The door creaked as it closed. Samantha was trying to be as quiet as possible, as her mother had told her not to go into the attic. She had always heard about how the attic wasn't a safe place for little girls, or how it was dangerous. Samantha, however, liked the place. It was nice, warm, and quiet, and provided great luxury for an avid reader like Samantha. Of course, when Samantha read, she wasn't reading things that a normal eight-year-old would read. No Judy Blume or R. L. Stine for her. She was more into Stephen King, and Anne Rice.
She dropped her book to the floor with an inaudible thud, and then situated herself beside it. She pulled her small blue blanket out from under her left arm, and her teddy bear, "Mr. Tweezers," out from under her right. She nestled the little bear in her lap, grabbed the night’s selection (which just happened to be Different Seasons, by Stephen King), and began to read.
She read silently to herself, as she slowly started to feel a slight breeze. She spit air a few times to try to keep her long golden curls from entering her small eight-year-old mouth. She looked around to find that the great window located on the ceiling was the source of the windy nuisance. She placed Mr. Tweezers on the floor beside her just long enough so that she could wrap herself warmly into the blue blanket. After another two pages, the wind became unbearable. Slowly, she got up and shut the window. The chill air surrounding the portal was still too much for her. She grabbed her belongings, and moved deeper into the attic, toward a single light bulb, her only other light source.
Nearly two chapters past by the time she started to feel the breeze again. She got up to investigate and found that the window had some how come open again. Her first inclination was that the wind had blown it open, but she discarded that idea, as the window was opened outwardly. Her next assumption was that one of the vile characters from her novels had come to life and decided to eat her. She thought that was preposterous, but just to be safe, she shut the window, and went into the back of the attic to gather her belongings.
She wedged the blanket under her left arm, and placed the bear under her right. She grabbed the book in her hand, and headed for the staircase, which just happened to be next to the grand skylight. As she came up upon the exit, she noticed the window was open again. She also noticed that she was no longer alone. Next to the window sat a man in great armor, with a horned helmet, a great shield in one hand, and a large spear in the other. He was mounted upon the back of a great white horse, with 6 legs, and a fierce demeanor.
Samantha's gut instinct should have been to run away, but for some reason, she was compelled to the curious horseman. He sat atop his horse, and somehow extended a hand, while still holding the spear and shield. She dropped the book, the blanket, then the bear, and took the hand of the armor-wielding knight. She looked into his eyes, only to find empty black voids looking back. His face was firm and rugged. His posture was only outdone by his appearance of self-pride. He sat the girl on the horse in front of him, and guided the horse out the window. The pair on the six-legged horse rose into the air, and into the moonlight.
Samantha's mother had just opened the door to the attic to find the book, the blanket, the bear, but no Samantha. She looked out the open skylight and saw a figure disappearing toward the horizon. She screamed for her daughter, but it was too late.
"What's wrong," Kain asked, "is it another nightmare?"
"It's the same old dream. Not a nightmare." Samantha shook off the feeling of uneasiness that always accompanied the dream. Samantha was no longer the eight-year-old girl that used to defy her mother, and read in the attic. She was more refined now, more adult, and a little more built. She was a very attractive woman, for her early-twenties, and her face was still recognizable to anyone who'd known her back in those days. Anyone like Kain. The only noticeable difference about her face was that her golden curls had turned into straight, long blonde hair.
She twirled her long blonde hair around her forefinger, as she had been known to do when she was a little nervous. She then gave it up with a loud sigh. "It'd be a nightmare, if it weren’t reality. I'll never forget that night. What happened, the figure in my mother's attic, the chapter of Rita Hayworth and the Shawshank Redemption that I never got to finish. I'll always wonder what happened to my mother that day. Or how my father took the news that his only child had vanished, flying toward the moon out the attic window. Or if I have any siblings or if my parents are even still alive... I'll never forget, Kain. And even if I do, my dreams will assure that I remember."
"Aw, it's alright, Sammy," Kain started, completely ignoring the seriousness of Samantha's last statement. "You'll get over it. I mean, it wasn't all bad, was it? I think you rather enjoyed it." Kain began to brush his teeth next to a mirror they had attached to a local tree the night before. He noticed that he hadn't shaved yesterday, and that short blondish bristles were forming around his chin. He rubbed at them, to make sure they wouldn't just go away, and then reached for his razor. He was a handsome man, in his mid-thirties, and well built. But then, he'd have to be well built to fit into his armor, which sat on the floor. He would need to put on the armor later, not necessarily because he's going to fight someone, but merely because it's better than running around in his boxers and undershirt.
"Oh, yeah, I enjoyed it. That's right." The sarcasm dripped from Samantha's voice. "Just like I enjoy sleeping out of a tent next to your ugly mug every night. With no bed, no air conditioning, no lighting to read by..."
"Well, excuse me, your royal highness." Kain didn't even pretend to be annoyed by her comments. "Some of us do have to make a living, though. And you’re going to have to learn to do this on your own some day. Thus, we have to keep going. Every night. We sleep in these two sleeping bags. And they don't separate. Unless, of course, you want to share a sleeping bag..."
"I don't think we'll be doing that any time soon," Samantha said abruptly, pushing Kain out from in front of the mirror. "Though, to tell the truth, I'm starting to get attached to you." Kain looked startled, as he tried to shave over Samantha's shoulder. "You're an interesting companion, in a round-a-bout manner."
"Oh, so now you're complimenting me," Kain said, as he pushed Samantha slightly, to get room toward the mirror. She fought back a little before giving him the few inches he so desperately physically requested. "I always assumed you'd hated me. Here I was, the big scary foreboding man who came across a little girl in her nightgown when she was eight, and took her under my wing so that she could survive in the world. In essence, I took you away from your parents. I had always assumed you'd hated me." Kain seemed very nonchalant, as if he didn't even know the weight of his own words. He combed his hair, and rubbed off the lather that was on his face. "You know, that was the last time I ever saw you in a nightgown. You've been so modest since then."
"Modest?" Samantha asked incredulously. She looked down and saw the skin-tight thieves' pants she was wearing, along with the short top she had bought for 40 gil outside of Mysidia. "I hardly consider this modest," Samantha said, looking down. Then she added, almost as an after thought, "And I don't hate you."
Kain argued about how Samantha should hate him for being an evil non-parental force in her life for so many years, but then Samantha counter-argued that Kain had been a father figure for most of her life. For nearly fifteen years, Kain was the only person Samantha could turn to for advice. He had helped her survive in all climates, and all situations. He even helped her though those... troubled teenage girl years. Sure, they fought now or then, but she still cared about him.
"I never knew you felt that way," Kain said. "Why didn't you ever say anything positive before?”
"I've said plenty of positive things, Kain," Samantha started, becoming angry, "you just don't ever seem to listen to anything that doesn't end up in you getting drunk, or sleeping in some foreign girls bed." Samantha thought a moment. "And if you think kissing up will get you in bed with me, I'll knock your jaw off." She paused. "And I'll clamp it on to something else."
Kain looked hideously surprised for a moment, and then decided that it would be in everyone's best interest if they headed out and made it to a town by mid-day. The two gathered their belongings, and boarded the two Chocobos that were tied to local trees. They rode east, toward the nearest village.
About two miles down the road, the two noticed a shop. The sign read, "Treasures the likes of which the world has never seen!" Kain flagged toward the store, and Samantha steered her bird toward its entrance. The two dismounted and entered the store, casually.
The insides of the shop were very cluttered. Items were everywhere. Hung on one wall were dozens of full suits of armor. On another wall were swords, spears, whips, bows, and staves. In a glass case lie potions, books, trinkets, and other assorted tools. In another case were rarer items. Children's toys, CDs, novels, and a copy of TV Guide. Samantha found special interest in this case.
"May I help you?" A little man with graying hair came out from the stock room. He looked curiously, at Kain and Samantha.
"Yes," Kain said, "I was wondering what kind of armor you might have in stock."
"If it's on the walls, it's in stock." The old man fixed his glasses on his nose. His balding pate reflected the dim overhead light. He pulled his leather vest tighter, as if the room had suddenly become very cold. Samantha looked at the armor. It was in good condition, though very standard class armor, and could probably be found in any store on the continent. "It's not too strong, but then, neither are monsters anymore."
"There's no other armor?" Kain said inquisitively, feeling the links on a piece of Chain Mail. "I was told that this was the only good store left..."
"Who told you that?" asked the shopkeeper. He suddenly became suspicious, while also being a little more open.
"Some friends of ours." Samantha said. "They said that we could get some... quality goods here."
The shopkeeper looked the two over carefully, and decided they were trustworthy. "Alright..." he started. "Come with me." He led Kain and Samantha to the storage room. Hanging on the wall were huge swords of pure magic, and armor that shimmered with effects unknown.
"Anything in particular you're looking fo - or!" The startled speech came as Kain hit him in the back of the head with a shield.
"Quick, Sam, grab what you can!" Kain shouted at his companion. The two grabbed the man's goods as he struggled for consciousness. The struggle was lost, and as he slipped into oblivion, he saw Kain and Samantha run out of his store with his best weapons and armor. Samantha stopped on her way out and looked at the case specialty case in the front. She opened the case from the back and removed its contents, laying about 25,000 Gil on the case to pay for the materials taken out of the glass case.
"This is the last task I'm doing for the kingdom of Eblan," said Samantha. "Next time Edge has problems with a merchant, he can get the stuff back himself."
Their chocobos ran steadily along the dirt road toward Eblan castle. Kain laughed heartily at the success of the recent mission. He looked into the sack hanging on the side of the chocobo and saw all of the goods they had stolen.
"You know, this stuff really isn't all that good. Most of it can be easily found in the underground. I'd think that anyone in Eblan would know that." Kain picked up a sword, as the chocobo became a little confused about his directions. Kain steered the chocobo back toward the road and admired the sword some more. "The dwarves charge less, too."
"It only looks so simple to you because you've been to the moon and back." Samantha wasn't impressed either, but then, she'd been around Kain for years. She knew the Eblan citizens would be impressed, and that most of them didn't go to the underworld very frequently anyway, despite living so close to the Tower of Bab-il. “Edge must have had a reason for us getting this stuff back. And, personally, I’m really interested in hearing it. He could have sent a guard or two for this kind of mission.” Kain merely grunted, and placed the weapon back into the sack.
Samantha yawned quite loudly out of both fatigue and boredom. The chocobo didn’t know exactly how to handle the situation so it started to jump a little more as it walked, jarring Samantha and assuring that she was awake. She glared past the horizon to see the top of Eblan’s towers. Kain played a bugle that they had brought along to sound their arrival to the castle guards. As the chocobos approached the castle, the guards recognized the pair and lowered the drawbridge. Kain and Samantha disembarked from their birds, pulling them toward the stables by their reins. From a grand entrance inside the castle came the King of Eblan, moving toward Kain and Samantha.
“Kain,” shouted King Edge, entering the court, “and Samantha! How did the mission fare?”
Kain pulled the acquired merchandise from the bag, which he had removed from the chocobo’s side moments before. “It’s all here, Edge. He didn’t put up much of a fight, I think he was actually just a merchant.”
“I don’t think so, friend,” replied Edge, admiring the Katana blades. “This isn’t any ordinary equipment. This is what was stolen at the Baron Trade Show Cecil held last year. I’m sure you remember the fuss Cecil put up. No ordinary merchant could have gotten past the Baron security. Especially with you at the helm.”
“Yeah, tell me about it,” Kain mocked back. “I have no idea how he got past the royal Dragoons of Baron. Large groups of my guards were at every entrance. The man must have been some sort of magician. So, this is the missing equipment, eh?”
“You really think this is the stuff stolen at the trade show?” interjected Samantha. “I mean, you said yourself, the same quality merchandise could be bought in the underworld, and with the entrance to the underworld so near here, he may have been legit.”
“I don’t think so, Sammy,” Kain said.
“Yes, Samantha, look at this.” Edge held a piece of cuirass toward the sun, and a beam of light struck the armor, causing it to turn multiple colors. “This is rainbow armor. All of this equipment is made from the same material. Only two sets exist. One is in Cecil’s bureau; the other is in my hands. This was at the trade show, no doubt about it. However, the merchant you found may not have stolen it himself. He did, however, have custody of it when we got it back, and that’s the important part.” He turned toward Kain. “A few members of your Dragoon army have already gone to apprehend him. Even if he’s not directly responsible, he might be able to tell us who did.”
“So you want us to bring this back to Baron?” Kain asked. “I’m sure Cecil would love to see it.”
“No…” Edge said, admiring a small wooden axe. “I think I’ll hold it here. Whoever took it would assume it would go back to Baron. Besides,” Edge said with a glint in his eye, “if Cecil really wants it back, he can always come back and get it himself…” Edge let out a sharp laugh. Kain looked at Samantha, and pretended to laugh at the Eblanese King’s joke, but he knew that he never found Edge very funny. Samantha feigned a laugh alongside her friend.
“I suppose we should be getting back to Baron, then.” Samantha said. She began to head toward the door.
“Wait,” called Edge, “I have something more for you.” Kain and Samantha exchanged confused looks. Kain, being a royal guard, wasn’t expecting any sort of payment. Though Samantha was officially a bounty hunter, her most recent missions had been on behalf of the Kingdom of Baron. She had gotten to stay there for free for some time, and felt she needed to pay back the favor. It had been a while since she had been paid for anything, and didn’t expect it from the usually rather miserly King of Eblan. Edge pulled a glowing piece of silver from his breast pocket. “This is another piece of the rainbow shard. It was found in the Underworld, not far from the Tower of Bab-il. We are, of course, assuming that it’s the same material that this equipment is made of. Now, we haven’t found the source yet, but if someone were to find it, they might have the power to… that is to say…” Edge kicked his feet around for a few seconds.
Kain knew what the lord of Eblan meant. He readied his spear in his hand. “They might be able to defeat Cecil.”
Samantha sat in Kain’s room in Baron Castle. She was sorting through her bag, finding the prizes acquired from the recent mission in the outskirts of Eblan. A TV Guide with Regis Philbin on the cover, advertising “Who Wants to be a Millionaire” was the newest item. Also included was a Blink 182 CD, a manual to the Nintendo GameBoy game “Kirby’s Dream Land”, and a novel: Different Seasons, by Stephen King. Kain was walking about the room, explaining the importance of no one ever defeating Cecil. Samantha was already becoming engrossed in the depths of the book.
“And if anyone becomes more powerful than Cecil,” Kain explained, “we don’t stand a chance. Even all bunched together. At least, that’s what Cid assumes. And he’s usually right about these things. But then, I guess you’d know that, you do know Cid… Samantha?” He looked at the girl. “Samantha, are you listening to me?”
“Hmm?” Samantha finally looked up.
Kain noticed a tear in her eye. “Sam…” He moved toward the girl. “Samantha, are you alright?” He held her face in his hands, gazing into her deep blue eyes. “What’s wrong, Sam? You can tell me.”
Samantha put the book down beside her. “It’s just,” she started. “It’s just… it’s just that this is the book I was reading when… when it happened. When I was taken away.”
“Oh…” Kain sat down beside her. He’d always been afraid of serious conversations with Samantha. He didn’t know much about women, especially about how to console them. He looked around his room and saw blue armor, large spears, things that wouldn’t appeal to women. He looked down at his hands. They were so much bigger than hers. She had smaller, more delicate hands. They could still get the job done, of course, no matter what that job may be. Samantha was a studious worker. Kain knew that, and respected it. He just couldn’t help her womanly emotions. He had help the first time he had heard the story of Samantha’s abduction from her attic.
Kain had found the girl outside the city of Baron, very close to the Baron River. Queen Rosa had been summoned, and helped him talk to the girl. Rosa did all of the real consoling, though Kain took all of the information to heart. He really cared for the girl. He felt it was his duty as a royal Dragoon and as a gentleman to raise the young lady whom he had found on the riverbed. He had never really thought of her as a daughter as much as he thought of her as… an apprentice. It was his influence that had led her to her life as a bounty hunter.
Samantha had become quite a prestigious bounty hunter, indeed. She had worked for Baron, Fabul, Mysidia, Eblan, and even the newly founded Toroian-Damcanese Empire. And she always completed her mission successfully. Kain liked to believe that was something she acquired from him. Samantha liked thinking that it was the one thing she’d learned on her own.
Kain shuffled his feet around trying to think of something to say. He looked down toward his feet and stuttered out, “I… I’m sorry.”
“Sorry?” Samantha looked a little confused. “What have you got to be sorry about?” She reached up and wiped the tears from her eyes. Kain immediately produced a handkerchief for her to wipe her nose and eyes on. “Kain, you shouldn’t feel guilty about that. It’s not like you were the one who came and abducted me out of my attic. You’ve actually been the one ray of light in this crazy life. You’re the only… constant. I don’t know what I’d do without you.”
Kain smiled a little under his quickly reddening cheeks. “Well…” Kain continued to fidget.
“Now… we’ve got a report to make.” Samantha put her belongings back in her hip sack, making sure to dog-ear the page she was on.
Kain rose and blinked a couple of times. “Right,” he added in. “We’ll go tell Cecil and Rosa about what’s going on.” Kain wasn’t exactly sure what had just occurred. He assumed that he’d never really understand women; it wasn’t his job. His job was as the captain of the Royal Baronion Dragoon Army, and he planned to uphold that status. He couldn’t be wasting his time trying to understand a woman, especially one that was that much younger than him.
“Cecil.” Kain chased the King of Baron down the hall toward his quarters. “Cecil, I need to talk.”
“I heard Kain,” Cecil grunted back, “you made it quite clear how important this mission is, and how many soldiers you’ll need. It’ll be done immediately. Now, if you don’t mind…”
“I do mind,” Kain shouted back. “Cecil, I want to talk to you.” Cecil turned, and Kain lowered his voice a little. “A serious talk. Man to man.”
Cecil walked back toward his best friend. “What is it, Kain?” Cecil and Kain hadn’t had many serious conversations, especially since Cecil had been promoted to Captain of the Red Wings, the Royal Air Force of Baron. After he was crowned King of Baron, they almost never talked at all. Cecil was almost afraid of the thought of a serious conversation with his best and oldest friend. Young men don’t have too many serious conversations, especially best friends in the Baronion Academy.
“Cec… I want to know…” Kain looked down at his feet. He felt
imbecilic; it wasn’t like him at all. Cecil noticed this, too, as he started to
smirk a bit as his friends cheeks showed the slightest hint of redness. “How
the hell do you talk to women? I mean, they’re always carrying on about their
emotions and they’re feelings and complaining about belching or other perfectly
natural bodily reactions, and…” Kain went on. Cecil gave him a startled look,
and then burst out into a boisterous laugh. “Oh, come on, Cecil, you’ve always
been the ladies man. You and Rosa have been together since we were freshmen in
the Academy. You’ve got to have some tips for me.”
“My friend,” started Cecil, “you can’t duplicate my skill. I’m just too good at it. It’s all this, as the Damcanese say, savior-faire. I’d give you some, but it’s just not possible.” Cecil started to move back toward his royal chambers as Kain shot him a dirty look.
“Cecil, I’m serious. I don’t want to have to go through life from bordello to bordello…”
“What’s this?” Cecil turned around with stark amazement on his face. “Kain the Warrior wants to settle down? Start a family? Is this big daddy Kain?”
“Oh, shut up, Cecil.” Kain’s look of disgust grew the more Cecil laughed. “I knew I shouldn’t have come to you about this… Besides, I never said anything about a family…”
“A family?” Rosa asked, coming down the hall from behind Kain. “I’m sorry, Kain, I just can’t picture it. You’re not a family man. You’re a fighter. I don’t even see you with a woman. You’d end up fighting her merely out of boredom…”
“Oh great, now she’s involved…” Kain started to walk away.
“Kain,” Rosa said back at him, “does this mean that you’re actually interested in someone?”
Kain stopped dead in his tracks. Cecil dismissed the conversation and walked back to his room. Though this would be an excellent topic to insult his best friend about, he felt very uncomfortable. He had a feeling somewhere inside that he’d be in the exact same situation had Rosa not asked him out so many years before. Besides, what with a recent financial fiasco in Mysidia to worry about, Cecil was too tired to really concern himself with the trivial matter. Unfortunately for Kain, Rosa seemed to press the matter forward.
“It isn’t Samantha, is it?” Rosa said, moving toward Kain.
Cecil let out a laugh as he entered his chamber. He didn’t really believe it, even if it did make some sense. It was Kain’s problem, not his. Rosa would be much better help, anyway. Cecil didn’t really know women, and he really hoped that Rosa did.
Kain walked hard toward Rosa. “It is NOT Samantha. She is FAR too young for me. Besides, I sincerely doubt that I’m her type…”
Rosa could hardly help but to giggle a little. “Fine, it’s not Samantha.” It was easier to give in than to get him to admit it. “Well, whoever it is is very lucky. You’re quite the catch, Kain, even if you won’t admit it to yourself.” Kain turned multiple shades of red, dismissing Rosa’s compliments and trying to brush her off altogether.
This was very hard for Kain. He may have feelings for someone, but he still felt something for Rosa. For years, Kain had been jealous of Cecil and his picture-perfect relationship with Rosa. Kain had always had a little crush for Rosa in Grammar School, and it never went away, and the fact that they spent more time with each other didn’t diminish this feeling. The fascination even kept him from attending their wedding. He came up with a reason that Cecil believed, but he never knew if he truly had Rosa’s trust.
“Of course not,” Kain replied. “If I were that good, I’d have been taken years ago, like lover-boy back there.”
Rosa smiled. “Just keep believing that, Kain…” She dismissed the Dragoon, going back into her chambers to join her husband.
Kain left the hallway leading to the royal bedchambers. Going down the corridor, he realized that he hadn’t been here many times before. The plush red carpentry along the walls and floor seemed very foreign to him. Cecil had once been his best friend, but had it been that long since he had been to his room?
Perhaps he did spend more time talking to a newer friend, the man that he considers to be a closer friend than Cecil. At least, he’s been a closer friend since Cecil became king. Nothing could replace the days Kain and Cecil spent at the Baronian Royal Forces Academy. But Kain remembered the day he met his newer friend.
Cecil and Rosa had left the campus that day so many years ago, on some secret rendezvous that Kain wasn’t supposed to know about. Kain felt a little blown off by his friend, but he understood his love for Rosa. He also knew that Cecil thought he would be in class. There was no way that Cecil could have known that the Dragoonian training had been cancelled for the day. Thus, Kain felt that he should spend his time helping a lower-classman.
The young Dark Knight had fallen behind in his studies. He couldn’t perform the Black Wave that all level 1 Dark Knights should have been able to do easily. He was distressed. Kain found the boy next to tears in the training room that morning.
“What’s wrong, kid?” Kain approached the young Dark Knight. Kain was only 3 years older than the boy, but still felt his superior rank allowed him to address the child in a more adult manner.
“You wouldn’t care,” the boy mocked back, “no one does.” The boy looked at his sword. No light was reflected in the dark blade, or in his black armor. Kain sat down next to the young trainee.
“Who says I wouldn’t?” Kain smiled a little, not realizing that the boy wouldn’t see it. Kain often forgot he was even wearing the dark blue Dragoon uniform, especially in those days. There were times that he’d even sleep in the clothes. But then, he still did that today. He pushed the child’s chin up with his hand. “What’s your name?”
The boy looked up. Most people didn’t care what his name was; they only wanted his rank and class. He saw a glimmer of light in Kain’s eyes that he hadn’t seen in years. “Golbeza. Golbeza Harvey.”
Kain was a little shocked at the name. It was the same name as his best friend Cecil. He knew they couldn’t have been related, though. Cecil would have mentioned it if he had a family member in the Academy, especially one training for the same position. “Well, Golbeza,” Kain started, “what seems to be the problem?” At this point, Kain wasn’t really interested. He felt helping the child would lead him nowhere. However, despite his instincts, he stayed and listened.
“I can’t even perform a simple Dark Wave,” Golbeza sulked. He looked back down toward the blade. “My sergeant says that if I can’t do it right by this weekend, I’m being demoted back to Junior Cadet…”
Kain almost laughed at this, but felt it would be better to hold it in. “You can’t do a Dark Wave?” Kain looked at the blade. It was a Shadow Blade, standard regulation for a starting Dark Knight. Cecil used one. “Golbeza, this sword is designed for Dark Waves. You’ve become a Dark Knight; these things should be easy for you. Here:” Kain brought Golbeza to his feet and led him to the target board. “Do it. Aim for the center.”
“How am I supposed to do it? I just told you I can’t!” Golbeza looked away from Kain.
“And I’m telling you that you can. You’re a Dark Knight. They wouldn’t rank you up if you couldn’t do something as simple as a Dark Wave. I’ve seen other Dark Knights do it all the time. My friend Cecil uses it to kill mosquitoes sometimes. You just have to concentrate…”
“But I can’t concentrate like the others! I’m just not strong enough!” Golbeza was near crying again.
“You are.” Kain kept his voice down, as to not upset the youth. “Look. Focus your mind. Contract the muscles in your head. Do you hear the humming?”
“That’s the energy you need. You have to keep that up.” Kain looked to see if the boy was trying.
“I can’t. It hurts too much.” Golbeza looked at the ground once more.
“Yes you can, Golbeza.” Kain was starting to give up. “Concentrate. Close your eyes if you have to.”
“How can I aim if I close my eyes?” Golbeza scowled back at Kain.
“Just trust yourself, damn it!” Kain looked away, upset with himself for loosing his temper.
Golbeza suddenly gained some confidence from Kain’s anger. Closing his eyes, he concentrated at the target board on the wall. He memorized the pattern of the circles in front of him. Contracting the muscles needed to focus energy, Golbeza held out his sword. Moments passed with nothing happening. Then, from the tips of Golbeza’s fingers, a pure black energy went through the sword, and hit the target at full force.
“Bull’s eye.” Kain said. He put his arm around the youth. “I think you just overcame your fear.”
“Yeah…” Golbeza stared incredulously at the sword, at his hands, and at the target board. “I guess I did…”
“You want a drink, Golbeza?” Kain said, guiding the young soldier out of the training arena.
“Yeah,” Golbeza said, “and call me Golbez.”
Kain had reached the door of the captain of the Red Wings. He rapped three times. As he waited, he read the plaque next to the door: “Captain Golbeza A. Harvey of the Baronian Royal Red Wing’s Air Fleet.” Kain smiled a bit. He could remember reading this plaque a thousand times before. Every time he’s read it, it was always the same, except for one word. Some time, years ago, it once read “Captain Cecil Harvey,” but that time had past.
Cecil had passed on the baton. After becoming King of Baron, Cecil had entrusted the Red Wings to a man by the name of Petrorchian. Unfortunately, Petrorchian wished for an early retirement. Cecil couldn’t possibly give up the captain of the royal air fleet, as there wasn’t a Dark Knight with the ability to replace him. It was then that Professor Kory of Agart had come across an astounding discovery. The planet’s second “moon,” which had left its orbit and flew into the vast emptiness of space years ago had somehow turned around and come back. This time, however, it was on a collision course with the planet. Due to a heroic effort by the Lunarians, the moon was destroyed, but the passengers, the Lunarians, survived.
Among the passengers of that moon were Foo Soo Ya, a friend of Cecil’s father, and Cecil’s brother, Golbeza. Golbeza had become the captain of the Red Wings when Cecil had left Baron to fight the evil forces of the world. Golbeza had also been hypnotized, and forced to become the device from which the evil flowed. Cecil and Golbeza therefore became worst enemies, not even knowing that they were brothers. During this time, Zemus, the evil force that had hypnotized Golbeza, twice hypnotized Kain into joining Golbeza in wreaking havoc. Foo Soo Ya had helped Cecil awaken both Golbeza and Kain, who both assisted in the defeat of Zemus. He also informed Cecil and Golbeza of their relation. Afterward, Golbeza and Foo Soo Ya stayed on the moon, as it went spiraling into space. Cecil thought he would never see his brother again, until the moon came back. Cecil and Kain befriended Golbeza on his return, holding no resentment to the man. Golbeza was glad to be welcomed back to the earth with open arms.
So, all in all, Petrorchian got his wish.
Kain knocked three more times. “Golbez? Golbez, you there?”
Kain pushed open the door slightly. The room was the same as it had always been. Golbeza lay sleeping on his bed. There were two distinct noises in the room: Golbeza’s snoring and the ticking of the wall clock. The clock had been there since before this was even Cecil’s room. Kain couldn’t remember who had been Captain of the Red Wings before Cecil, or if they even had a captain. Hell, he didn’t even remember if there was a Red Wings. He looked about Golbeza’s room. Kain picked up a recognizable picture on Golbeza’s nightstand; Golbeza, Cecil and himself had all posed for the picture shortly after Golbeza’s return. Cid had taken the picture, and tried to charge them all for prints. As he put the frame down, it made a slight noise, and aroused the captain.
“Huh… what?” Golbeza was understandably startled. “Oh, it’s you. What the hell are you doing in my room?” Golbeza wasn’t angry, but he was still groggy. He was still wearing his dark black armor; he had apparently fallen asleep in it. Kain knew the feeling.
“Good morning, sunshine.” Kain mocked his friend. Golbeza wasn’t entirely in the mood for it.
“Do you have any idea where I’ve been for the last twenty-five hours?” Golbeza looked over his face once in a wall hanging mirror, and then put on his helmet.
“From the looks of it, somewhere where they don’t understand the basic concepts of hygiene.” Golbez was not amused. “According to Lt. Cmdr. Hawk, you’ve been in here for fourteen hours. I imagine that’s enough sleepy time for poor Golbez.”
“Fourteen hours!” Golbez looked outside the window to see the position of the sun. It was on the decline, as it was approaching late in the afternoon. “Damned Hawk, he was supposed to wake me up seven hours ago!”
“Why, what’s up?” Kain wasn’t fully interested in what Golbeza had to say, he was just trying to find a chance to interject with his problem.
“I have to give a report to Cecil. We found something pretty amazing in Silvera.”
“Ahh… Silvera.” Kain smiled at his friend. “That’d explain the lack of proper grooming.”
“Shut up, Kain.” Golbeza was but one of the many who didn’t regularly appreciate Kain’s sense of humor. Golbeza donned his sheath and sword, placed his shield on his back, and made for the door. “Do you want to come with me, or not?” Kain motioned agreement and followed the captain to the throne room.
There was a short hallway that once connected the guards’ quarters to the throne room, but it had since been removed. The throne room and the royal bedroom had been placed on a newly built second floor. Kain and Golbeza made their way to the throne room rather quickly; it was a path they’d made many times before. A guard halted them in front of the door. After some explanations, the guard called for the King, and they were admitted. King Cecil looked groggy himself, but Golbeza paid little attention to the King’s physical state.
“I know I’m a little late, Cecil, but I’d like to make my report.” Golbeza looked down. He was a little afraid that his brother would be ashamed of him for missing an appointment. He apparently was not.
“Go right ahead, Golbez.” Cecil looked up, suddenly more attentive. “From what the other officers have mentioned to me, this will be interesting. Kain, I suggest you take a seat.” Cecil gestured toward an empty guest chair on the side of the room. Kain considered jokingly moving for the Queen’s throne, but decided against it after seeing the serious look in the faces of the two men.
As soon as Kain was seated, Golbeza continued: “Our investigation of Silvera was quite thorough.” Golbeza paused momentarily to gather his thoughts. “We did find what was reported. I personally had a little trouble believing it myself, but it was there. A piece of the fabled Rainbow Shard!”
Kain ejected from his seat. “The Rainbow Shard? A piece of that was found near the Tower of Bab-il, underground!”
As Golbeza was shocked from the comment, Cecil had already made the connection. “There have also been reports of glowing rocks from the Toroian-Damcanese Empire. Gilbert confirmed that one of them was the Rainbow Shard. With that one, and the two that both of you have brought here, we’ve got three under our control. I’m not sure how many there are in total, but we can’t allow them to be brought together.” Cecil turned toward Kain. “I want you to take the Dragoons toward Mysidia. There has been a… force atop Mt. Ordeals of late. With these shards you should be able to penetrate it. Get in there and find out if there’s a correlation.”
Kain nearly nodded in agreement, but then suddenly remembered his situation with Samantha. He never even got to ask Golbeza about it. He looked back at Cecil. “Can I postpone that,” he asked. Cecil looked up in incredulity. He wasn’t used to Kain ever disagreeing with him, much less turning down an assignment. “Something’s come up.” This gathered a confused look from both of the other men. “I can send the Dragoons in a week. I suggest you send Golbeza and the Red Wings until then.” Kain didn’t know what he was doing. He shouldn’t put this ahead of his work, especially when something this important was going on. Even if he did get something resolved, it certainly wouldn’t be fully resolved in a week.
Cecil couldn’t believe what Kain had said. “Okay,” Cecil started, “Golbez, would you be ready to move back out?” Golbeza reluctantly agreed, realizing that he’d be missing more sleep. He didn’t know what was bothering Kain, but it must be important for him to pass such an opportunity. “All right… Go ahead and prepare your men, Golbez. You’re dismissed.”
Golbez and Kain headed for the door. “Not you, buddy.” Kain stopped in his tracks. He turned around. He knew what Cecil was going to ask, and he honestly didn’t know how to answer him. He didn’t even know the answer. “What the hell is going on, Kain?” Kain wasn’t given a chance to answer. He couldn’t answer anyway; he merely stood there, his mouth moving. “If this has anything, anything to do with what you asked earlier, I’m going to kill you.”
Kain looked down in shame. “I don’t know what I’m doing, Cecil.” Cecil’s anger turned to concern. He could tell that something was bothering his friend. “Cecil,” Kain began, “I’ve never done anything like this before. I don’t even know what the hell I just did.” Kain looked around the room. He was angry at himself, and needed something to take it out on. “Have I ever turned down an assignment?” It was now Cecil’s turn to not get a chance to answer. “No, I haven’t. And now, I’m turning down an important assignment, and for what? For a woman? Jesus Christ, Cecil, I’ve lost my mind. Hell, if I lose one, I can go get another at the tavern next weekend… What the hell am I thinking?”
Cecil suddenly sympathized with his friend. “Kain,” he said, “do you remember that time during our freshman year at the academy that I didn’t show up for two weeks? It was over Rosa.” Kain refused to believe what he was hearing. He knew about Cecil and Rosa, but he wouldn’t acknowledge that something was happening to him. “It’s called love, Kain, and it strikes us all. The hard part is learning when to control it. Now is one of those times.” Cecil paused for a moment. “You’ve got it easy.” This invoked a stupefied look from Kain. “You can take your girl into battle with you.”
Kain thought for a moment, then thanked Cecil and ran out of the chambers. Cecil could hear him shouting to Golbeza that he need not prepare the troops, because the Dragoons were going after all. Cecil smiled to himself. Rosa would be proud.