point; the prop dragon in Wukice's wings came together at a singlular point, whereas the wings on the dragon we were currently riding jutted from its shoulder blades.

“Make sure to get a definite shot on one, then.” I told her. “One wing off will still keep it from flying.”

She raised her camera to take the shot, but before she could press the shutter button, the dragon reared back to take a swipe at One's dragon. I stabbed Glint into the dragon's back to secure myself and grabbed for Casey, but her hand slipped from my grasp. Mick was there in an instant, his flight thrusters leaving a blue trail behind him as he flew down and caught Casey.

The dragon's claws passed effortlessly through One's illusion, landing dangerously close to where Terry and One were hiding. As they scrambled for cover, One's illusion vanished with a poof. The dragon let out a roar of frustration and quickly took to the sky with me still clinging to my sword stabbed in its back.

The rush of wind was nearly enough to make me lose my grip on Glint. While I didn't go flying off of the dragon's back, my blade slowly cut through the dragon's skin, leaving a long gash of splintered wood and exposed wiring.

Eventually, the dragon leveled off and flew a massive circle above the park. It was searching for my friends, trying to spot them so it could swoop in for the kill. With difficulty, I rose to my feet and started to move toward the dragon's wings. Cold rain pelted me in the face and every burst of wind threatened to sweep me off the dragon's back, yet I still managed to keep my footing as I pushed forward.

After what felt like a small eternity, I reached the base of the right wing. It didn't look like there were any breaks in the armor, but I knew I had to try something. Grasping my weapon with both hands, I raised Glint over my head and slammed it against the right wing. A single scale flew off, tearing a slash in my cheek as it was blown away. I staggered back, pressing a hand against my bleeding face. Before I could steady myself, a deafening peal of thunder made the dragon reel back. I didn't have time to react before I was thrown into the night sky.

“This is it,” a voice in my mind said as I plummeted through the air, Glint miraculously still in my hand. “This is how I die.”

Years of discipline and meditation shoved that thought aside; there was no time for that kind of nonsense at the moment. My friends were counting on me; as long as I drew breath, there was still a chance.

As the dragon pulled into a steep dive, an idea sprung into my mind. I sheathed Glint, loosened my sash, and let my keikogi flow free; by grabbing the edges of my sleeves and holding them out as far as I could reach, I was able to slow my descent. It wouldn't save me from slamming into the ground, but it did allow me some degree of control on the angle of my fall. Once I was falling toward the dragon, I pulled my vestments close to my body to speed my descent. By the time the ground was beginning to get uncomfortably close, I was right beside the dragon. Drawing Glint, I managed to stab the creature in the back again.

As it leveled off, I braced myself against both the angle and that horrible elevator-coming-to a halt feeling before making my way toward the wings again. Soaking wet and adrenaline still pumping from my recent flight, I gripped Glint with both hands and raised it to strike as the dragon let loose a jet of flame that ignited one of the large buildings built to resemble a circus tent.


Mick zoomed by me, Casey in his arms. “Say Cheese!” She shouted, lifting her camera.

A brilliant flash shot from her camera and encompassed the base of the right wing. When the light faded, the scales looked as though they had partially melted. Realizing I didn't have much time, I swung Glint. This time, my weapon tore through the superheated wing with little resistance, severing it completely.

Mick could only carry one person, so I leapt backwards as high as I could, hoping with all my might that the extra upward movement would be enough to keep me from breaking every bone in my body.

I landed far too early; looking down, I realized I was standing on the Ascendant.

Arc poked his head out of the driver's window, a wide grin on his face. “How's it hanging, Jimmy?”

I looked up in time to see the dragon spiraled downward and crashed into the building it had only just set on fire. The already weakened building collapsed on top of the dragon, promptly burying it in flaming rubble.

Arc brought us back to the ground as the evening shower grew into a light rain. I hopped off of the roof of the Ascendant and promptly fell to my knees, feeling exhausted.

Mick helped me stand as Terry and One in the Joe-bot hurried toward us.

“Dude!” Arc said, leaping out of the Ascendant, “That was AWESOME!”

I gave him a tired thumbs up. “Thanks for the save.”

“Well, I was thinking; the floater shield only keeps floaters from flying into the park; once we were inside, the Ascendant could fly just fine! That's when I saw you clinging to the back of the dragon, and thought I'd lend a hand.”

“Have you seen Meryli?”

Arc shrugged. “I spent a good five minutes calling out for her while you were apparently being an uber-badass. If she's still near the entrance, it's her own fault.”

“She turned on us!” Terry said, anger in his voice.

Casey's eyes lit up. “Ohmigod! She was working with the kidnapper!”

“Easy, everyone.” I said, “Let's not jump to any conclusions. Perhaps she was trapped as well.”

“But …” Terry sighed and said. “If you say so, sir. If we do find her, however, I'd suggest that we keep an eye on her.”

“I can keep an eye on myself, thanks.”

We turned to see Meryli approaching, every inch of her skin and clothes covered in dry dirt and soot, save for a goggle-shaped spot around her eyes. A cloud of dust poofed from her with every step she took.

She looked at the flaming wreckage of the building for a moment and said, “I see ya'll have been having a fun time too. Did I miss something?”

“The dragon.” I said, motioning to the wreckage. The rain had quelled the fire somewhat, though the flames were still quite high.

We all stared at the blaze for a few moments. The clowns had made an appearance; they formed a long bucket chain, and were slowly but steadily putting out the fire. Quite honestly, I think the rain was doing a better job of quelling the flames.

“I hope our princess was in another castle.” One said, chuckling. Seeing my questioning glance, he shook his head. “Never mind.”

“You think he was actually inside that thing?” Arc asked.

I felt the blood drain from my face. “By the Creator. Perhaps we should try to-”

The flaming wreckage suddenly shot in all directions. As robot clowns fled in terror, One held his rune hand out; instantly, a shield of pure light shot up around us. As flaming wreckage bounced off the shield, a dark figure rose within the fire.

One's eyes went wide. “Cyber-cripes!”

The dragon, looking like something out of a horror movie with most of its scales gone and parts of its metal understructure exposed rose from the wreckage. With a loud, slightly static roar, it stomped toward us.

“Looks like I didn't miss the party after all!” Arc said, hefting his massive sword.

Arc's shout jarred me from my panic far too late to stop the young would-be hero as he ran at the mechanical monstrosity. The dragon slammed a claw down at him, but Arc leapt back at the last moment. The moment the claw hit the ground, Arc leapt on top of it and started running up the dragon's arm. It raised its other claw with the unmistakable intent of smashing Arc into jelly.

Terry blasted the machine with a full-powered burst, blasting off the dragon's other wing. The plasma burst snapped me out of my stupor in time to send a force wave flying through the air. It impacted the dragon's claw enough for the dragon to miss Arc.

“Swarm it!” I shouted, already running toward the dragon.

I was fast, but the Joe-bot sped past me. The dragon's claw slammed into the ground, but under One's guidance, Joe easily evaded the attack and countered, its twin energy swords cutting through the dragon's claw with ease.

“Oh, yeah!” One said, making the robot pump his fist in victory. “Nobody messes with Joe!”

He wasn't celebrating for long; with one swift movement, the dragon smashed the Joe-bot into spare parts. I caught the One doll as it was sent flying and quickly let him climb on my shoulder. When the dragon took a swipe at us, I narrowly managed to dodge it by throwing myself out of the way.

A bright flash followed by a click of a shutter made me glance back. Casey was running away, already cranking her camera again as Meryli rushed at the dragon with a loud cry. The hands of her UBT dug through the weakened scales and tore out handfuls of wiring, fake leather skin, and scales until the main arm support was visible. She slammed her UBT clad hands against the metal 'bone', each blow leaving a sizeable dent. With a quick nod, she ducked as I swung Glint and severed the rest of the claw.

I leapt aside as the dragon tried to crush me with its stump. Arc was on its shoulder now and was now working his way to the back of its neck. I wasn't sure what he was trying to do, but at this point any strategy was better than nothing. I shot a Force Edge up the dragon's arm, scattering what was left of its scales in all directions and leaving a few long tears in its 'skin'.

The Ascendant rushed through the air over my head. As it swerved to avoid the dragon's remaining claw, I spotted Mick in the driver's seat and Casey in the back.

The dragon tried to hit the Ascendant with its fire breath, but Mick's flying skills were beyond impressive; he spun around the fiery burst without so much as a single scorch mark on the Ascendant.

A brilliant burst of light I recognized as the flash of Casey's camera caught the dragon full in the face as the Ascendant flew past its monstrous head. If that wasn't enough, a plasma blast from Terry slammed into the dragon's skull, shattering its right eye. As it recoiled from the attack, Arc managed to clamber onto the beast's head.

Hefting his massive blade high in the air over his head, Arc shouted, “Eat Kindred steel, you overgrown toad!”

Arc stabbed the Kindred blade into the dragon's head, pushing it down all the way to the blade's metal hilt just as a loud flash of lighting hit somewhere within the park with a near-deafening thunder. Still, the dragon continued fighting.

Even horribly mangled, the machine still functioned well enough to send us running if we got too close. As Terry was proving the biggest nuisance, he started to shamble slowly toward the white-rank guard. Garbled noise came from the dragon as though the kidnapper was trying to talk, but it was impossible to discern what he was saying.

As another flash of lightning shot through the sky, I had a wild idea. Channeling stream energy, I ran at the dragon once again.

“Jimmy, what the hell are you doing?” One asked, struggling to hold on to my shoulder.

“I have to get closer.” I said, energy already radiating from my blade.

The dragon stopped snapping at the Ascendant and focused its eyes on me. Arc stood on the machine beast's head, trying in vain to tug his weapon free. I knew he wouldn't succeed; thanks to Casey, he'd buried his blade deep into the dragon's artificial skull.

“Get Arc on the Ascendant!” I shouted into the PIM, hoping that Mick was listening.

He must've been; the Ascendant pulled alongside the head, just behind its eyes so that it couldn't see him. Arc glanced between it and his sword for a few moments. After a final tug, he gave up his sword and leapt onto the roof of the Ascendant.

As Arc and Mick flew away, I continued my dash toward the monster.

“How close do you have to be?” One shouted over the rising sound of rainfall.

“Just a little closer! If I'm not close enough, it won't be strong enough!”

“Strong enough for what?”

The dragon loomed in my view; it stared down at me with its angry red eyes. Despite all the exposed circuitry at that point, I still marveled at how real it looked. I just wasn't afraid of it anymore.

I stopped only a few yards from the beast. As its head darted toward me, I swung Glint with every bit of strength and stream I could muster.

The resulting Force Edge seemed to explode from my blade and sent little tremors through the air as it passed. It hit the dragon's face with enough force to send the entire head flying up. The dragon staggered back as its head flew as high as its neck would allow, the metal hilt of the kindred blade reaching high into the stormy sky as I prayed for a little luck.

A blast of lighting hit the hilt of the Kindred blade and shot down into the dragon's skull. The electrical discharge danced over the dragon's metal frame, accompanied by minor explosions that soon left it without limbs. With a final roar, it collapsed to the ground, and lay still.

The Ascendant landed behind us; in a few moments, the team gathered in front of the fallen dragon machine. It was a strangely somber moment

“Dude!” Arc whispered, staring at the damage his sword had caused. “How did you know?”

“Anything that flies had to be protected from lightning, but when you stabbed it in the head, your sword became a grounding rod straight to its internals.” I said.

“No, I mean how did you know the lightning would strike?”

I shook my head; it had made sense at the time, but my mind was too numb to recall. “I don't know. I guess I just figured the Creator owed me one.”

“It … it's dead this time, right?” Casey asked, peering at the remnants of the dragon from behind Mick.

A glimmer caught my eye; the massive chunk of crystallic that was the thing's power core was exposed.

I walked toward the dragon. The others moved to follow me, but I raised a hand to stay them.

“It might be dangerous.” I said. “Terry?”

“Ready, sir.” Terry said, his rifle already at the ready and aimed at the dragon's core.

Keeping Glint in hand, I approached the remains of the dragon.

When I reached the core I touched it gingerly, only to find the stone was as cool as the falling rain. Using Glint, I pried the large crystallic chunk out of its casing and let it fall into the growing puddle of mud. The light in what remained of the dragon's eyes slowly faded before eventually going dark.

Only then did I feel the dragon was no longer a threat. I let out a deep breath and moved to sheath my blade.

A loud clang made me spin around, blade at the ready. The sound was from one of the outer plates on the dragon's chest as it swung open and hit the partially destroyed arm. As I watched, a bedraggled figure stumbled out of the smoking cockpit and promptly collapsed to the ground in a fit of coughing. His scales were a deep green, his fur a lighter shade of that.

As he looked up at me, a thin rivulet of blood tricking down the side of his face, I realized he was a draconis … no, not just any draconis; he was the draconis, the painter who had kidnapped Princess Sera and just tried to kill my friends.

My resolve hardening, I slowly approached the draconis and pointed the business end of Glint to his long neck. “Where is Princess Sera?”

He held out a hand. “Please, hear me out.”

“You've already done plenty of talking tonight. I tried to reason with you, I tried to give you a chance, but you just laughed and let us stumble around your park and into your traps. When that didn't stop us, you resorted to trying to outright murder us. You'll excuse me if I'm not interested in hearing your sob story.”

A look of fear fell on his face. “Are you going to kill me?”

I'm ashamed to say that part of me considered it. He was wounded, and after what he'd tried to do to my friends, part of me was positively screaming for vengeance.

“We're here to rescue the princess. Tell us where you've hidden her, and I'll consider letting you go.”

“Rescue?” He said incredulously, “She doesn't need to be rescued; I already rescued her, from an insane king and his two would-be heroes!”

I opened my mouth to reply when I heard someone shout, “Cid … by the Creator, Jimmy, NO!”

I turned to see Meryli running toward me, but she wasn't the one who had shouted; right behind her was Princess Sera. I almost didn't recognize her, as she was wearing much more sensible clothes rather than the female guard uniform.

She brushed by me and knelt beside the draconis. Furthering my confusion, she embraced him and said, “Please don't hurt him, Jimmy, please! I'll do anything, I'll go back to my father, just please don't hurt Cid!”

After a long moment, I lowered Glint, and bowed my head. “Mick.” I said quietly, knowing he'd still hear me, “Could you come here for a second?”

Mick approached. “Jimmy?” He asked, looking curiously at the princess and the draconis.

“Would you please heal his wounds? He's probably breathed in a little smoke too, so just give him a little checkup, okay?”

“Of course.” Mick swiftly walked over to Cid and knelt beside him to begin his work.

Sera looked up at me, her eyes shining with hope. “Jimmy?”

“A moment.” I said. I watched in silence as Mick attended to Cid's injuries. All the while, the events of my adventure were whirling about in my head. Sera kept looking from Cid to me, her concern growing more and more by the moment.

“Jimmy,” She said when the silence apparently grew too much for her. “I can explain.”

“I think I can too, for the most part. I just need to ask one question; when I asked you out on a date back in Iniagusville, you told me you already had someone special. You were talking about Cid here, weren't you?”

“He's the secret boyfriend?” With a sigh, Terry lowered his rifle. “By the Creator, Sera, what in Nocturnes is going on here?”

I nodded as well, though my nod was one of satisfaction. “I think I understand. Stop me if I get something wrong. When you heard your father was going to try to marry you off to either me or Arc, the first thing you did was tell Cid. Together, the two of you came up with this plan.”

“Sir?” Terry said.

“The princess wasn't kidnapped by the dragon.” Casey said, “She ran away with the dragon!”

“So to speak.” I said. “I have to say, it was a brilliant plan, trying to make everyone think a real dragon had kidnapped you. A dragon could fly out of Wenapaj in a matter of hours, making pursuit useless. Even if the supposed dragon stayed local, only an idiot would go looking to a dragon.”

“Clearly, the quality of idiots has gone up in recent years.” Cid said, giving me a weak smile. “Tell me truly; did I ever have you fooled?”

“Oh, yes.” I told him. “I thought it was a real dragon for a while there. We were going the wrong way, but I'm sure you knew that.”

I turned to face Meryli and said, “Didn't you?”

“Huh? Whaddya lookin' at me for, Jimbo?”

“Because you helped them.”

Her cheeks went red. “I dunno what you mean.”

“Sera and Cid may have planted bugs around the palace to keep an eye on things, but someone had to monitor them and warn them of anyone getting too close. Someone had to coordinate, someone who knew both of you. You told us you trained as one of the Queen's Shadows, so I'm guessing that's where you met Sera. As for Cid, well, he had to rent floaters from somewhere to visit Sera; he lives father from Iniagusville than me.”

Meryli sighed and rubbed the back of her head. “Yeah, he did.”

“And I told you about Sera's kidnapping in the market just before we left. I even told you about the Glyche facility beneath the Saybaro. You bugged Mick, didn't you?”

“What?” Mick said, startled.

With a sigh, Meryli said, “I slipped it under your collar when I hugged you. Sorry, Mick, but after all the trouble we went to, I had to be sure you and your friends weren't too close.”

Mick felt around the collar of his shirt before producing a small metal dot. If anything, he looked bemused as he handed it back to a blushing Meryli.

I continued, “You knew we'd find nothing, even with access to the Yaevin station, but if we started looking into the kidnapping scene … well, we'd find out just what we found out. Fake scales, but no dragon. Fortunately for you, we already found a false lead; the supposed dragon in Wukice. That gave Cid plenty of time to work on something more substantial to throw at us.”

“Something to scare you off, yeah.” Meryli shot a dirty look at Cid. “Not blow you up! By the Creator, Cid, what in Nocturnes were ya thinkin'?”

“I was just trying to make it more believable.” Cid said.

“Yeah? And what about what just happened? Your castle's in shambles, and the only reason this whole place isn't a blaze is because of rain and the clowns! I promised I wouldn't snitch on ya, but you nearly killed all of us with that stunt in Salutier!”

“I didn't think you'd pursue me!” Cid said, giving me a rather plaintive look. “You were supposed to run in fear, not actually try to stop me! When the king knighted you, I guess I just assumed that you'd be as silly as he is.” He sighed. “And I was wrong. By the Creator, I was wrong.”

Mick shut off his healing beams. Patting Cid on the shoulder, he said, “You're good to go. The rest will heal after a good night's sleep, though you'll probably be coughing for a few days.”

“So what happens next.” Terry said, looking at me uncertainly.

Everyone turned to look at me. I was the leader, whether I wanted to be the leader or not. To be fair, I don't think anyone wanted to deal with the decision I faced.

“What happens next.” I repeated, conscious of everyone's eyes on me. I closed my eyes and ran through the whole scenario in my mind once again before confirming the conclusion I knew in my heart I'd decided the moment Sera confirmed that Cid was her lover.

I sheathed Glint, and turned away from Sera and Cid. “Meryli, go get the Ascendant started. We're leaving.”

Arc's jaw dropped. Meryli just nodded and flashed me a grateful smile before hurrying toward the Ascendant.

“What?” Sera said, clearly startled. “You're … you're not going to tell my father about all of this?”

“About the park?” I said, “All we found was a fake dragon. No kidnapper or princess anywhere. In my opinion, the kidnapper and the princess must've fled to Rimstak. I'll mention, of course, that I have suspicions that you went along willingly with the kidnapper, but have no concrete proof of this other than what I've already sent.”

“Sir?” Terry said, “I want to help Sera, but ... you're going to lie to the king?”

I sighed. “Yes. I'm going to lie to the king. They wanted to elope, and I can't argue with their reasoning for doing so. The alternative places Cid in jail and Sera getting married to someone she doesn't love. She's your friend too, isn't she? Which do you think will make her happier?”

Terry looked at Sera for a long moment before letting out a sigh. “Yes sir.”

“Thank you, Jimmy … Terry.” Sera said, bowing her head respectfully at both of us.

Cid, however, shook his head, a clear look of disbelief on his face. “I tried to kill you. I damn near succeeded. Why would you do this for us?”

I bowed my head. “Maybe it's trite, but you did what you did for love. Maybe that wouldn't have meant as much to me before this chase began, but now? No, I can't in good conscience condemn you for doing what you felt was necessary to help the woman you love.

Cid looked me in the eye as Sera helped him to his feet. Slowly, he held out his hand, “Thank you, Sir Sakamota. Just … thank you.”

I know I said that I'm not a hero … and truly, I don't think I am. However, a few times in my life, I've felt close. Watching Sera and Cid walk off together arm in arm as the rain finally relented was one of those time.

“So that's it, huh?” Arc said, sounding disappointed. “We’re just letting them walk away?”

“It's the right thing to do.” I clapped him on the shoulder and smiled at him. “Look at it this way; you dealt the critical blow.”

“I did?” A grin slowly spread across his face. “Yeah, I did! I knew this Kindred blade was special!”

“I'm not arguing with you.” Casey said as Arc walked happily to the Ascendant, “But what about the king? You're essentially having to tell him that the kidnapper got away.”

I paused; she was right. Even if he believed my story, he probably wasn't going to be happy with me. “I'll cross that bridge when we get there.”

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