by LadyAliena


You work to be more honest more straight...This world is distorted and crooked. Trying to force your honesty on this crooked world may break you. Beware of that.

The young man stood at the edge of the pier and simply let the salty breeze overtake him. He closed his eyes and inhaled, a slight smile springing to his lips. Several of the men complained about "being stuck in Termina," but Norris was quickly falling in love with the sound of the gulls flying overhead, the feel of the ocean breeze as it whipped through his hair, and the taste of salt that seemed to permeate the air. He opened his eyes again and took in the beautiful colors that filled the sky as the sun began to dip under the horizon. He made a mental note to find a painting of this exact place before he returned home to Porre. If he ever returned home to Porre.

The truth is, he had no idea how long the occupation of Termina would last, or even if it would stop there. Rumor had it, Guldove was the next location they would infiltrate. When Sir Lynx had approached the Porre government about the frozen flame, it had set forth a chain of events that had eventually led to this very moment, him standing on the pier, gazing at the sunset.


He was shook from his reverie by one of his men, a dark haired soldier named Jess. "What is it?"

"We've got a live one down here!" Jess jerked his thumb over his shoulder and shook his head. "A crazy old woman. She was throwing dirt at Baker and Carter."

Norris smiled in amusement. "And they don't feel they can handle a little old lady like that?"

Jess shook his head and laughed. "Everyone knows you're the sweet-talker. And I knew you'd throw a fit if they arrested her."

"Jess, when's the last time you ever saw me throw a fit?"

The dark haired man wrinkled his brow and admitted, "You're right…never. Will you come, though?"

Norris turned his head once more to watch the sun dip down playfully, skimming the horizon. "Of course, I'll take care of it."

"I knew you would!" Jess slapped him on the back and jogged back the way he had come. Norris shook his head. He knew the citizens of Termina weren't taking very kindly to the occupation of their town. That was a natural reaction, of course. Sometimes he wondered if it had been the right thing to do at all. But he knew how important the Frozen Flame was, though he didn't quite understand the full significance behind it. He could stand where he was and rationalize their presence there, or he could talk to the troublesome old woman and restore the peace. He decided upon the latter.

Walking into the heart of the town, he heard the commotion. "Porre scum! Leave! Go away!"

He saw an old woman, eyes blazing, bending down to pick up fistfuls of dirt and hurling them at the two young soldiers who were cowering in front of her. Carter was reaching for his firearm uncertainly and looking around. He spotted Norris and cried out in relief, "Commander Norris!"

"What's the problem?" Norris asked, sauntering to where the old woman was crouching. She threw a handful of dirt at him, but he ducked his head and it narrowly missed. "Ma'am, are you alright?"

"You're asking her if she's alright?" Carter exclaimed.

Norris ignored his remark and dodged another clump of dirt that was sailing towards his head. "Calm down, Ma'am," he urged.

"Don't you tell me to calm down!" she spat on the ground. "Not when you Porre scum invade our homes and take away our freedom!"

Norris held his hands up as if in surrender. "I'm sure if we just talk things over--" He ducked as she threw more dirt at him. "If we just talk things over, maybe we can come to a solution. What exactly is bothering you, Ma'am?"

"I'll tell you what's bothering me! I was standing here minding my own business when these two Porre scum came along and started hassling me!" she shouted.

"Commander, she was trying to sell some clothing and you know commerce has been shut down except for the element shop and the smithy," Baker explained.

"I have to make a living somehow!" the woman snapped. "Besides, I wasn't selling to the public! I was collecting my pay for a favor I had made! You would cause an old woman to starve to death!"

"Alright," Norris tried to calm the woman. "I'm terribly sorry about all the grief you've been put through today, Ma'am. Rest assured we aren't trying to cause anyone to starve to death. In the future, perhaps you could make arrangements to collect your payment in a more private setting?" The woman snorted, but nodded. "Good. Now if you'll excuse us, we'll be on our way." He gently pushed Baker and Carter down the street.

"Forgive me for saying so," Baker frowned when they were out of earshot of the old woman, "but why'd you do that? That woman was clearly in the wrong! You made it look like anyone can do what they wish and we have no control!"

Norris shrugged. "I understand how you could think that, but first and foremost, we're here to maintain peace. Think about it. We came in here and really disrupted everyone's lives, shutting down businesses and whatnot. I've found that if we show the people here that we're not the 'bad guys,' they'll end up respecting us more."

"She'll be back out here tomorrow and you know it!" Carter exclaimed.

"No she won't," Jess said. He had observed the exchange from several meters away. "Trust me. He charmed the pants off of her!"

"Jess!" Norris exclaimed.

"It's true! Look!" he turned and pointed to the old woman who was staring at Norris, a look of admiration on her face. She colored slightly when he caught her staring at him, and turned to go on her way.

"Great!" Norris smiled. "All in a day's work, right?" He started to walk back towards the pier, his eyes scanning the sky and hoping he hadn't completely missed the sunset. But it was too late. The sun was gone. "Oh well," he muttered to himself. "There's always tomorrow night." Life was slow in Termina right now. They were simply awaiting their next orders and no one knew when they would come. "Oh well…there's always tomorrow," he whispered again.


The next morning, after his morning jog through town and a nice light breakfast, Norris was patrolling the streets as usual. He decided to check out the element shop. He had been meaning to for a while now, but just never really needed to. He figured that it couldn't hurt to gather a few new supplies. He pushed the door open and turned his head as a bell attached to the door jingled to alert the shopkeeper to his presence.

"Can I help…" the shopkeeper turned around "…you?" She saw that he was a Porre soldier and stiffened a little

Norris smiled warmly at her. She was young, fair-skinned and had blonde hair gathered in the back. "How do you do? I'm just looking around for now," he answered politely and began to browse through her wares.

"Ok," she answered. "Let me know if you need anything."

"Will do!" he replied cheerfully. He leaned over and perused through the elements, ignoring the ding of the bell as another customer entered the store.

"Can I help you?" the shopkeeper asked.

"I don't know, Lisa. Can you?" the customer, a young shady looking character with a pockmarked face leered at the young woman.

Lisa rolled her eyes. "If you're not going to buy anything, Randall, please leave so I can tend to customers who will buy!"

"Nah, you're not getting rid of me that easily," Randall said, reaching across the counter and grabbing at her hand. "Come on, Lisa…"

Norris knew he had to intervene. He couldn't just sit back and allow some ruffian to speak to a lady that way! "Excuse me, sir," he stepped forward, placing one hand on Randall's arm. "You need to show a little more respect."

The man wrenched his arm out of Norris's grasp and sneered, "Who do you think you are, Porre scum?" Norris frowned. Was that the favorite phrase in Termina now? Porre Scum? He had certainly heard it enough lately!

Lisa said, "I can handle this. Really!"

"It's ok, Ma'am," Norris nodded to her. He stood erect and turned towards Randall, saying, "My name is Norris Ishito, Commander in the Porre Military and leader of the Black Wind division."

"I don't care who you are!"

"You asked and I told you," Norris stated matter-of-factly. Lisa suppressed a giggle. "Now apologize to the lady and be on your way."

"No! Why should I?"

"Because you were being rude." Randall balled his fists and began to hop from foot to foot with a menacing look on his face. Norris sighed and said, "I'm not going to fight you."

"Why not? Afraid I might mess up your hair? Afraid you might break a nail?" Randall taunted.

Norris found himself getting slightly perturbed with the man, but he refused to lose his temper. "No. The reason I'm not going to fight is because it would be unfair for you. And because violence is not the answer. I'm sure we can reach an agreement somehow."

Randall rolled his eyes and started to turn away before swiftly twisting his body and launching his fist towards the young commander. Norris was taken by surprise by the attack and didn't have time to respond. The last thing he heard was a woman's scream before he fell backwards from the impact and everything went dark.

His eyes fluttered open and he saw that he was lying on a bed with the young woman, Lisa, sitting next to him. She had a wet rag and was softly dabbing below his eye with it. He winced and she crooned at him. "It's ok. I told you I could have handled that guy. I've known him for years."

"He was being rude to you," Norris insisted, trying to push himself up into a sitting position.

"No more so than someone who wouldn't listen when I said I could handle it myself!" she retorted.

He blanched at her. "Y-you think I was rude? Oh, I'm terribly sorry. I just hate seeing people disrespect others in such a manner. But you're right. It was rude of me."

She laughed, "Stop it, Norris! That is your name, right? Anyway, it's fine. It's over." She stood up and pulled the washrag away. "Can I ask you something, though? If you don't believe in violence, how come you're a captain in the Porre military?"

"I'm a commander," he corrected her. "And I couldn't tell you why I entered the military. I guess I was young and idealistic. I wanted to change the world."

"You're still young!" Lisa commented.

He laughed. "I know. And still idealistic. I realize force is necessary at times, but," he shrugged, "if there's a peaceful alternative, I'm going to try to find it. Like that man who was hassling you…I could have easily taken him down, but I didn't want to."

"And instead you end up here with a black eye the size of Mount Pyre!"

"Yeah…" he looked down, somewhat embarrassed.

"You just have to realize that not everyone is like you," Lisa paced around the room.

"What do you mean? What am I like?"

"You're just…a really nice guy. You actually seem to care about what happens to people and you walk the straight and narrow. That much is evident. But not everyone in the world is like that. There's corruption everywhere! People on the streets, the Porre military…"

"We're not corrupt!" Norris frowned. "Believe me, I've seen my share of corrupt governments and Porre is not one of them!"

"Of course you wouldn't see it. Those men out there are your friends and you're the type of person who wants to believe the best about his friends."

"You seem to think you know me so well," he smiled at her wryly.

"Not you, personally," Lisa admitted, "But I've known people who were like you at one point in their lives."

"Not anymore?"

"No," she shook her head. "Reality set in and they became cynical."

"Were you one of those people, Lisa?" he probed as he swung his legs over the side of the bed and stood.

She gazed at him, not knowing exactly how to answer. A flush crept up her cheeks and she quickly changed the subject. "You mentioned something about Black Wind back there. What is that?"

Disappointed at the abrupt change in conversation and afraid that he had offended her, Norris tried to lighten the mood. He answered, "I can't say. It's a secret."

"Then why did you bring it up?"

"Because it makes me sound more official," he smiled.

Lisa laughed. There was more to this young man than met the eye. She relaxed. "Well, I've got to get back to the shop. Be sure you put a cold compress on that eye and watch the swelling."

"Thank you," Norris lightly bowed to her and walked out of the shop. He was curious about Lisa and hoped he'd get to visit with her some more.


The next few weeks were as uneventful as the last except the Porre Military had taken over Viper Manor after Lord Viper and Sir Lynx had left for Fort Dragonia. They hadn't been heard from since. Other than that, there had been no major incidents except for an outbreak at the docks, which Norris had fortunately taken care of not long after it had started. Any doubts about Norris's abilities had immediately been quelled when, with deft skill, he apprehended the troublemakers. While he checked in at the Manor every once in a while, he made sure he was able to stay around Termina. He began to find excuses to make his way into Lisa's Element Shop and was teased mercilessly by his friend, Jess. He kept insisting that nothing was going on, nor did he have any interest in her. But he knew that wasn't necessarily true. She was interesting and he liked talking with her. But even while they talked, he could tell she was trying to keep her distance from him somewhat. He knew that little by little, he was penetrating the wall she had built around her though.

Shortly after the takeover of Viper Manor, Admiral Dakin had insisted that Norris's division go ahead and move up to Viper Manor. Most of the men were thrilled, but Norris had mixed feelings about it. They would leave in the morning, joining the troops who had already gone on ahead. He strode towards Lisa's Element shop. Lisa walked out of the back room as soon as she heard the bell clang.

"Can I--oh, hello Norris!"

On impulse, he decided to ask her the one thing that he had been wanting to ask her for a while now. "Can I show you something this evening when you close shop?"

She cocked her head and looked at him suspiciously. "Show me what?"

"Well, I can't tell you that because it would ruin the surprise," he replied.

Lisa folded her arms and shook her head. Her eyes twinkled. "I'm not going anywhere unless you tell me!"

"Fine!" he threw up his hands in mock exasperation. He took a deep breath. "Every night, I walk down to the pier and watch the sun set and it never ceases to amaze me. I just wanted you to come with me tonight."

Her brow wrinkled and she said, "Why? I've seen plenty of sunsets in Termina."

Norris regarded her standing before him. This wasn't going like he had expected at all! "Please," he said. "Just this once. My duties are increasing and tomorrow I'm going to have to return to Viper Manor to tend to things, so I just wanted to talk to you a little one last time before I went. I've enjoyed talking to you."

"You're leaving?"

Norris nodded. "For a while, yes. Most of my division will be going, in fact."

Lisa hugged her arms to her chest. "Wow."

Norris leaned towards her, waiting for her to continue, but she didn't. He looked at her intently. "All you can say is 'wow?'"

"It just seems weird. That's all. I've just gotten so used to seeing you guys around here," she answered, a troubled expression on her face.

"Well, I doubt you'll miss us much," Norris smiled wryly. He shook his head. "Never mind…" He turned to walk out the door.

"Wait!" Lisa exclaimed. Norris turned to her and raised one eyebrow. She shrugged. "At least give me a chance to lock up first!" Her face fell into a grin as she hurried to lock up the display cases and dashed into the back room to grab something to wrap around her shoulders in order to keep off the chill of the night sea air.


"Is there any word about General Viper yet?" Norris asked Baker and Carter. He had come from Viper Manor to check up on the status of things in Termina. He had hoped for a chance to visit with Lisa too. It had been a few days since he had left and he was missing talking to her already.

"No one's heard anything from him or Sir Lynx," Baker replied. "However, they say that a few other people were there at Fort Dragonia, so they might know Viper's whereabouts."

"Who was it?"

Carter stepped forward. "There was a boy named Serge present. There were some others, but we haven't been able to ascertain who they were."

"Ok, then," Norris nodded. "Bring this boy, Serge, to me, as soon as you find him."

"Yes, sir!" Baker and Carter responded in unison.

At that moment, Norris spotted a familiar face. Lynx stood tall and with his catlike features, he stood out in the crowd. Several of the townsmen were regarding him nervously. A few children were gawking. Norris ran over to him and exclaimed, "Why, Sir Lynx! Sir Lynx, where have you been all this time? We heard that you headed to Fort Dragonia with the general. Exactly what happened back there?" A million questions came pouring out unexpectedly. The young commander wanted to know what had happened to Viper and did Lynx know of the boy Serge? And what about the Frozen Flame? He opened his mouth to ask about it when Jess approached him, interrupting him.

Noticing Lynx standing right by him, Jess spoke to Norris as one would normally address his superior rather than the familiar form of communication he normally used. "Commander Norris, there is an urgent message from command!"

"What is it?" Norris frowned.

Jess hesitated, glancing up at Lynx. "Um, sir, it is a level 2 security message..."

Norris waved his hand in the air. "Go ahead, take no heed. This man is one of us."

"Yes sir!" Jess replied. "Grobyc has just arrived at the manor, sir." He referred to the cyborg assassin that had been expected from the mainland. Norris didn't really approve of the military's use of Grobyc. He kept telling himself it was simply a precaution. That the assassin's presence would lead to increased security in the Manor.

"Hmm...He is quite ahead of schedule. Understood, I will return ASAP." He was a little disappointed about not being able to see Lisa, but his duty came first.

"Yes, sir!" Jess saluted and hurried off.

Norris turned to Lynx. "Sir Lynx, forgive me, but I must return to the manor at once. Please come to the Manor a little later. We will discuss this in more detail there." Lynx nodded his assent and Norris ran to catch up with Jess.

"What are you thinking about?" Jess asked. Norris had been unusually quiet since they had left Termina. "Don't tell me you're thinking about the Element Girl again!"

"Her name's Lisa."

Jess laughed. "Norris! Look at yourself! Pining away for a girl who doesn't even like you!" He noticed that a shadow crossed Norris's face. "I'm sorry. I shouldn't have said that," he quickly added humbly.

"No, you're right," Norris sighed. "I don't think she could get past the Porre uniform."

"I'm sorry, man. But who needs her anyway? Huh?" Jess punched Norris lightly in the arm. "There are plenty of fish in the sea, right? Besides, we're here! And we get to see Grobyc. That should be pretty interesting, eh?"

They arrived at the large bronze gates and the young men standing guard readily opened them. "Admiral Dakin's expecting you!"

"Grobyc?" Norris raised an eyebrow.

The soldier shook his head. "Actually, no sir. Lady Riddel. Apparently he's having a hard time with her. He wants you to see if you can get any information out of her. It's pretty well-known that you know how to sweet-talk people."

Walking past the guard, Norris shook his head. "How did I ever get the reputation of being a sweet-talker?"

Jess laughed. "You're just one of those naturally polite guys that people seem to always want to cooperate with, I guess. I don't know what your secret is, truthfully!"

Norris entered the Manor and was met by Admiral Dakin. "Oh good! You're back. Go down and speak to the prisoner. She's a stubborn one!"

"Yes sir," Norris nodded. He walked down to the holding area where the most beautiful woman he had ever seen was sitting in one of the cells. She started to rise when he entered, but he quickly gestured that she could remain where she was. He grabbed a nearby stool and unlocked the cell, letting himself inside. She gazed at him, raising her chin slightly, almost defiantly. "Lady Riddel, I apologize for all this," he gestured around the room.

"You invade my home and hold me as prisoner and you can only apologize?" she asked incredulously.

"Listen, if you simply cooperate, I can arrange for you to be taken back up to your quarters. You'll have free reign around the Manor. You'll be able to go where you please."

"I can't cooperate if I know nothing!" Riddel exclaimed.

"You don't know where your Father is?" he asked gently.

"I truly can't say!" she shook her head, her pretty face clouding with worry.

"You're concerned about him, aren't you?" Norris commented. He had a feeling Riddel was hiding the truth from him, but looking at her, he saw a certain innocence within her. He also saw a noble spirit and a strong heart. He knew at once he wanted her to be safe.

Riddel nodded and absent-mindedly began twirling a long strand of her dark hair between her fingers. The young commander opened his mouth to speak further with her, but was interrupted when Admiral Dakin entered the room, followed by several of his men. "Well Norris, what did you find out?"

"She's done nothing wrong, Sir…" Norris started to say, but Dakin cut him off and began interrogating the young woman. She insisted that she knew nothing, though she added stubbornly that she wouldn't tell him anything even if she did know. Norris silently applauded her courage. Dakin, however, didn't find her bravery admirable. He cursed and threatened her. Again, Norris tried to intervene for the poor woman, whom he could tell was growing frightened, though she tried to hide it and remain strong. "Please, sir, this woman has done nothing wrong," he said again.

"She is a prisoner of the Porre military. This is a legitimate interrogation!" Dakin exclaimed. Norris tried to argue, but Dakin roared. "I have no time to be listening to your idealistic theories. Now, missy... Let's have you go down to the basement."

Norris rushed over to her. "No, please wait..."

"Norris!!! I've had enough of you for today. I want you to stay out of this!" Dakin growled. He addressed a few of his soldiers. "Take her away!"

They roughly pulled her up and she gave a little cry of fear. Norris looked stricken. Surely they wouldn't go so far as to hurt her! Or would they? Maybe Lisa had been right all along. Maybe there was corruption all around him, but he had been too blinded by his idealism to see it. There had to be another way, though! Dakin looked down at Norris with contempt and dismissed him to the parlor. He turned his back to the young man.


Norris was pacing up and down the room. To his surprise, Sir Lynx, or rather Serge in Lynx's body, as the Harlequin had tried to explain, had shown up to rescue Riddel. Everything began to fall into place at that point. For the first time in his life, Norris began to grow in disillusionment. His whole life, he had looked upon the Porre Military with awe and respect. When he had joined, it had been to change the world: to make a difference. In his mind, the only path to take was the path that led to the betterment of humanity. But now, he began to understand better about Lisa's cynicism concerning the world. But at the same time, instead of succumbing to that cynicism, he decided to go with his gut feeling and work for what was the right thing to do. When he had handed the key over to Lynx, he had defied the Porre Military, but in his heart, he knew he was doing the right thing. A wave of relief washed over him when he finally saw Lynx running towards him with Lady Riddel at his side. Lynx agreed to stall the soldiers while Norris took Riddel to safety. He grabbed her hand and said, "Follow me. Trust me!"

To his chagrin, he spotted Jess outside. He had taken up guard duty at the bronze gates. He jogged over to Norris and Riddel and cocked his head to the side. "Hey, isn't she supp--"

"Jess, please! I need you to do me a favor just this once," Norris petitioned urgently.

"What?" Jess frowned in suspicion.

"Let us through."

"Why do I get the feeling that you aren't supposed to be leaving the Manor?" Jess asked.

"Please," Riddel begged. She grabbed one of Jess's hands and squeezed it in anticipation. He was momentarily stunned by her beauty and found himself nodding to her. Had anyone else asked, he would have adamantly refused. But he trusted Norris. Trusted him as a brother. Trusted him with his life.

"You are my superior, aren't you, Norris?" he said, his mouth dry.

"You know I don't consider my--"

"You are my superior, aren't you, Norris?" Jess repeated again, more forcibly.

Norris wasn't sure what he was getting at, but he answered slowly, "Yes, I am."

"Then, if you commanded me to turn my back and let you pass and never breathe a word about it to anyone, but feign ignorance instead, I'd have to obey, right?"

Realizing what Jess was choosing, Norris smiled and Riddel looked hopeful. "I probably wouldn't go that far, but yes, I suppose…"

"Very well, then," Jess nodded and turned his back, whistling a soft melody to himself.


Riddel was sitting primly in the boat that Norris had acquired to take her to Hermit's Hideaway. She smoothed the folds in her lavish emerald dress and looked up at the commander, her eyes wide. "I want to thank you again," she said.

"Ma'am, you don't have to thank me at all," Norris sat down across from her. "I'm really sorry you had to go through all that."

She smiled and shrugged her shoulders. "It's over." When she said those two simple words, Lisa's face suddenly popped into Norris's mind. She had said those two words the day they had met, while she was treating his black eye. He quickly dismissed the image from his mind and turned his attention back to the beautiful woman sitting before him.

"You're Father's at Hermit Hideaway?" he asked. She nodded. He added, "I knew it. Even when I spoke to you the first time and you denied it, I had a feeling that you knew where he was the whole time."

"I never denied anything. At least, not to you. To them, yes. But if you knew I was hiding it, why did you keep insisting that I was innocent?"

Norris looked up and watched as a lazy seagull circled in the air. "Because I knew you were. I knew you hadn't done anything wrong." He noticed that she was looking at him with a mixture on confusion and wonder on her face. He laughed, "You think it's strange that a commander of the Porre Military would have a conscience?"

She shook her head and smiled slyly. "No. I've seen stranger things in my life. But I do want to thank you for that conscience. It's not very common nowadays to find people who will really stand up for what they believe in. It's admirable."

He thought of Lisa. "You don't think it's pointless in the end? That reality won't just set in?"

"I hope not." Her eyes glistened and she looked at him with compassion. "I truly hope not." She suddenly brightened. "We're here!"

Norris saw that they were fast approaching the shoreline. Though he had been navigating the boat all along, he had absentmindedly lost himself in the conversation with Riddel. He gently guided the boat to the shore, reaching out to brace Riddel in anticipation of the boat striking the ground. His boots sank into the wet sand as he stepped out. He started to take off his jacket to lay in the sand so Riddel wouldn't mess her shoes or dress up, but she stopped him with a laugh and shook her head. "What a gentleman! But I'm not afraid of a little sand." He grinned and simply held out his hand, helping her climb out of the boat.

As they were approaching Radius's bunker, Riddel asked, "So what will you do now?"

He frowned and then shook his head, "I suppose I'll just return to Viper Manor."

"But won't they do something to you for disobeying them like that? Norris, you musn't!" Riddel cried.

"I made a decision and I need to face the consequences of that decision. But I'm staying here with you until Sir Lynx and the others come."

"You think they will come?"

Norris nodded. "That, I do. Come on. I'm sure your Father's just as worried about you as you are about him." He extended his hand and she took it.


Norris had one last stop to make before he returned to Viper Manor. He didn't know if his return would simply bring reprimand or if it would bring an arrest. He could be sent back to Porre for treason for all he knew. But there was one thing he wanted to see at least once more, just in case it was taken away from him for good. He didn't have much time…

He walked down to his favorite spot at the pier. Taking his seat, he stared at the horizon, waiting. The sun began it's descent and the sky was bathed in crimsons and golds. Norris found himself smiling in wonder at the beauty of it all. A soft breeze whipped through his hair and as he thought of all that had recently happened, he felt satisfied. No matter what the next day brought, he knew that he had been true to his beliefs. He realized that though he couldn't force the world to hold his same convictions, that didn't mean he had to compromise his own beliefs.

"I thought I'd find you here," a voice interrupted his musing.

Norris turned around and to his surprise, saw Lisa standing before him. "Lisa?"

"Old Lady Talbot mentioned seeing you in town and so I came to the one place I knew you'd be. Actually, I've been coming here every night since you left. You were right. It is amazing." She sat down next to him. "There's talk about how you defied Porre Command. Are you going to run?"

Norris shook his head. With gravity in his voice, he said, "No. I'm returning to Viper Manor tomorrow. I'm not sure what they'll do, but I know I can't simply run from my actions. I just wanted to see this one last time…just in case…" he pointed to the horizon.

Lisa looked down and nervously squeezed the folds in her dress. "Norris, I want to apologize to you."

"What do you mean?" he glanced at her curiously.

"I haven't been fair to you. I mean, I've always seen that you were different from the others, but I never wanted to totally admit that. I'm afraid I let my cynicism keep me from seeing just how good a friend you were. Though you were genuine, I kept telling myself that Porre soldiers were all the same. But I was wrong and I'm sorry."

He paused and then wrapped his arm around her and turned back to face the setting sun. "It's over…"