Julia awoke, her head throbbing. She looked around, seeing only smoke and rubble. Rubbing her eyes, she tried to see through the thin dust. What had happened?
Suddenly, she recalled everything. The missile landing, the massive explosion, throwing earth, and her friends through the air. She had heard the cries of Elie and Let..
"Let!" She cried out, suddenly afraid. "Let!! Where are you?"
"Right where you left me koi…" She looked down to see that she was lying across his body. She swiftly helped him to his feet, before grasping him in a large hug.
"Oh thank God… are you alright?"
He gave a small smile. "I'll survive. You?"
"Fine now you're here."
Let looked around. "We'd better find the others." The two walked through the dust, the cloud beginning to clear. Through it, Let could see a massive crater, almost thirty feet wide.
"What an explosion. It's a miracle we're still alive."
"Yo!! Yo guys!" Musica's voice called out. The two bounded over the rubble to find Musica and Shuda, nursing some injuries, and Iulius laying on the ground in a daze.
"Hey, you made it." Musica spoke. "Now that my friends, was a close call." He looked at the massive crater. "At least this place has a new tourist attraction."
"Is he okay?" Julia pointed at Iulius, who seemed to be talking in his sleep.
"Flowers… for little ol' me? I do declare Mr Beuregarde…"
Shuda shrugged. "He's fine. But has anyone seen Haru and Elie? Or our Blue Guardian friends?"
"Poyo!! It's terrible!!" Ruby, Griff and Plue bounded into view. "They're in trouble poyo!!"
"Calm down. Did you see them?"
Griff nodded. "I saw them. They ran away from the explosion, but then the ground collapsed, and they fell in…"
"Puuuun!" Plue eagerly pointed at the crater. Several cracks and holes littered it.
"They must have fallen into that cave network underneath these cliffs." Shuda surmised. "These holes have collapsed on themselves. We couldn't dig our way down…"
Julia gasped. "No…." And the gang fell silent, as the impact of the situation hit them.
# # # # # # # # # #
Giraffe pulled himself to his feet, disorientated from the blast. Rubbing his eyes, he surveyed the destruction around him. Had the Rave Master survived?
"Uhhhhh…" He looked down to see Koala, battered and very dazed. Giraffe glared. The fool, what was he thinking releasing those explosives? That wasn't in the plan. He'd deal with him later, but first.. where was Leopard?
He climbed over some rubble, trying to locate her. He stopped, hearing a sound like breathing nearby. Turning to the source of the noise, his blood froze.
A metal claw, attached to a slender arm, protruded from under a pile of rocks and dirt. He scrambled over, pulling the rocks away with his hands to reveal Leopard.
She lay still, her breathing barely a whisper. Bruises and cuts covered her body, along with a large blood-soaked gash in her belly. Giraffe knelt down, and cradled her upper body in his arms.
"Leopard, wake up!" He stared at her, begging her to open her eyes. If he could see those eyes again…
For the first time in years, he felt utterly scared and alone. She was dying. She had been by his side for as long as he had been a member of the Blue Guardians. Any time he needed her help, she'd been there, no questions asked.
She'd come to help him, on this mission. And now she was dying.
He held her tighter, thinking of only one thing to do.
"HELP!! Someone! HELP!!"
# # # # # # # # # #
"I say, I can hear someone." Iulius pointed over a ridge. The gang swiftly ran over, to see Giraffe, huddled next to the prone, bleeding body of Leopard. Nearby, Koala was getting up in a daze. Giraffe looked up at them, his eyes pleading.
"Please… she's hurt. She needs help."
"Help you?" Musica scoffed. "That's a joke right?"
"Please!! I'm begging you here! I'll do anything you want." Giraffe looked at the girl in his arms. "I'll do anything… just don't let her die."
"WHAAAAT!!?" Koala was now fully alert. "Are you nuts?!"
Julia stepped forward and knelt next to the two. "Plue, come here and use that healing power of yours. Griff, could you get a first-aid kit?"
The others were stunned. "WHAT?!!" Musica gaped. "Are you mad?!!"
She glared at him. "She may be an enemy, but I won't let her die like this. Now get me that first-aid kit!"
Griff ran off, while Plue sat on Leopard's chest, transferring his power to her. Minutes passed as Griff returned, and Julia applied bandages to Leopard. The whole time, Giraffe never took his eyes of her, while the others never took their eyes off him. Finally, Julia had Leopard wrapped up.
"She's in bad shape, but she should make it through with a bit of rest." She spoke to Giraffe. He smiled.
"Thank you.." He seemed to choke on his next words. "I'm… I'm in your debt."
"Really?" Shuda stepped up to the man. "Well, I just thought of a way to repay it. You're going to help us."
"WHAT?!!" Musica and Koala said at the same time.
"Our friends are trapped down in the caves thanks to you, and you're going to help us find them." He looked at the others. "Griff, go to the hotel and find some radios or something. We'll go to the cave entrance and find a passage to the unexplored places..
"Whoa!! Forget it!!" Koala seethed. "There's no way in hell we're helping…"
Giraffe whacked Koala on the head, knocking him over. "Of course. We'll help."
Musica eyed him. "Very charitable of you. Most guys I know would have done a runner by now."
"Unlike them, I believe in repaying favours." He looked at Leopard tenderly. "Just… give me a few moments."
"Sure, whatever." Musica shrugged, turning back to the gang. "Yo Griff. You stay here and keep an eye on her."
Giraffe knelt down to Leopard, bending over. Making sure no one was watching, he planted a quick kiss on her cheek.
# # # # # # # # # #
Haru slowly came to his senses, raising himself. His head throbbed painfully. Rubbing it, he looked around his surroundings. He seemed to be in a large, dimly lit cave. A thin ray of light, filtering through a narrow opening above him, allowed him to see the stone around him.
Getting to his feet, he recalled how he got here. Elie had fallen down, and…
"Elie!" He was fully alert now, realising she was down here with him. But where? He spotted the Ten Commandments on the floor nearby. Picking it up, he saw a small tunnel ahead.
Walking through, his eyes scanned the area for any sign of her in the gloom. A feeling he'd been here before nagged him. There was no way he could have gone this far into the caves earlier today. These caverns were closer to the mountain..
It hit him. The location wasn't the same, the situation was. This was like the time he had been lost in the caverns underneath Jin Tower, the base of King, and he had tried to find his dad. A lump formed in his throat. Despite his best efforts, Dad had never made it out of the tower.
The need to find Elie was now greater. He broke into a run. "ELIE!! Elie, where are you?!!"
Elie got to her feet, still woozy from the fall. She yelped in pain, realising her ankle had been twisted. Ignoring the pain, she looked around, realising she was underground. It had happened so fast, one minute running with Haru, the next…
"Haru!" She gasped. Was he okay? She looked around for a way out, but could only see stone walls around her. A pile of rocks and rubble appeared to be blocking the only way out.
"Help! Anyone?! She yelled. Her voice echoed around the cavern.
She sat on the floor, suddenly feeling dizzy. She took deep breaths. What was going on?
"Elie?" A voice called out. She leaped to her feet.
"Haru!! Haru I'm here!!"
On the other side of the rubble, Haru leaned in to hear her voice. "Elie!! Are you okay?"
"Yeah, but I'm trapped here!"
"Hold on." He began digging at the pile of rocks, shifting them aside as fast as he could. It was a large pile though, and he suspected he could be here a while.
"Elie.. talk to me."
"Just talk. About anything. Just to keep us from being bored."
"Um, okay." Elie made herself comfortable. "Quite a night huh? And I was hoping we'd get more peace from the bad guys."
"Couldn't have lasted forever." Haru grunted as he rolled over a big rock. "But it was weird.. did you see the way that catgirl protected the hair guy?."
"Yeah…she.." Elie paused to take a breath of air. Her chest felt tight. ".. she totally jumped in to save him. You ever see a bad guy do that?"
"Nope.. maybe she decided to try being good for a change."
"Maybe…" She gasped.
"Are you okay? You don't sound well." Haru was now concerned.
She shook her head. "I don't know.. I just feel so tired… and out of breath.."
Haru turned pale. He'd felt like that before, underneath Jin Tower. It was due to lack of oxygen. She was getting no air. She would choke to death if he didn't..
"No.." He grabbed the Ten Commandments, transforming it into Explosion. "Elie! Get as far away as you can!"
"What are you.."? She managed to crawl away from the rubble, and got her answer as a loud blast resonated on the other side. "Haru!! What are you doing?!!"
"Getting you out of here!" Haru slammed the sword into the rocks repeatedly, the blasts of fire from the blade shattering the stone. Small shards of rock flew in every direction, some cutting into Haru's skin. He took no notice of the pain, his full concentration on breaking the rocks.
A layer of rocks collapsed, and he moved closer. The sword swung down again, and this time, the blast was larger, fuelled by Haru's desire to get through. The fire burnt his skin, scorching his clothes. He took no notice. Nothing mattered but her.
Smoke was beginning to seep through the rubble, which shook with every blast. At the next blast, Elie heard Haru cry in pain, before another explosion. She gasped when she realised the explosions were hurting him.
"Haru! Stop it! You're going to get hurt!" She wailed.
"No! I have to get to you!" Another blast. Another cry of pain. Tears seeped from her eyes. He was hurting himself to save her. Risking his life… when she had put him down here in the first place.
"Stop it!! Please!!"
"No!!" Another blast, and the rubble began to collapse. She moved into the smoke now filling the cavern, trying to reach the rubble.
"Haru… stop it…" She pleaded again.
Then a loud bang occurred, and the rubble shattered. Through the space that was now revealed. Haru stood, barely managing to stand with the last of his strength. His face and arms were covered in burns and cuts. Blood seeped from larger cuts on his arms. The sword reverted back to Eisonmeteor, and was dropped on the floor. He stumbled forward a step, then fell. Elie managed to catch him, then dragged him into the cavern.
Laying him on the floor, she shook in anger and disgust with herself. Why did he have to do this? Why did he always have to go in and save her? Why was she always getting him into trouble?
"Why?!" She yelled at him. His eyes were half-closed. "Why do you have to be so stupid?!! You could have been killed!! Why do you keep trying to save me?!! I'm not worth it!!"
His arm shot upwards, and grasped her hand. She stared down at his eyes. He seemed to be… smiling?
"I need you…." He croaked. Then his eyes closed.
Elie held his hand tight. She could still hear his pulse. He was alive.
"I need to sort his wounds out.." She thought, noticing the cuts. Thinking quickly, she removed her dress, then began to tear up the skirt into lengths, to make bandages.
She bent over him and touched his cheek. "Don't worry… I'll make you better…"
# # # # # # # # # #
Shuda led the group into the back of the caves they had visited earlier. They found themselves at the entrance of a large inner cavern, marked off with a 'NO ENTRY' sign.
"Okay, this should take us into the tunnels that run underneath the mountain. We'll split up to cover more ground."
He held up a small radio. "Remember, keep in touch, so we know where to find each other. I'll look in the east side." He glanced at Giraffe and Koala. "You two jokers object to looking in the north?"
"Fine with us." Giraffe replied. Koala just huffed.
"We'll take the west." Let spoke
"Alright then. Lets go." Shuda, Musica, Iulius and Ruby walked away into the cavern, finding a tunnel to the east. Let, Julia and Plue took another tunnel. Leaving Giraffe and a very angry Koala.
"I don't believe this!! We start off trying to kill them, and not only do we get our asses kicked again, we end up helping them!!" He kicked Giraffe's shin. "You dick!! Why the hell did you agree to help them?!""
"Oh I'm sorry, I should have just let Leopard die then?" He scowled down at his sidekick. "I can't believe you're so cold blooded about her."
"No I'm not! But we should have gotten out of there and found a doctor or something, not asked for their help for crying out loud!"
Giraffe sighed. "Look, it's been done, okay? Let's just find them and get this over with…"
Koala looked at his tired friend. "You really care for her, don't you?"
"More that I thought I did, yeah.." He clenched his fist. "Damn it.. why did I have to get her involved?"
"Don't blame yourself pal. Blame that Rave Master."
"What?" He looked at the bear, who had a cunning gleam in his eye.
"Hell, this might never have happened at all if the Rave Master had just surrendered to us. This is all his fault."
Giraffe knew Koala was talking rubbish… but putting the blame on the Rave Master, it seemed to lessen the guilt on him…
Koala then pulled a small pistol out from under his jacket. "So what say that when we find him, he's had a small.. accident?"
"Are you mad?!"
"Oh come on, You want him dead as much as I do. We finish him, then make our escape with Leopard."
Giraffe stared down the north tunnel. Glory was in there somewhere. The thought of him escaping, while she lay hurt, made his blood boil.
# # # # # # # # # #
Haru opened his eyes, seeing the stone around him. Crap. They were still down here. How long has he been asleep? And why the hell was it so hot? The air felt warm, as if the sun was shining from somewhere…
"Haru!!" He turned to the joyous voice to see Elie, knelt next to him and smiling happily. He was relieved to see she was alright.
Then he realised that she was wearing only a bra and panties, and her belt with her tonfas. His eyes went wide. "What the… where the hell are your clothes?!"
She pointed at his chest. Looking down, he saw his shirt had been removed, and his chest and arms were covered in strips of fabric from her dress.
"You were cut really bad…" She spoke quietly, trying to cover her modesty with her arms, but not doing very well. A faint blush covered her cheeks. Haru couldn't help but think she looked adorable, even under the circumstances.
Then unexpectedly, she leaned over and hit him hard on the head. "You idiot Haru!! You utter, utter idiot!!"
She leaned closer, her face almost touching his. "You could have been killed!! I told you to stop, and you still kept blasting away with that stupid sword!! I don't want you to die!! Not for me!!"
A tear fell from her eye and landed on his cheek. Damn it. He'd made her cry.
"I'm sorry… but what was I meant to do? You would have run out of air. You would have died…" He looked away. "I didn't want you to die in a place like this.. like Dad did."
There was silence as he rose into a seated position. A dull pain ran through his body. "I couldn't let you die Elie. If you were gone… if any of the gang were gone, I don't know if I could cope… you're too important to lose."
She stared at him. "No I'm not. I'm nowhere as important as you. You're the man who'll save the world. I'm nothing compared to you."
Why did she hold such faith in him? Couldn't she see him for what he was? "I'm just a guy Elie. An ordinary guy who just happens to have a holy weapon. Anyone could be the Rave Master." He touched her hand. It felt warm on his skin. "But you, you're so unique. And not because of Aetherion. You're special to everyone around you. If we were to lose you…" He finished.
"You're so silly…" She smiled…
"Must be the lack of air.." He chuckled. For a few moments, happiness surged through him. He had made her smile. And because she had graced him with that wonderful smile, he felt honoured to be near her, though he didn't deserve her.
The current situation came back in his mind however. He'd managed to get some air through the cave, but there was no telling how long it would last. They had to get out of here. He got to his feet.
"Haru! You need to rest." She protested.
"I'll sleep when I'm dead."
She shuddered at his choice of words "I was joking. I'm okay to walk, really." He assured her.
"Well, okay then. Let me get the sword for you." She got up and with an obvious limp, walked to where she had placed the Ten Commandments. She dragged the sword back, wincing in pain.
"Don't do that." He rushed up and took the sword from her. "Your ankle's hurt."
"You blasted yourself to help me. I don't see the difference." She replied smartly.
He strapped the sword on his back. "You won't be able to walk far on that leg. Let me help you."
His arm reached under her arms to support her, her body leaning against his. He went rigid when her bare skin touched his. He looked down at her. Her slim body, clad in just white underwear, felt as light as paper. Full hips and a large chest pressed against his side. Even in this dark place, her hair and pale skin shone luminously. Holding her like this.. he felt like the luckiest man in the world. He was fully tempted to tell her, here and now.
But this was hardly the right setting. Peering through the gloom, he located a tunnel.
"Come on, let's go." And the two began their awkward walk out of the cavern.
# # # # # # # # # #
Let peered through the dim cave. Thanks to light filtering in from crystals ground in the wall, it was not pitch black.
"How long are these blasted caves?" He spoke. "There's no cave in the Makai this long. And why the devil is it so hot?" He wiped his brow
"I know…" He turned to see Julia walking behind, her head bent low. "No cave back home was this big. Here you could be lost forever…"
His keen eyes noticed a tear fall from her eye. He moved closer, and gently lifted her chin to see her face. "What's the matter?"
"This is all my fault." She blurted out. "If I had just stayed out of their affairs like everyone said, Haru and Elie wouldn't be down here. I should never have gotten them to go on that date..
Let wrapped his arms around her, holding her close. "Don't talk like that. None of this was your doing. I doubt even the Blue Guardians meant this to happen. This is just fate."
"So? They're still in here because of what I did." She sniffed. "Some romantic I am."
"You are romantic." Let stroked her hair. "You're romantic for both of us. But more that anything, you care. You cared enough for Haru and Elie to want to see them together. And I think that, despite everything, that stands out most of all."
"I wonder if they'll think that when we find them." She smiled at him. "And we will find them, right?"
Plue, who had been watching quietly, hopped up and down with a cheer. "Puuuun!"
"If he says so." Let smiled. "Do you feel better now?"
"I will when we find them." She reached up and kissed him gently. "Just how have you put up with me all this time? I'm not the best girlfriend you know…"
"You seduced me. You must be doing something right." Holding her close, he could feel the sweat on her arms. "You feel the heat too?"
"Yeah.. isn't it strange? I thought it would be colder." She separated from him, wiping her brow. "Somehow, I doubt it's cause I'm feeling amorous." She joked. "No offence."
"Unless.." He moved farther down, feeling the wall with his finger tips. A few feet down, he pressed against a section of wall which was unusually rounded compared to the rest of the stone. It felt red hot under his fingers.
"As I thought." He spoke darkly. "This mountain is a volcano."
"Excuse me?" Julia blinked at her lover's choice of words. "A volcano?"
"Feel here." Julia placed a hand on the rock. It nearly scalded her skin.
"I've seen this back in the Makai as well." Let continued. "Hot magma must flow through here regularly. We're next to a lava tube."
"Lava?!" Julia turned pale. "Are you saying this place is going to explode?!!"
"I don't think so. Even though the lava flows, I think it's been confined to these tunnels."
Julia picked up Plue, then grabbed Let's arm. "Well, let's not hang around. I do not like the idea of being surrounded by searing hot death."
"No argument from me." The three jogged down the tunnel. "Hold on Haru, we're coming.."
# # # # # # # # # #
The tunnel seemed never ending. In the dim light, there was no way of knowing if they had made no progress at all. Elie shook her head.
Maybe this was what Saga Pentragon meant. Maybe she would not die from Aetherion, but from starvation down here in this cave. She probably deserved it, for trapping Haru here.
She looked over at him. She had a good view of him, huddled close to him like this, his arm holding her. His gaze was set directly ahead of them, his clear blue eyes set in determination. She was free to glance downwards, smiling at the sight of his bare, toned chest. Now even his wounds could detract from his good looks.
It wasn't fair. Why did Haru have to be so…. good?" Not only did he look great, but he was the nicest person ever. He cared so much about everything. Why did she have to fall in love with him, when all she ever brought him was trouble? If he were to die here, it would be her fault. The only reason she was still moving was to make sure he got out all right. After that… maybe it was best if she just left…
"Elie…" He suddenly spoke, and she looked up to see his eyes on her. "I'm… I'm sorry I got you into all this."
"You know.. I'm sorry you're stuck down here with me. I'm sorry you almost got hurt by those guys…"
He was so humble as well. "Haru… this isn't your fault."
"Yeah it is. Those Blue Guardians were after me, and you got caught in the crossfire." His eyes bore deep sadness. "And I'm sorry I made you ruin your dress."
Her lip quivered. "You looked really beautiful in it."
"Stop right now Haru!!" She barked. Haru stopped moving, and Elie settled her weight on her good foot.
"Now you listen to me! You are not to blame yourself for any of this!! You.. you're never to blame!" Her voice shook. "I don't blame you for this! I don't blame you for when Doryu captured me, or when Sieg hurt me, or anything else. That was me!! They wanted me, not you!"
She wrapped her arms around him. "How can you say that about yourself? There's nothing wrong with you."
He flinched somewhat from the close contact. She felt nervous about holding him like this as well, as if he would revolted.
He spoke again. "If I hadn't messed up our date.. we might not be here at all."
"That…" She suddenly felt horrible about slapping him earlier. "Haru… I didn't want to hit you…"
"Nah, it's okay." He shrugged. "I deserved it. I should have never asked Musica for gift ideas…"
"No no!! I really liked the nightgown!"
He blinked. "You.. liked it?"
"Yeah.." She looked ashamed. "No one has ever bought me anything like that before… it was really nice.. it's just.." She quickly thought of a good excuse. ".. I was afraid that if I accepted it, it would lead into something… a bit more… you know…"
"I don't know." She giggled under her breath. He looked adorable when he was confused.
"You know… something a bit more.." Her cheeks turned red. "..risqué."
His eyes widened. "Whoa!! Elie.. I… I didn't mean it like that. I… I just thought you would want something to sleep in besides t-shirts. That's all!!"
He sounded so nervous, it was obvious he was telling the truth. "Oh.. um right."
"Believe me Elie…" He looked at her tenderly. "..I would never try anything like that unless you were on board with me."
She smiled. "I know you wouldn't. I just overreacted."
He smiled. "Well, I'm glad you're okay with it." He looked into the gloom ahead of them. "Let's get moving."
The two resumed their awkward walk. Elie leaned her head against Haru's shoulder. She felt rather silly about her earlier thoughts.
How could she leave him? No matter if she loved him or not, she couldn't bear to be without him. She needed his laughter, his touch, his comfort. She needed him…
"I need you…"
Those were the words he said before he passed out earlier. What did he mean by that?
# # # # # # # # # #
Musica wiped his face. "Man this place is hot. How can it be so hot down here?"
"Beats me,," Shuda mumbled. Even he, the man who got a kick out of lighting fires was looking irritated by the heat. "But we should be getting closer to the centre of these tunnels. Hopefully they're there."
"They'd better be… I ain't sweating like this for nothing.." He looked ahead to see Iulius and Ruby happily moving along, not bothered by the heat.
"How the hell can you two be so cheery in this fricking heat?""
Iulius grinned back. "No idea! Maybe a side effect of my Dark Bring…"
"Poyo!! It doesn't seem that warm to me." Ruby replied.
"You're a penguin. What the hell would you know about heat?"
"My, you are cranky today." Iulius snapped his fingers. "Let's have a little sing-song to lift our spirits. Haru and Elie might hear us as well."
"Poyo! That sounds fun!"
The two took deep breaths, and in tuneless voices… "Ebony, and Ivory, live together in perfect harmony…"
Shuda and Musica looked at each other in despair. "Okay, I'm convinced. We're in Hell."
# # # # # # # # # #
"Haru… can I ask you something?"
His eyes glanced over to her. "Sure thing." They had been silent for a while now, he had been mulling over her words from before.
"Well.. when you blacked out back there, you said something."
"Really?" He couldn't recall saying anything. But then, he had pushed himself over the limit. She had been the only thing on his mind."
"Yeah.." She spoke apprehensively. "You said you needed me."
A bomb went off in his head. He had said that, in front of her? Did she know?
"You okay?" She asked. "You've just turned pale."
"I.. I'm okay." He managed to get out."
"Oh… I just wanted to know.. what did you mean when you said that?"
Haru racked his brain for any sort of excuse. But surely she would see past them. This was too obvious, even for her. She stared at him expecting an answer.
Then it hit him. He could just tell her the truth. Or some of it at least. That would satisfy her.
But more than that… he just wanted to tell her. Tell her how much she meant to him. It would be a great relief to get it off his chest.
He took a deep breath. "Elie… When you were trapped back there, I was scared.. scared that I might lose you." His arm tightened around her. "Have you even tried to imagine what life would be like if a person close to you was gone?"
"No…" She stared into his eyes, trying to figure out what he was thinking.
"Well, I have, and when I try to think about my life if you weren't in it.. I can't. That's why I was so determined to save you."
"Haru.." She shook her head. "I can't have that much more impact on your life."
"You have." His voice raised. "You were there on my first day away from Garage Island. I was utterly confused by city life, but then you showed up, and helped me out and showed me the ropes."
He looked at her in adoration. This incredible woman, who had done more for him that he could ever relate. "You've always been there for me. Every battle, you cheer me on. Every time I'm in trouble, you come and help me.." He sighed. "And you never had to come with me in the first place. You could have stayed away, but you came anyway.
You're always there, and I just can't imagine my life without you nearby." He gave a small smile. "So, I guess I do need you. Because life is just… that much better with you around."
He watched for her reaction, fearful that he might have offended her. But at least, if felt good to spill out some of his feelings toward her.
He blinked as he studied her face. Was that a tear?
"Elie.. are you okay?"
"Yeah…" She leaned her head on his shoulder. "It's just… that was the nicest thing I've ever heard you say."
She smiled, that brilliant smile of hers. "I feel the same way. That first year I spent searching for my past, I never let anybody get really close to me. But then you appeared. I was so surprised when I saw you.." She sniggered. "I thought you were some sort of pervert, the way you appeared under my legs like that."
"Yeah.." Haru laughed nervously at the memory of his meeting with Elie. It seemed so long ago.
"But… then you saved me from that smoke guy, and then rescued me from Lance, and I saw the real you."
Her arm crossed over, and clasped his left hand. "I'm glad I met you. If I hadn't…."
She hesitated, wondering if maybe this was the time to tell him.. "You've helped me a lot Haru. I would have never found as much about myself as I know now without your help. I… would have missed out on so much…" She sighed. "I'm just sorry, that all this searching has put you and the others in so much danger."
His hand tightened around hers. "Hey, don't worry about it." He flashed a smile. "I'd do anything for you.. Elie-chan.."
She blushed slightly. "You shouldn't have to.. but you always do. And I'm glad." She stared up, into his eyes.
Every time she saw his eyes, it reminded her of what a great person he was. In his eyes, she could see all his sincerity and courage. One look at those eyes, and she would do anything for him.
"But just so you know… if I came to a choice between you and my memories.. you would win.." She said this in a quiet voice.
Haru's eyes widened. He knew just how much Elie wanted to find her past. But now, she would rather be with him?
She couldn't surely… He noticed her eyes were closed, and she breathed deeply as her head rested on her shoulder.
"Elie!" She tapped her head, causing her to wake. "You nodded off."
"I did?" She was embarrassed. "Sorry, it's just this heat.."
He blinked, realising that it was hotter than it was before. Talking to Elie, he had hardly noticed. He smiled slightly. She had that effect on him..
A loud sigh alerted him to the fact that Elie felt limp in his arms. Her eyes closed, but then opened again. Her breathing was shallow.
"Haru… this heat.. It's too much. We need to get out of here."
He nodded, and before she could protest, lifted her legs up so she was in his arms. He started into a jog down the hot tunnel, hoping they were near an exit. Fatigue was setting it, but he wasn't about to let her suffer down here anymore.
A circle of light suddenly appeared ahead of them. An exit? Haru ran faster, finally emerging from the tunnel. He looked around the large cavern they had entered…
"Whoa.." His eyes filled with awe. The cavern was a large, dome-shaped room, made entirely out of red rocks. The walls, rather than being rough, were smooth and glassy. Apart from a few stone pillars, the cavern was very empty, and extremely hot. Looking up, Haru blinked in amazement. At the very top of the cavern, were several glassy crystals, glowing a furious amber colour. Peering closer, he could see what was responsible for the heat.. a red, thick liquid, which seemed to be inside the crystals.
"Magma…" Haru breathed. He now understood. They were under a volcano. Above their heads, molten rock lay dormant, held back by the crystals.
"Elie…" He checked on her, and saw her breathing was quieter, her face flushed. Thinking quickly, he set her down on the ground, resting her against a rock, and unsheathed Ten Commandments.
Channelling Rave's power to the sword, it transformed into Blue Crimson. It felt harder to concentrate that it usually did. The heat was getting to him too. Raising the ice sword, he fired a wave of ice magic up at the crystals. Blue energy flowed onto the roof, until the whole area was covered in ice. Immediately, the room began to grow cooler. Relieved by the cool, he sighed.
"Haru…" He turned to see Elie look at him. Sweat still dripped of her flushed body, but otherwise, she seemed okay. "Haru… don't exert yourself by using Rave you goon. You need to save your strength."
She was utterly exhausted, probably dehydrated, and yet was still concerned only for him. At that moment, he felt such affection for her, he could hardly stand it. It seemed like every day she did something to amaze and surprise him. And boy did she look amazing…
Haru stared over her half-naked body for several minutes, before coming back to his senses. Thankfully, Elie hadn't noticed, her eyes partly closed. Haru moved up and sat next to her.
"I feel so tired…" She spoke quietly. He placed his arm under her head.
"Just rest Elie-chan…" He smiled. "You rest for a while, then we'll carry on."
"Haru…" Her amber eyes looked at him, moist with tears. "I… don't think…
She swallowed. "Please,,, just go on without me."
# # # # # # # # # #
"Can't. Take. Any. More. OF THIS!!!" Koala screamed. "This heat is killing me!!"
"Tell me something I don't know." Giraffe scowled, pulling off his sweat sodden shirt and tying it around his waist. "Just how long are these blasted caves?"
"Maybe we'll get lucky and they'll just starve to death." Koala's ears then pricked up. "Hey… I think I hear voices."
Giraffe listened carefully. He could faintly hear voices coming from the end of the tunnel. "Finally…" He sighed in relief.
They continued down the tunnel, finally finding an exit. Peering out, Giraffe looked in awe at the large cavern… and then spotted the Rave Master and his girl, sitting against a rock, talking quietly.
"All right." Koala cheered quietly. "Lets try and get closer."
Moving stealthily, the two managed to make their way into the cavern, hiding behind rocks to get closer. Eventually, they were close enough to hear their conversation.
Giraffe raised his gun. Deciding to wait a few moments to ready himself, he tuned into their conversation.
"Please… just go on without me…"
# # # # # # # # # #
Haru stared at her. "Elie… what are you on about?"
Her eyes were clear. "Haru… I'm just slowing you down. I'm too tired to go on any further. Just go and save yourself."
"No way!!" He shouted. "I'm not leaving without you!"
She sighed. "Please Haru… I'm going to die anyway. It might as well be here."
He blinked. "Wha.. what do you mean?"
She shivered slightly. She had dreaded having to tell him what Saga Pentragon had told her, knowing it would hurt him, but he deserved to know. "You see.. before the dance contest, Saga Pentragon spoke to me through Rave. He said…." Tears spilled from her eyes. "..he told me that he couldn't see me in the future with you and the others."
She looked at Haru's reaction, he seemed somewhere between shocked and angry. "So you see… either here, of if I die using Aetherion to reform Rave… I'll be gone anyway.."
She clutched his arm tighter, staring into his eyes. "I'm sorry.. I don't want to leave… I never want to be apart from you…"
"You never will Elie."
She blinked. He didn't sound upset. Instead, he looked determined.
And he was determined. Watching her cry like that, he could not stand by and let her suffer in whatever sadness was overcoming her. He had been shocked by her revelation, but seeing her, vulnerable and scared, only made it clear to him that whatever happened, her happiness came first.
"Elie…" He gently held her hand. "You are not going to die. At least… not here, and not because of Aetherion. You'll be an old lady when the time comes."
"You believe that?" She spoke sceptically, wondering if he was just talking to make her feel better. She welcomed his voice, but figured he was just lying to himself.
"Yes I do. I mean, the future isn't set, is it? Saga Pentragon could be wrong." He smiled. "My sister would always tell me, you can do anything if you're willing to work on it."
A smile crossed her face. Here she was, telling him to leave her to die, and he was just as care-free as always. "You and your daft sister. Always telling you stuff."
"But most of the time, she's right." He gently nudged Elie to lean sideways, against his side. "Elie… don't believe what Saga said. You're the only one who can dictate your future."
She nudged closer, her arm reaching behind his back. Being close to him like this, she felt more content than any other time in her life. "I guess…"
"Trust me Elie, you will have a great life once this is all over."
She smiled up at him. "Oh, you're psychic now are you Mr Glory?"
"I just have a hunch."
She laughed. "Okay then Haru, what will our futures be like after we save the world?"
He thought for a second. "Well, we/re going to hold that gigantic victory party at Garage Island, and then… have a normal life."
"Aftar all we've been through, a bit of normality would be great." He looked at the cavern roof. "But once all the excitement wears down… we'll have to get jobs."
"Sure. It'll be great to earn money without doing any stupid street shows or dancing contests."
"So, what would you do?"
He smirked. "I think I might like to be a writer. With all the adventures we've had, I bet I could write some killer books. Or maybe even a manga comic.."
"A manga comic about us? A bit far-fetched, isn't it?"
He wagged his finger at her. "What did I tell you about believing? Anyway, what do you want to be, once your memories come back?"
She thought for a few seconds, her brow crinkling. "I…. want to be a dancer."
A dreamy smile appeared on her face. "Yeah… when I danced on that stage back in Ribeyla… it was so amazing… I'd really like to make a career out of it."
"Yeah… you'll be great…"
"So… where do we live?"
"I'm going back to Garage Island… and you'll have to get a place somewhere…"
"I'll live on Garage Island too!"
He blinked in surprise. "Wha?
"Why not? You keep saying it's such a great place. Plus…" She grinned wider. "… I wanna be close to you. If I live by you, we never have to be apart."
He blinked, surprised. "Yeah… we'll live next to each other."
"We'll share stories over the fence."
"We'll get married…"
She froze. "What?"
"Um…" He thought fast. "You know. We'll meet people, have relationships. You'll net some really nice guy, and I'll probably find a girl."
"Oh right…" She trembled. For one moment, she had thought he was proposing to her… she shivered at the thought.
"Sooo, what kind of girl will you marry?"
He smiled again. "Well,, she'll be really cute, but kind as well…" His hand unconsciously moved up to touch her hair. "… a person who's really caring, patient, happy… someone who I can look at, and she'll make any day a great one." He snickered. "Sounds corny, doesn't it?"
"Not really.." She smiled. "The guy I want to marry… he'll be really strong, and brave, but kind too. The kind of guy… who'll do anything for me, even if I don't want him to."
"Sounds like a cool dude."
"And then, we'll live happily till we're old…" She sighed. "Yeah.. that is a good future to work towards." She looked back at him. "Thanks Haru… I needed that."
"It's okay.. and it's true of course. I'm sure our lives will be like that in the future…"
He trailed off, as deeper thoughts entered his head. He had actually talked about marriage to her… he hadn't used her name, but he'd voiced his desire to be with her forever. His eyes travelled all over her body, before returning to stare at her face. In her, he could see everything he would ever need. Beauty and heart in one amazing package.
He could hardly stand just sitting here with her. He was now fuelled with a burning desire to tell her here and now. So what if they were stuck in a cave? Being with her, but not being able to hold her as he wanted to… now if he could only find the words…
Elie watched his face. He seemed to be deep in concentration, his forehead furrowed. She suppressed a giggle. His features were so odd when he was serious.. it was so rare for him to think about something seriously outside of battle…
It now seemed so foolish to have told him to leave her behind. She knew in her heart that he would never leave without her. For some reason, he was very devoted to her. Frighteningly so. But he was always there. And she wanted to be by his side, always.
For the first time in a long while, she felt no fear about being near him. For better and worse, she wanted to be with him.
"You know… there is one problem with your prediction."
"Hm.." His eyes opened, calm blue focusing on her again. She shivered, knowing her next words would change everything.
"That bit where we meet other people."
"What about it?"
She paused for what felt like forever, but then, she found her courage again.
"I… I.. don't want to be with anyone else…. Except you."
She held her breath as she watched for his reaction. First he had that cute confused expression of his. Then it contorted to the face he used when he was shocked by something… then his eyes seemed to shine brighter, as realisation and joy washed over him. His hand reached up to touch her cheek.
"You know… neither do I."
He could hardly believe it. She said she wanted to be with him. When the words had hit him, he was confused by their meaning. But then he made the connection… she saw him in her future, as he saw her… she wanted to be with him…
A rush of courage washed over him. Any doubts he had were now gone.
The two stared at each other. Time seemed to have slowed. At last, Haru leant closer, and pressed his lips to hers.
Seconds passed before they separated, both feeling elated. Elie smiled brighter than ever before.
"This… this isn't some dream is it?"
Haru's arms wrapped around her. "How can you tell?"
She touched his face. "I love you…"
Then they kissed yet again, embracing even closer. A rush of lightning seemed to shoot throughout Elie's body, but not merely from the sensation of his lips, and his hands on her body.
It was the relief and joy, that she could love him, that was the greatest thrill of all.
# # # # # # # # # #
Giraffe and Koala watched with wide eyes as the Rave Master and the girl unexpectedly kissed each other. After listening to their conversation, this was the last thing they had expected.
"Wow…." Koala blinked. "I knew these heroes got all the hot girls, but man…." He smiled evilly. "Ah well, at least he gets one last moment of enjoyment." He glanced his partner over. "You ready yet? Blast them."
But Giraffe wasn't listening, his full attention on the couple embracing before him. Watching them, he felt something he had never felt before… and it kept associating with Leopard. He thought back to her. Was she awake now, scared and confused? He would have to get back to her…
Watching the Rave Master take comfort with his woman, he felt… envious. He could be doing this… with her, instead of being stuck down here on a stupid quest for vengeance..
"Concentrate!!" He shouted in his head. He was close enough to finish the Rave Master for good. He aimed the gun at Haru's head.
# # # # # # # # # #
Never before had Haru felt such euphoria. The girl of his dreams, the one he had yearned after for so long, had said she loved him. He considered that he was in a dream, but her lips on his, and her breath in his mouth, was definitely a reality. His hands roved around her back, feeling the slick skin.
He never wanted to move, never wanted to leave this warm sensation he was in, but he needed to breathe, and so he separated their faces. He looked to see her golden eyes, tears brimming.
"You okay?" He asked, concerned.
"I'm fine…" Her smile was bigger than ever. I.. I'm better than fine. I'm wonderful!" Her arms wrapped around him. "I never thought this would happen. I dreamt about it, I wanted to tell you for ages, but I thought….
His hand moved from her back to touch her cheek. "I understand.. I've kept it inside ever since my Dad died… watching you, but never able to just tell you." He sighed. "I wish I could have told you sooner. We might not be stuck down here otherwise."
Her eyes were now filled with curiosity. "Why… why did you wait so long? I'm just curious.." She lightly touched his arm. "Will you tell me?"
Haru sighed. "I waited so long.. because I'm a coward. Because I thought you would never want to be closer than friends. I thought.. I would be no good for you."
"What?!!" Elie gaped. "What on earth made you think that?!!"
"But it's the truth. I mean…. I'm some hick from a small island."
"And I'm this girl who keeps getting you into trouble. I was scared to tell you, because I thought you would get hurt." She pressed her face against his chest. "You're always getting hurt because of me. You don't deserve a burden like me… but I guess you fight so hard for me because… you feel so much for me…"
She looked up, her amber eyes boring into his blue. "Listen Haru. I don't really care where you come from. It's the person you are I care about."
"I can't be that good, can I?"
"You're brave, you're sexy…. You're just Haru." She snuggled closer to him. "The same Haru who makes me laugh, the Haru who protects me… the Haru who has been the best thing in my life since I lost my memory…" She kissed him on the cheek… "The Haru I want to be with forever…"
He smiled, gazing on her soft features. "I must have done something really good in a past life to deserve you."
He kissed her forehead. "I'm just sorry I made you wait so long."
"I would have waited forever." She leaned in to catch his lips with hers again. "I'll never leave you…"
# # # # # # # # # #
Giraffe was motionless as he watched the two kiss. He should have shot them a minute or so ago, but he was lost in thoughts never before conjured.
"Leopard can't leave! Leopard has to make sure you're okay."
Leopard…. She had stayed with him, even though she never wanted to fight, She had defended him when he had lost to Haru… she had always been by his side.. and he almost never noticed. Was this what they were feeling? Was this love… for Leopard?
He watched the Rave Master hold his girl tight. All of a sudden, he wanted to be out of this place, to be beside Leopard, make sure she was safe… it was his fault she was injured in the first place.
He was thinking clearly now, his former rage replaced with shame, Leopard had suggested they start a new life. He had admitted to himself that now they were free of Hardner, they could do anything. And instead, he had chosen revenge. Revenge that he never really wanted.
"Come on man. Shoot already!" Koala hissed behind him.
The gun lowered. "I can't do this."
"Sure you can. Just point and…"
"Dammit!" He glared at the bear. "I… I can't alright?!!"
Koala was shocked. "Oh no, you are not backing out now. We are finishing them off now!"
"But.. but why?!"
Giraffe gave a small smile. Quite simply… I have more important things to do. And I believe I'm quite free to do as I wish."
Koala shook with anger. "You traitorous.. well, if you won't do it, I will!"
He lunged at Giraffe, knocking him over.
# # # # # # # # # #
Haru got to his feet, helping Elie up and supporting her. "Do you feel a bit better?"
She nodded. "Much better. I might be able to walk faster now." She noticed he had his crazy, determined face on. "What's up?"
"We're getting out of here, that's what. And I'm taking you on another date. A proper one this time!"
She blushed. "You've become a real romantic in such a short time."
"Yeah well, I got a lot of time to make up for." He kissed her again. "Come on. Let's have our future.. together."
Any other time, that line might have sounded cheesy. But in that moment, he sounded so noble. Her arm crossed behind his back, and he felt his hand hold her waist.
"Ready to go?" They started to walk when..
"If you won't do it, I will!" From behind a rock, two figures fell onto the ground, struggling with each other.
"What the…" Haru blinked as he recognised the two as Giraffe and Koala. The bear seemed to be trying to take a small gun from Giraffe's hand. Koala punched Giraffe in the gut, causing him to release the gun. Koala grabbed the weapon and aimed at Haru and Elie. "Say goodnight Rave Master!"
Haru grabbed Elie and flung himself aside as a white laser bolt whizzed past them. As Koala readied another shot, he pulled out his sword.
"Die!!" Koala fired again, but Haru was ready. He held the sword in front of him and Elie. The laser bounded off the blade, shooting upwards.. and hitting the crystals on the roof. Shards of crystal fell to the ground.
"Son of a.." Koala didn't finish, as Giraffe sneaked up and chopped him in the neck, knocking him out.
"Idiot." He glared at his prone partner, before turning to the two on the ground. "Are you alright?"
"We're fine…" Haru helped Elie up. "…but why are you helping us? You were out to kill me before."
Giraffe shrugged. "Let's just say, something happened that made me have a change in perspective. Plus, your friends sent me down here." He pulled out a small radio from his pocket, and tuned it in. "Musica, can you hear me? I found them."
Elie snatched the radio from him. "Musica!! Julia!! Is that you?!"
"Elie!!" Musica's voice spoke. "Man, glad to hear you again. Is Haru okay?"
"Yeah, we're both cool."
"Great. You having any trouble with our Blue Guardian pals?"
She glanced at the comatose Koala. "Nope. None at all."
"Cool. Giraffe, if you go north, there's a tunnel which leads out to the beach. We'll get out there."
Giraffe took the radio back. "We're on our way." He then hefted Koala up, securing him on his back.
"Taking him with us?" Haru asked.
"Despite everything, he's still my friend. I'll just have to watch him…" He was interrupted by a loud cracking noise. "What the..?"
"Look!!" Elie pointed upwards. The crystals on the roof were beginning to crack and fracture, weakened from the laser impact earlier. Drops of hot magma began to seep through the cracks.
"Oh crap!" Haru lifted Elie in his arms. "We gotta get out of here!"
"This way! Giraffe led them into the tunnel. They had already run several meters when the crystal broke apart, a river of lava spilling through.
# # # # # # # # # #
As Let and Julia pressed forward, they reached a large opening, leading into a large cavern. Let stopped as he heard footsteps, signalling Julia to stop.
"Is it them?" She asked.
"Wait here." Tensing his muscles, Let charged forward, leaping and flipping into the cavern in the hope of surprising anyone who might be there. Unfortunately, he only succeeded in looking rather silly as he landing in a battle stance in front of Shuda, Musica and the others.
"Bravo." Shuda mocked. "At least we know we won't catch you napping Let."
Let just growled. Julia followed him in. "Have you found them?"
"Yeah, poyo!" Ruby cheered. "We got word of them. They should be making their way now, poyo."
Suddenly, the sound of rapid footsteps were heard. They all turned to a tunnel in time to see Haru, carrying Elie in his arms, approaching rapidly, with Giraffe, who was carrying Koala, close behind."
"There he is!" Ruby shouted with glee. "Hey Haru.." Haru and Giraffe ignored him and ran on, into another tunnel. Everyone watched in confusion.
"And there he goes…"
Musica turned back, hearing a strange, slurping noise. "What the hell is that?"
Julia froze as she realised what the sound was. "Er.. we might have neglected to tell you something about this mountain…"
And with that, a large river of molten lava poured through into the cavern.
"AHHHHHHHHH!!!" Ruby and Iulius screamed in unison, taking off at top speed the way Haru had gone. The others weren't too far behind.
Haru looked behind him to see the others catching up. He was also relieved to see that they were easily outpacing the lava. "Shuda!! How do we get out of here?!"
"This tunnel should be the way out!" The group pushed on, expecting to see freedom at any moment. They rounded a corner…
Only to stop before a large pile of rocks and rubble blocking the way.
"Oh crap!" Musica cursed. He glanced back at the tunnel, the sound of molten lava getting closer. "Okay, this is the point one of us comes up with a crazy idea to escape. Any takers?"
Elie pulled out her tonfas. "We have to blast our way out!!" She fired at the rock, explosions shattering the rubble.
"Works for me!" Haru put Elie down on the ground, and transformed his sword to Blue Crimson. Holding up the blades, he fired a stream of fire and ice at the blockage.
The others followed suit. Let and Julia spewed flames from their mouths, Iulius and Ruby fired ice energy from their swords. Musica repeatedly hammered the stone with a long strand of liquid silver, and Shuda erupted explosion after explosion.
Under the constant barrage, large chunks of rubble were falling. But the blockage was not falling fast enough. Musica looked back to see the lava surging toward them, seemingly faster than before. "Hurry it up!!"
"Damn it! We need more time!" Shuda cursed as he triggered some more explosions.
Haru reverted the sword back to Eisonmeteor. He hunched down for a second, utterly exhausted. But he was not about to let his friends.. and her, die here.
To Elie's surprise, he turned around to face the lava, his sword held in front of him. She was more terrified than before now, as she sensed he was on the last on his strength. "What are you doing?!"
"Buying us some time!" He changed the sword into Melforce.
She was about to tell him to stop wasting his strength. She was about to tell him not to risk his life for her again. But then, he smiled at her. A quick trusting smile.
And just like that, she knew it would be all right. He would save them… she just had to trust in him.
"Go for it Haru!! You can do it!" She cheered.
"Whatever the hell it is, just do it already!" Shuda yelled.
The surging lava was edging rapidly closer. Haru closed his eyes, willing as much power into his sword as he could. The green Melforce blade glowed with energy.
"YAHHHHH!!" A gigantic blast of wind was released from the blade, the force almost throwing Haru back. He stood his ground, concentrating the wind into the lava. The molten stream was still moving though, but Elie could now see it was slowing down.
"He's doing it!" Now she saw the lava harden and turn black, steam rising from it.
Musica turned to see, his eyes wide. "Son of a… he's cooling it off!"
The lava was now reduced to a slow trickle. Suddenly, the wind stopped, and Haru collapsed to the ground. Elie quickly grabbed his arm, Musica running up and taking the other.
Shuda fired off another explosion, and at last, the rubble collapsed into an opening. "Come on!"
Musica and Elie carried Haru through the hole, the others close behind. They jogged away from the mountainside, reaching the cliffs. Once they were safely far away, Haru was laid on the ground. Shuda looked back to see the lava break through the barrier Haru had made, and flow into a small ravine. "Looks like this place has a new tourist attraction…"
"Uuuuuhh…" Koala groaned, as he picked himself up from the place where Giraffe had dropped him on the ground. He looked around, confused as to what was going on. "What happened? What did I miss?"
Giraffe said nothing, he just watched as Elie and the others checked on the unconscious Rave Master. She supported his upper body, checking his pulse. He couldn't help but smile a little. Despite everything, he had to admire the girl's loyalty. It was very similar to…
"Giraffe!!" He spun around to see Leopard limping up to him, looking overjoyed despite her injuries. Her smile never looked better. Nor caring who saw him, he ran to her, grasping her in a hug.
"So are you!" She looked at him with teary eyes. "Leopard was so afraid you were hurt."
He smiled, touching her cheek. "I'm alright. But you do get me into some scrapes sometimes."
"What happened down there?" He looked over at the dazed Koala. "What happened to him?"
Giraffe breathed deeply, inhaling her scent. He'd never guessed she could smell so nice… he had a lot to learn about her..
And all the time in the world to do so..
The gang crowded around the prone Haru, Elie still holding his hand. Griff hopped up to see. "Wow, what happened in there?"
They ignored him, still watching for any sign he was all right. Elie began to shiver. "Please Haru… wake up.."
She leaned in, almost touching his face. "You have to be okay…."
Then his eyes opened, and Elie was instantly calmed and elated by the sight of the blue irises. The group breathed a sigh of relief.
"Hey…" Haru spoke weakly, seeing his friends. "I knew we would make it."
"You jackass Haru!" Musica exclaimed, a smirk on his face to show he didn't mean it. "We wouldn't be down there if it wasn't for you."
"Yeah, we were actually worried for once." Shuda laughed.
Haru smiled, then reverted his attention to the girl next to him. His arms crossed around her waist, pulling her on top of him. "See Elie… I knew we would get out."
"I never stopped believing.." She brushed his hair. "You get some rest now hero…
Haru nodded, closing his eyes. Elie smiled, then kissed his forehead.
Resulting in several shocked expressions, and a girly squeal from Julia.
"Well I'll be damned!" Let wore surprise on his face for once.
"Poyo!! I knew they would get together!" Ruby grinned.
"Man… just what did you do down there Haru…" Musica shook his head, then glanced behind him. "Hey… where did those BG creeps go?"
Shuda followed his gaze. The Blue Guardians had vanished. "Doesn't matter. I doubt they're any threat at the moment. Come on, let's get these two inside.."
# # # # # # # # # #
Haru opened his eyes, relieved to see that he was back in his hotel room, laid out in bed. He looked around, spotting Elie asleep in a chair next to the bed.
He watched her for a few seconds, noting how she seemed to look cute no matter what she did. She breathed quietly, a soothing sound. He reached over to touch her hand, and she started awake.
"Haru…." She leaned closer. "How are you feeling?"
"Tired, but like a million edels." He smiled. "I guess this is another crazy adventure to tell our grandkids."
She couldn't help but giggle, confusing him. "What's so funny?"
"I'm sorry… 'our grandkids..' the way you said it.. it sounds so surreal."
"All of today feels surreal." He felt up her arm. "I'm still expecting to wake up from a dream."
"It's no dream Haru." Her bright eyes shone. "I do love you. And even if I have to leave you someday… I will always stick by you…"
"You're not going to leave Elie." He touched her face, and feeling the need to be nearer, she climbed onto the bed next to him. "I don't know what will happen the next day, or what'll happen when we next fight Lucia… but you will come out okay.. I'll make sure of it."
Elie looked at him, more touch by his devotion than ever before. "As long as you're here… I'm always okay.."
She leaned forward to kiss him, but then a thought occurred. He got of the bed, and then ran for the door.
"Huh? Elie-chan?" Haru was confused.
"Just a sec!" She ran out the room, leaving Haru puzzled… and a little frustrated. He'd been so close to having her next to him… to touch her skin…
then the door was flung open again, and Elie entered, wearing a skimpy silk nightgown, the one Haru had bought her earlier. Haru's eyes popped open.
"I just wanted to finally use it.. you like it?" She shyly asked.
It took a few seconds for Haru to find his voice. "Holy crap…