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Rydia and Edge
by Weiila

Author's note (yes, I need to talk some rubbish every single time!):
This is the sequel to my other story based upon Final Fantasy II/IVj; "Kain". There's no real need to read that one first, though you'll be just as shocked as Cecil and his crew at one certain point if you haven't checked out the first part.
This is the first all-through romantic story I try to write. Don't worry, there'll be action and humor too, of course... but mainly romance. Let's see if I can handle it...
Well, enough with the chatting, let's get started. Behold the ending scene in the throne-room of Baron!

Part 1 The wedding in Baron

"This might be a dumb question," Edge said, "but why are we waving at the roof?"
"I don't know, lali," king Giott said, "but I think that the credits roll... well, lets not stay at that!"
"Indeed no!" Cecil smiled, "we have important business to take care of. Open the gates!"
The guards hurriedly did as the uncrowned king ordered, their white blue, special-occasion uniforms flapping in their haste. There where several loud smashes to be heard as all of the gates of the castle was opened, one by one. The head-vicar of Baron entered the throne room, and walking behind him was Baron's whole population. The throne room was an enormous hall, but half of all the people had to stay in the small room outside it and in the corridors beyond that, due to loss of space.
"Is everyone here, then?" the vicar kindly said.
Rydia held up a hand.
"No, wait a moment," she said and closed her eyes.
She began to mumble in a low voice, and transparent, green and flaming orbs appeared in the air around her, only for a short moment. They danced in a circle around the young woman for a few seconds before they disappeared as Rydia opened her eyes.
"I call your spirits, espers," she softly said.
The air vibrated with a soft, eerie note. Then several ghostly figures appeared by the roof. Knowing the powers that the callers of Mist were granted, nobody in the crowd became really scared. Even though Bahamut was an impressive sight.
"Long time no see, my human allies," the king of dragons and god of all espers said with a smile.
"Your Majesty," Cecil politely said, and Rosa made a curtsey.
The paladin turned to Leviathan and Asura, smiling:
"Of course you deserve the finest of greetings too, Your Majesties."
"No need for that in a moment like this, my friend," the giant sea snake said.
Either they was in their non-human forms since they had been called, or a wedding was considered a moment of such importance that it required true appearance.
"My best wishes," Odin smiled from the back of his horse, also receiving proper greetings.
It wasn't often an old king attended the new one's crowning and wedding, but this one did.
"Yang!" several small, transparent women with bright wings on their backs yelled.
They soared down to the new king of Fabul and threw their short arms around his neck.
"I have missed you too, ladies," he smiled.
The sprites let go of him and turned to the woman by his side.
"Your love is truly admirable, wife of Yang," one of them warmly said as they all bowed in midair, "it cured him when we couldn't."
"Ah," the woman grinned, "one whack with the frying pan and he knows it's time to get out of bed."
Yang chuckled, which he normally never did, and draped his left arm around his wife's shoulders.
"Can you really keep them here all at the same time, Rydia?" Rosa asked, a bit concerned, "won't it drain your power in seconds?"
But the woman with strangely green hair shook her head.
"It's just their spirits," she explained, "nothing to worry about."
"Then we will start the ceremony," the vicar said with a smile.
Cecil and Rosa turned to him. The female magician's white dress made a soft, whispering sound every time she made the slightest movement. She was stunningly beautiful, even though her face was almost hid behind a thin silk veil. Cecil's head was slightly turned at her all the time, surely he was concentrating more on his beloved bride than on the vicar's words. Rosa warmly looked back at him. But it was only natural.
The paladin looked very handsome himself, even though it was as if he was missing something as he didn't wear any armor. He was dressed mainly in white, pants, shirt and cloak all in the same color. But all the buttons in his shirt and every edge one could find on the clothes were golden; it was typical clothing for a bridegroom of Baron.
"We have gathered here today to carry paladin Cecil and white wizard Rosa into the holy alliance of marriage..." the vicar began, smiling as he watched the happy couple's absentminded eyes.
Edge didn't listen. He had heard it all before. Well, maybe not the exactly same words, but such ceremonies were pretty much the same all over the world. And as the crown prince of Eblan, he had often been forced to attend the weddings of his parents' friends, and the friends' friends too, for that matter. He had no idea how many times he had been sitting down, itching with boredom, and just dreamt one or two hours away. He was itching all over now too, but it had nothing to do with boredom. It was frustration and nervous tension.
There was surely beyond a thousand guests in the castle, but he only wanted to see one of them. She was the main reason he had come, even though his two friends' wedding also was important. But Rydia meant much more to him than Rosa and Cecil did. And he couldn't even bear to face her. His heart ached in a glowing wish to talk to her, but he didn't know what to say; afraid that his tongue would slip and only bring forth more teasing and silly jokes. Of course he enjoyed that, and he knew that Rydia thought that it was fun to tease and snap back, but he had a nagging feeling that if he never quit being such a jester, he'd never be more than a friend or a flirt to her. He wanted more than that. It had been enough as they'd been battling and traveling together, but several weeks' lonely nights in Eblan had made him realize that he wanted to mean something special to her. He had missed her terribly. Still did, and she was only about two yards away, on the other side of the red silk carpet. But if he managed to speak to her, what could he say? If he tried to tell her that he'd missed her... what if she would think it was just yet another version of unserious flirting?
Edge sighed deeply.
They had been talking in another way once, for a brief moment in the Sealed cave as they were aiming on getting the last crystal of darkness before Golbez did. If he closed his eyes, he could see and hear it all again, because that moment was a treasure of his memory.

"It's a safe place," Cecil said with a relieved sigh, "I guess the dwarves blessed this area when they kept guards here."
These "safe places" were always marked with two or more poles stabbed into the ground. They were rare; a blessing to find in enemy territory. Monsters could not enter them, because of the magic surrounding. One could rest here.
"Good," Rosa said, "let's regain our breath and eat a little."
She and Cecil began to bring some food rations and cooking equipment out of their magical backpacks. It was surprising how much those sacks could carry...
Meanwhile, Kain was sitting down on the ground. He had never said much at all in the short time that Edge had known him, but the dragoon had been very silent since they had entered the Underground. His eyes were constantly tired...
Rydia walked over to him.
"Is something wrong, Kain?" she kindly asked.
"Hmm...?" he mumbled and looked up, "no, just tired..."
His voice was so filled with exhaust that Rydia nodded and left him alone, letting him have the rest he needed. As soon as she moved away, Kain returned to staring at the ground, reminding of a zombie. This whole thing seemed to drain him totally.
This whole thing...
Edge's throat suddenly thickened. He could hardly breath. Now that the fighting was over for a while, his mind caught up with the horrible truth, in wave after wave of regained shock and realization filled with agony. His parents were dead. And they had been turned into monsters... awfully twisted, horrifying...
They were
"Oh gods..." Edge muttered to himself in a choked voice and stumbled away from his friends.
He sat down on a rock by the cave wall, as far away as he could get, and ripped the grey purple cloth away from his face. It was part of a ninja's clothing in battle, but right now he was only fighting to keep breathing.
Again and again the awful, terrifying scene was displayed in his tormented mind; how his parents morphed into two horrible creatures and attacked him and his friends, how they regained their sanity and used that short moment to... to...
Kill themselves.
Gone, gone, gone, gone...
"Oh gods..."
His eyes were burning.
"How are you, Edge?"
It was normally just a polite question or a greeting, but not this time. In Rydia's voice was nothing but an honest concern.
"My parents... just the shock..." he muttered, hoping that his voice was steadier than he thought it was.
Rydia sat down beside him, and Edge turned away not to show her that there were tears in his eyes. Her arm was suddenly around his shoulders, comforting. He looked at her in tired surprise, forgetting about his pride.
"Mine are gone too..." she mumbled.
"I couldn't... they just... were..." Edge stuttered, his pain so overwhelming that he hardly could think at all, "I couldn't help them!"
Rydia only nodded, without a word. And that was enough. No words were suitable in that moment, and she understood that.
Edge took a deep breath, trying to sort out the chaos inside of him.
"Thanks, Rydia," he finally said.
Her fine hand gave his left shoulder a soft squeeze, telling him that there was no need for him to try to seem brave.
"I know how it feels," she whispered.
He felt an urge to embrace her, but they hadn't know each other for very long and he had his common sense. Yet, right then he felt as if they had always been friends. Edge allowed the urge to make him take Rydia's free hand in his larger ones. If Rosa, Cecil and Kain were watching, it didn't matter at all. The prince of Eblan had anyhow forgotten about them totally.
Rydia smiled carefully, even a bit bitterly. Her soft fingers moved slightly, her fingertips caressing the palm of his hand.
They sat like that, without another word. Just sharing each other's pain and compassion. Then Cecil very carefully announced that there was a meal waiting. His voice clearly gave away that he felt awful about breaking the moment, but it had to be done. They had to save the world.
Edge slowly rose from the stone and since he still held Rydia's hand, he helped her to get up. They smiled carefully at each other, for the first time neither smirking nor awaiting a quick, snapped answer. Later on that would be back, but not right now.

Edge sighed deeply. He'd give anything to have that moment back, or at least the feeling of closeness. Rydia had once been there when he needed her, could that ever happen again?
Two months, two bloody months... he had been rebuilding Eblan... the whole world had been rebuilding. He had done his fair share so far. And he'd used all free time on various women, to his chancellor's and council's grave headache. They were constantly hanging over him, nagging about it and trying to persuade him into making up his mind.
He clenched his teeth.
Make up his mind.
He had to find a queen. The last ting that Eblan needed was a loss of a heir that could take the throne later on. So everyone in his country was eager to help him. There was no end of the line of women that would be suitable. But Edge only chatted with and dated any of them for one reason only; trying to get over his longing for Rydia. Nothing helped, though.
Two months... they had parted two months ago, and he had been thinking about her ever since. And as he saw her enter the throne-room of Baron, he had turned away. Turned away. Because he didn't want her to know his pain, his overwhelming wish to have her back by his side. And he had no idea how he could face her when that was the only thing he could think about; how much he had missed her.
He looked at her. Rydia was watching the back's of Cecil and Rosa, but she was frowning slightly for some reason, as if something was troubling her. She moved.
'Is she turning her head at me?' Edge thought, as if in panic, 'turn, turn! Can't let her know I'm looking at her...!'
He hurriedly moved his head and nailed his eyes onto Cecil's cloak.
Rydia looked at Edge, with a cold feeling in her stomach. Why had he turned away as she had spotted him in the throne-room? Didn't he want to see her?
It hurt not to know, and she was worried that the truth could be painful. But why would he do such a thing? They had always went well together during the battle against Zeromus... were things suddenly different now? And she had been looking forward to see Edge again... him most of all her friends. She wasn't sure why, and queen Asura had only smiled in a peculiar way as Rydia had tried talking to her about it. Of course she had missed Cecil, Rosa, Kain and Yang too, but there was something special about Edge. Their relationship was something special. All that snapping, teasing and bad flirting was on a friendly level that only the two of them had the right to dwell in. Plus, they had both lost their parents in horrible ways. That gave them a close bound... or wasn't it so?
Why had he turned away? They hadn't seen each other in two months... she had missed his teasing and lousy flirting, his sighs and laugh when she gave proof of her own sharp tongue. As she had returned to the world Espers, Leviathan had changed the flow of time there so that it matched the human world. He had guessed well that Rydia didn't want to return to her friends ten more years older. So for two months she had felt a craving for hearing Edge's voice and laugh again.
What could be wrong...?
"I do," Rosa said, startling Rydia.
The caller looked towards her other two friends again.
"I now pronounce you man and wife," the vicar smiled, "you may kiss the bride."
Cecil and Rosa turned to face each other completely. The paladin raised his hands and carefully lifted the silk veil away. They both smiled warmly as Rosa wrapped her arms around Cecil's neck and he stepped even closer to her, holding her face between his hands. Their lips met.
"God save the couple!" Cid shouted, starting the cheering.
Rydia was caught in the merriment of the moment and forgot her troubles, cheering with everyone else. As she turned her head, just by impulse, she caught Edge's eyes. She was laughing in joy, and he was in the middle of an "hooray!". They came to the end of their projects, still looking at each other. Edge grinned and blinked with one eye. Rydia smiled back at him, utterly relieved. If he did something like that, then he couldn't possibly be mad.
"Order, order!" the vicar called, smiling broadly, "hold it, we have something more to take care of!"
Both Rydia and Edge sent their attention in another direction again as Cecil let go of Rosa and turned to the vicar, sitting down on one knee. Two servants – dressed in white blue clothes since it was a special day and they had an important mission – that had been standing by the wall behind the thrones hurried forward, holding a red pillow each. On the pillows were the two crowns of Baron. The vicar took the bigger golden circle and held it above Cecil's thick, softly grey purple hair.
"I crown thee, paladin Cecil," the vicar said, "may all the gods smile upon thy time as ruler of Baron."
And by those words, the older man put the crown on Cecil's head. The new king straightened up and took the other, smaller crown. Rosa sat down before him.
"I crown thee Rosa, queen of Baron, my beloved wife," he softly said, "I know that with you by my side, I will never fail a task."
Rosa stood up, with a loving smile.
The vicar looked at the crowd, smiling and speaking once more:
"There, now you can shout again."
And the people and espers did.
Rosa closed her eyes with a smile and threw her flowers out into the great room. Somebody got hit by the bouquet in the forehead, and grabbed the projectile of pure instinct. Then he froze, realizing the situation. There was a bit of a shocked silence before everyone began to laugh.
"Aww, how cute!" Cid smirked.
"So when's your wedding, Your Majesty?" Edward yelled with a broad smile.
"It hit my head, darn it!" Edge tried to defend himself.
"'Darn it'?" Rydia called, "did you finally wash your mouth with soap as I told you to?"
Before Edge had considered the movement, he had crossed the red carpet and pushed the flowers into the green-haired woman's surprised hands.
"Only trying to make you like me better, sweetcheeks," he said with a small sneer, "how about a little private celebration?"
He could have taken one of his katanas and cut his own tongue out. That had been one of the things he had thought that he definitely not would say.
"Love to," Rydia coldly said, "alone, thank you very much."
But then she smiled, and didn't throw the flowers at him.
"Well then!" Cecil yelled, "now we have a dinner waiting in the town, so let's go!"
"Yeah!" Palom yelled, "party time!"
"Palom!" Porom moaned.
"Our best wishes!" Leviathan warmly said.
The many espers began to turn more and more invisible.
"Be well," Bahamut said and disappeared.
Rydia looked up and met queen Asura's eyes. The female esper had a peculiar smile upon her several lips. Then she was gone.
Cecil and Rosa left the throne-room, hand in hand. The guests followed.
"May I have the heavenly honor?" Edge asked and offered Rydia his arm.
"Alright, you king of bad pick-up lines," she said, rolling her eyes.
She took the flowers in her right hand and then hooked her left arm onto Edge's right.
"Don't get any strange ideas," she warned as they watched the wide stream of people trying to get out of the room; awaiting a calmer moment to escape the slight chaos.
"Too late," Edge replied and grinned, "my head's overfilled with 'em already."
"Great, I lost another one to the madness..."
"I'm not mad, just crazy about you."
Rydia sighed and shook her head.
"Sorry Edge, you've already tried that one," she said.
"Darn, my mistake..."
He hoped that his voice didn't give away that he was hurt. It was just as he had feared; he couldn't say anything about his feelings that Rydia would believe. She only knew him as a flirt. Could that ever be mended, or was it already too late?
'Calm down,' he told himself, 'you are worrying too much. Say it in a different way, in a different moment instead of moaning!'
Rydia touched his nose with the bouquet, sneering in a friendly way.
"Come on, Edge, you can do better than that," she said and winked with one eye, "otherwise you wouldn't be you."
"You mean I have to be nastier?" Edge grinned.
"At least I know that you could be."
"Alright, how about a little kiss, sweetheart?"
'I'll just take the Murasame and make it quick...' he growled to himself.
"You wish..." Rydia snorted, rolling her eyes.
"Are you two lovebirds going to stand there and chitchat the whole day?" Cid smirked as he walked by, "come on, the people are moving out."
"Cid, Cid, Cid..." Rydia sighed, smiling.
She nodded at the now smaller stream of humans trying to get out through the portal.
"Let's go, Edge."
"Wherever you want to, sweetcheeks."
Rydia was truly relieved. Edge was obviously not angry at her. But she was still puzzled about his behavior earlier.
'It doesn't really matter...' she thought, 'I'm just glad that he didn't keep that up.'
It felt really nice to walk by his side, arm in arm. Her fear that he had forgotten their precious relationship had been worthless.
"What are you smiling so lovely about?" Edge asked.
"I'm fascinated about that you gave me the flowers," Rydia lied and waved with his gift, "I don't quite understand your reasons."
"Hey, hey, my reputation would be ruined if it became known that I, king of the ninjas' nation Eblan, kept a lovely bouquet I had gotten from a wedding."
"So you dumped it at me, eh?" Rydia said with raised eyebrows, "well, I guess that there's some kind of twisted charm about that..."
Out of the castle already? Both the king and the caller were surprised. It seemed like a whole building had been passed in only a few moments. They continued down the road, into the town. The town square was hardly to be seen because of all the long tables. Baron had expected a lot of guest and prepared well. The seats were all free to choose, except those around the table where the wedded couple sat.
"Why have you placed that moron prince or whatever he is so close to me?" Cid sighed as he looked at the small notes on the plates.
"Well I don't fancy sitting beside a mere mechanic either," Edge snorted.
"Oh, please..." Rosa said with a sigh, "could you keep friends just past the dinner, for my and Cecil's sake?"
"Alright then, my queen," Cid said and sat down.
Edge pulled out Rydia's chair for her and then bowed stupidly, making her give a short laugh. That made him feel better than he had done in weeks. He often made her sneer and snap with a special kind of humor and friendship, but her laughs were rare and precious. He also noted that she was very careful when putting the flowers on the table beside her plate.
"Thank you, Edge," she said with a smile, "I take it that some common sense finally got a grip of you?"
"Keep hope burning, lady," he grinned and took his own seat on the other side of the table's long end, facing her.
Rosa and Cecil sat together on the short end of the table, and Rydia and Edge were sitting closest to them. At the caller's left was an empty seat, facing Cid. By the mechanic's side was Yang, who had his wife before himself. Then it was Palom's and Porom's turn, and at their respective sides were Edward and Cid's daughter. Then there were king Giott, his daughter Luca, the leader of Mysidia and three women from Toroia's council.
Rydia suddenly heard Cecil sigh and turned her head at him. So did all the other friends. Rosa watched her husband's sad eyes which rested upon the empty chair. The new queen of Baron put her fine hand on the king's shoulder.
"It's Kain, isn't it?" she softly asked.
Cecil slowly nodded, with a second sigh.
"I'm sure he's alright, love," Rosa said, "and he'll return when he's ready."
"Yes, I suppose..." Cecil said and tried to smile.
"Cheer up, dude!" Palom said, "you're almost depressing, and that at your own wedding? Come on!"
"You're right, Palom," the new-crowned king said and managed to fight the bitterness back a little, "I can't be like this in such a moment. Dig in, my friends!"
"I warn you, your majesty," Rydia said as she sent Edge the neat basket filled with small breads, "if I feel your feet by my legs, you'll suffer the pain of a broken ankle."
"A heart of ice..." ninja king sighed.
His right eyebrow went up.
"Could you tell me the secret of pronouncing a title without capitals one day?" he said.
"Maybe... if you shape up, your majesty," Rydia smirked.
Then she smiled and took the bowl of potatoes that he offered her.
Edge enjoyed the meal to the outmost. It had been ages since he had experienced the challenge of eating properly and trying to keep up with Rydia's talking at the same time. She had an extremely sharp tongue, like nobody else. There could be no one like her in the whole world. Definitely not in the line of women in Eblan, which all hoped that they would be the next queen.
More than ever before Edge felt how much he loathed the thought about sharing his life with an Eblanian woman. None of them meant anything to him. But would Rydia ever...? Could his secret wish ever become reality in any form?
"You look concerned," Rydia said, startling him, "is something wrong?"
"Nah," he lied, "just planning my strategy. It seems like you're in the lead, as usual."
"Oh, I don't know."
She smiled, turning his troubles into white little clouds.
"You've scored quite a few points today," she continued, "been practicing?"
"Only in my silent mind, sweetcheeks," Edge replied, "worldwide there could be no opponent worthy me except you."
"He wants to fight!" Cid grinned to Rydia.
"Fight with her?" Edge gasped, "I might be a moron, but I'm not an idiot!"
"See?" the caller grinned, "at least he knows when to give up."
"No, no," the king of Eblan said, "I would never harm a lady."
He raised his eyebrows and continued:
"You are a lady, right?"
"I have no intention to prove it to you," Rydia snapped, "so you'll just have to take my word for it."
"Darn..." Edge sighed.
It really hurt him; her words made him feel filthy because of his longing for her... but he was determined not to let her know about his pain. That would only make her feel guilty. She didn't owe him anything...
"But at least I know that you're close to being a gentleman," she said with a wink, "that you gave me some flowers show that you're making a slow progress."
"Thanks, I guess..."
They looked at each other and laughed. Once again, Edge's troubles flew away for a moment.
Rydia looked at her plate and sighed.
"Edge, you made me forget about thinking of how the cake tasted," she said, "you make me so absentminded..."
"Is that a compliment?" Edge wondered.
"I suppose it is, sort of."
"Great!" he grinned, "now almost all of my wishes have been granted."
Rydia raised her eyebrows.
"Is that a threat?" she asked.
"Depends on how you chose to translate it."
Rydia opened her mouth to shoot a reply back at him, but held her tongue when Cecil put his dessert-fork down and stood up. He and Rosa had without doubt been the last ones to finish their meals; caring more about the other one than about eating.
All the guests turned their heads and smiled warmly as Cecil offered Rosa his hand. She took it and stood up, wrapping her arms around her husband's neck. The new king of Baron bent down and easily lifted Rosa from the ground, with a loving smile. As he began to walk back to the castle, the people rose from their chairs and followed the couple.
Edge and Rydia tried to get a grip of each other again, but in the commotion they were separated. With a sensation of slight panic, Edge noticed that his friend forgot her flowers on the table. But there were so many people walking in the other direction that he couldn't hurry back and get the bouquet for her. He could only pray that nobody would take it.
Cecil turned around and grinned at the crowd as he reached the west tower. His room on top of it had been newly modified to suit two people instead of only one.
"Alright, that's enough," the king told the guests, "now you won't follow us any longer, understood? See you tomorrow."
He pushed the door open with his elbow, still holding Rosa, and kicked it shut after entering the tower. The peoples cheers followed the couple.
Rydia smiled to herself. She knew that Rosa now told Cecil that he could put her down, that he didn't have to carry her up all the stairs. But he would only smile and shake his head, making her laugh. He would carry her all the way up to their room, where he would kiss her before finally putting her down on the bed. Yes, that was exactly what Cecil would do; that was simply who he was.
'And Edge?' flew through Rydia's head.
The thought startled her.
'Why on earth did I think about that?' she thought, frowning, 'oh, right... he caught Rosa's flowers.'
It was just silly saying that the one who got the bride's bouquet would get married next, but... well, much more wasn't needed to awake a thought.
'Wait, where is the bouquet?' Rydia thought.
With an icicle in her stomach she realized that she had forgotten the flowers on the table down in the town. She immediately turned and ran out of the castle, rushing back to the town square. There was no people left there, not a single human. But the tables and everything upon them remained untouched. Even the flowers. With a relieved sigh, Rydia lifted them from the table.
She asked herself why she had been so worried about losing the bouquet. Surely it was lovely, but she had never cared much about such things, considering people more important than things.
But on the other hand, she wasn't used to receive gifts.
Especially not from Edge.
He had surprised her by his actions, but she felt a warm twirl somewhere inside when she thought about what he had done. He could have thrown the flowers to someone else to regain his pride, but instead he had given them to her. He could be really sweet when he felt like it...
Rydia remembered that event in the Sealed cave, when Edge's shock due to his parents' death had brought him to his knees. Her heart still ached thinking about the pain in his eyes. She had lost her parents too, her father when she was to small to remember, but her mother... who Cecil and Kain had been fooled to kill without wanting to.
She had understood Edge's pain, and he had understood her. They hadn't said much, just been sitting close and touched the other one carefully, as two close friends that comforted each other.
They were friends in a very special way, and she treasured that knowledge. Edge was a very special man.
Rydia smiled to herself and carefully touched one of the white roses of the bouquet with her fingertips. Then she suddenly saw something, just in the corner of her eyes.
There was a movement on one of the rooftops. The young woman frowned and carefully glanced that way. Nothing. But she was sure that she had seen something.
Even though the world had become peaceful, there were still a few hostile monsters around. Always had and always would. But Rydia hadn't expected any trouble a day like this, and left her whip in her room in the castle. Of course she could use her magic if the need came, but she'd rather not if she wasn't forced to. Sending lightning bolts and icicles flying around in the middle of a town didn't seem very smart.
Slowly, she backed into the space between two houses, and watched the distant rooftop from there. A minute passed, and nothing happened. Rydia took a deep breath and slowly let it go. Maybe she had just imagined it. After all, it had been a pretty busy day, and she was a little tired. Seeing things in the corner of the eye...
There was a sound from behind her. Before she had time to spin around with a spell ready on her lips, a strong arm was put around her waist from behind, trapping her own arms against her sides and pressing her back against the chest of the attacker. A hand covered her mouth. Rydia tried to struggle, but found that even though she was a lot stronger than "normal" women, she had no chance to break free. Her opponent was far too strong.
"What is a girl like you doing in a place like this?" a voice whispered in her ear.
The grip loosened, and Rydia spun around while taking a step away, raising her hand in anger.
"Edge, you'll get the worst slap of your life for that!" she growled.
He backed away with a small sneer.
"Oh, please spare me... even though my crime of scaring you, my lady, is absolutely unforgivable."
"You did not scare me!"
"Really? You seemed pretty nervous."
"It was the surprise, nothing else!" Rydia defended herself.
Edge smiled, but there was a strangely bitterness in his eyes. Rydia hesitated and lowered her hand, realizing that he hadn't meant to shock her like that. Maybe she had been too harsh...
"Edge, I..."
"I am certain, my lady esper," he interrupted, "your courage is too great to crack. Yet I apologize, and wish you good-night."
And with that he jumped straight up and climbed onto the rooftop without the slightest trouble. Rydia hadn't any time to stop him, and he ignored her call.
'Idiot!' he furiously thought to himself, 'idiot! Fool! Are you completely out of your mind? What did you do that for?!'
He should have understood that it'd be too rough. It was not like they were lifelong friends...
The king of Eblan heavily sighed. He had really blown it this time. Totally. The best thing to do was to try to keep away from Rydia for the last three days he would stay in Baron. Best to go back to Eblan and kill all angry thoughts and regret with his work. And he had to find a wife...
His stomach felt cold as ice, and he almost missed the edge of a rooftop. By more than luck than anything else, he managed to keep balance and didn't fall to a certain death.
'Can't seem to do anything right this evening...' he thought, irritated.
Rydia clenched her teeth and ran after Edge, trying to keep him in sight even though the house's walls blocked her vision. But then he leaped over to a big building, and she was never going to catch up with him running around it. So all that she could do was stop and helplessly look up at the high wall.
She hadn't meant to snarl like that. She hadn't meant for him to believe that she'd really been mad. It was true that she had been angry, but that hadn't lasted for more than a few seconds. She had understood that it had been a joke; he hadn't...
"Damn!" she sighed, surprising herself.
She had to find him... sooner or later he'd go to his room in Baron... she couldn't leave him in the belief that she was mad at him.
Rydia hurried back to the castle, meeting a wide stream of guests returning to the inn and their own houses. When she finally managed to get inside of the castle, she found out that it could be hard to find workers of a castle when there'd been a wedding and crowning on the same day. Seemed like all of the servants and guards had gone to sleep. And she needed to ask someone where Edge's room was... there had to be someone awake! A castle couldn't be left unguarded!
After twenty minutes of searching, she finally gave up and went to her own room. And found that there where pretty sleepy guards by most of the doors in the guests' corridor. Why hadn't she thought of that earlier? Rydia almost smacked her forehead with the flowers.
"Excuse me," she said to the closest soldier, "could you tell me which room that's Edge's... the king of Eblan's?"
The man in the uniform yawned and said:
"It's the last one down the corridor, miss."
Rydia glanced in the direction that he pointed and realized that her room was only three doors from Edge's.
"Is he there now?" she asked hesitantly.
"No, I don't think so. Sorry, miss," the guard said.
"If he comes... if you see him, would you tell him that Rydia isn't angry with him?"
The man raised his eyebrows a little and smiled kindly.
"Of course, miss. I'll tell him as soon as I see him."
"Thank you."
Rydia went down the corridor and glanced at the door which was the one before Edge's room. Then she sighed and went inside her own place. She leaned against the door for a moment before she walked over to the window and looked out. From there she could see the lush grassland and forest that happened to be placed between Baron and the ocean. The usually blue line looked like a stream of gold in the sunset. It was beautiful, but somehow Rydia couldn't enjoy it. She felt miserable, and she was well aware of the reason.
"Edge, you moron..." she mumbled to herself.
She looked down at the flowers she held tightly in her left hand. He had given them to her... then something had gone wrong. But they represented what had been right, and she suddenly felt an almost strangling wish not to let them fade away.
Rydia sat down on one knee and placed the bouquet on the floor. Then she straightened up and took a step backwards.
"Powers of Water, I bid of thee to lend me thy power... send coldness with care..." she chanted and pointed at the flowers.
A bubble of light formed around her treasure. When the light ceased, it left a globe of crystal-clear ice. The flowers were inside, as beautiful as they had been before being crystallized. Rydia bent down and picked up her creation. The ice didn't feel cold, neither did it melt as she touched it. It was like glass; just as she had wanted it to be. She knew her powers well.
The summoner walked over to the desk by the wall and placed the orb there. She watched it for a while before backing off and throwing herself on the bed. The roof suffered a concerned glare. Rydia shook her head and sighed.
Three rooms away Edge sighed too, sitting in one of the armchairs of the guestroom. He hadn't wanted to take the risk of meeting Rydia in the castle, and therefore climbed on the walls and into his room through the window. Such things usually was fun, but not exactly now.
He was still trying to understand why he had such a stupid thing... sneaking up on Rydia from behind. What on earth had he been thinking?
For two months... no, even longer than that. From the first time he had seen Rydia he had wanted to embrace her. Everything she did, every movement and word caught his attention, so it had been from the very first moment. She was the first one ever to call him an idiot... now that had really startled him. He had been bitter that time, Rubicant had just defeated the prince with a wave of his red hand. Edge remembered his anger and burning wish to try again. Blinded by his own rage, he hadn't made the obvious conclusion; that he hadn't any chance to make it alone. But Rydia... called him an idiot, and that was true. Of course he wouldn't gladly admit it, but some part of him had known that she was right. So he had gone with her and her friends and... well, it had worked out fine.
So why had he been such an idiot again? Couldn't he just have put his hand on her shoulder instead? Then they could have talked, instead of... he would have given anything to turn back time and right his wrongs.
'Fool...' he lazily thought.
He was an idiot. Hadn't he any common sense at all?
Edge massaged his forehead.
Nothing would be better if he only sat there, accusing himself. The only way to make things right would be to go to Rydia and... what? Ask her to forgive him? What if she wouldn't? What if she did just to cheer him up, but in reality kept her anger deep inside, turning her friendly snaps into true ones?
'Come on!' Edge thought, 'you're worrying far too much, you moron. Rydia isn't like that!'
But somehow, he couldn't bring himself to rise from his armchair, walk over to the door and out into the corridor, looking for Rydia. So he just sat there in the armchair, as if he was tied onto it. Sat there, staring at nothing until it was past midnight and he made the conclusion that he had to go to sleep. Maybe everything would feel better the next day... he could only hope that it would be like that.

But it didn't feel any better at all the next day. Edge awoke and was immediately attacked by another wave of guilt and regret.
With a groan he sat up in the bed, rubbing his face. Seemed like it was pretty early... but he figured there was no chance in the world that he would be able to go back to sleep. So he got up from the bed and went over to the small table by the wall. There was a decanter and a washbowl on the table; on the wall was a mirror. Edge moved the water between the containers and then threw a handful of the liquid into his face, trying to wake up completely and gather his thoughts.
The cold water burned his skin. He looked up into the mirror and met his own miserable reflection's gaze.
It would be so much simpler to just try to stay away from Rydia, but he didn't want to be such a coward. Anyhow, it wouldn't work. They'd run into each other sooner or later, Baron's castle wasn't big enough for playing cat and mouse forever. And then, when they met...
His head dropped.
He'd make a fool of himself again. He always did when he really, really wanted to keep away from it.
The flirt and joker... he had played them for too long. They were a major part of him.

Part 2

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