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Rydia and Edge Part 2
by Weiila

Back to part 1

Part 2 Trapped together

Somehow he made it down to the dinning hall for breakfast about an hour later. By then the morning wasn't so early anymore, and several people were eating the day's first meal. Not Rydia, though. Edge wasn't sure if that made him relieved or even more depressed.
He fell down on a chair.
"Morning, prince or whatever," Cid grinned, "you look like an ogre trampled around on you while you slept."
"M'ning..." Edge grumbled and reached for the bread-basket.
"You sound like an ogre too," the mechanic merrily commented.
"Sh' up."
"What's up? You've never been this quiet for all the time I've had the displeasure of knowing you."
Edge sighed and shook his head.
"I'm an idiot," he muttered.
"Is that a problem when it comes to you?" Cid said.
"Have you seen Rydia?" Edge suddenly said, ignoring the mechanic's words totally.
Cid raised his eyebrows.
"Rydia?" he said, "nope, you missed her. Was here about half an hour ago, but then she went away. Dunno where she went, but I guess she's still around, somewhere..."
With a snort, Edge violently buried his teeth in the bread. It made him feel a little, little bit better.
"Tell you what," Cid said in an unusually friendly way, "I have no idea what you have done this time, but you seem to need to beat up something. Why don't you train a little with Yang or someone? Or go for a swim, there's great beaches to the east, if you want to be alone. The cliffs makes it nice and private."
Edge noted, in despite of his darkened mind, Cid's grin by the last few words.
"I take it you were quite interested in that privacy once upon a time, eh?" the king of Eblan smirked, for a moment able to escape his own misery.
"Aww, chucks..."
Cid smacked his right hand into Edge's back, almost forcing the king down on the table by the power and pure surprise.
"A few interesting memories," the mechanic admitted and blinked with one eye, "but you're far too young and innocent to hear about it."
"Oh, gosh..." Edge gasped.
The two men grinned at each other.
Edge had to admit that he felt much better. He and Cid argued all the time, almost like the king of Eblan did with Rydia. Though it wasn't the same, it cheered him up.
Swimming? Why not?
So a while later, he went for the walk to the beaches.
It was a pleasant walk. Since it was early summer, almost everything bloomed. Butterflies danced through the air and birds sang in every bush and tree. Edge almost forgot his troubles as he passed the grasslands and entered the forest. The golden sunrays made everything it touched glow gently between the shadows of the trees. Edge even sighed as he saw the end of the beautiful forest ahead. The ocean took its place, a never ending, blue silk carpet.
There were two kinds of beaches; the once that were easy to reach and those that were a little more complicated. The first kind laid below sandy hills to Edge's right, only to walk down to. The others were white brown half moons beneath harsh cliffs; it was those that Cid had been talking about. Since Edge felt like he wanted to be alone, he strode along the edges of the cliffs. There seemed to be hundreds of beaches, all seemingly unreachable. If one didn't want to climb. Edge grinned to himself.
He made up his mind for one beach, just picking a random one. The cliffs went out a bit into the ocean, creating a bottle-shaped, great piece of water before the sand. It seemed nice.
Edge tied his towel around his waist and began to climb. About eight feet above the beach the stonewall had a naturally formed ledge leading down. But until that, he was left with his skills.
It took him a few minutes to reach the ledge, but as he stood secure he turned around to take a closer look at the place.
He frowned and used his hand to shadow the eyes. Yes, there was someone in the water. Darn...
Edge froze and his throat thickened as a light body dressed in a deep blue swim tunic broke through the surface.
Long, green hair was kept against a fine back by the water.
Her back was turned at him. And since she hadn't called or hid, she obviously hadn't seen Edge.
'What should I do?' he helplessly thought.
It was probably only a matter of seconds before she would turn around and see him. Then what? Would she... could he... dared he to talk to...
But Edge had no time to sort out his spinning and troubled thoughts.
There was something in the water by the gateway to the open sea, between the cliffs. Something big that moved fast.
"Good grief..." Edge harshly whispered and began to run down the ledge faster than he knew was really wise.
Rydia was just rubbing her face to get rid of the salty water when she felt something different in the way that the waves moved past her. Blinking, she looked up and gasped in unpleasant surprise as she saw a giant shadow moving towards her below the surface.
Her mind screamed as it found the memory of her early travels at Cecil's side. She knew that creature! It was an octomammoth, and it was hunting.
Rydia spun around and desperately tried to swim away. A monster that belonged in water was weak to lightning-spells, but if she tried to use such magic while she was in the liquid herself, her spell could be lead back and shock her as well. Fire couldn't touch the octomammoth as long as it was below the surface, and ice wouldn't harm it. Anyhow, Rydia was pretty sure that she couldn't chant and swim at the same time, if she didn't make it to the beach...
A cold, slimy tentacle wrapped itself around her waist and dragged her below the surface, squeezing all air out of her lunges.
'Don't panic, don't panic!' she tried to tell herself.
But it was no use. Her chest was on fire, and she almost broke all her nails trying to get free from the tentacle. Air... it hurt, her instincts told her to try to take a breath, but there was only water... one try and she would be lost, she knew that. But her lunges felt like twisting snakes inside of her, she had to...
The grip suddenly ceased with a screech from the beast's mouth and she broke free, desperately swimming upwards. As she broke through the surface, her violent inhalation sounded almost like a scream.
"Hang on, Rydia!" a familiar voice shouted from the beach.
She tried to blink the water away from her eyes. Edge stood with water up to his knees and a towel tied around his waist over his clothes. In his left hand was a stone, but not for long. He sent it dashing through the air, and there was another enraged screech behind Rydia. She hurriedly swam a few more feet forwards, after what felt like an eternity reaching shallow water where she could stand up.
"Use you magic, for all the gods' sake!" Edge shouted.
Another dripping stone flew over Rydia's head as she spun around, raising her hands. But the sight of the octomammoth startled her, and the chanting halted for half a second.
This giant octopus was darkly grey, but the one that she, Cecil and Tellah had fought had been crazily red with bright spots of different colors. That meant that the octomammoth before her was a female. She had read something about those in the land of Espers, female octomammoths were dangerous... there was something they had that the males didn't, what was it again? She had no time to remember, she had to chant!
"Powers of Fire, I bid..."
One more stone hit the monster's pointy head, and the screech was more of a roar this time. One of the tentacles rose above the surface, the end of it pointing at...
Poison! The female ones were poisonous!
"Edge! Duck!" Rydia shouted and threw herself down.
She turned her head as she fell. Suddenly, the whole world seemed to slow down. Several small spikes flew from the octomammoth's tentacle, aiming for Edge. He tried to jump aside, but the fact that he stood in water made him slow. The spikes hit and penetrated his shirt. Groaning in pain, he fell to his knees.
"Edge!" Rydia shouted.
"I'm alright!" he yelled back, "teach it some manners!"
She straightened up, growling in anger. Edge had come to help her, and this monster had hurt him. Rydia's chest and mind boiled with rage.
"Powers of Fire! I bid of thee to lend me thy powers!" she called out and pointed, turning her anger into a strength her mind could harness.
A massive wave of fire left her hands and forced the octomammoth a few yards backwards. It growled in surprise and made an attempt to attack again, but Rydia gave a second proof of her powers. The pain was too much for the monster. It fled back into the ocean.
Rydia took a deep, relieved breath as she saw the beast leave. Then she remembered Edge.
"Don't move, I'm coming!" she called and swam over to even shallower water as fast as she could.
Edge straightened up with her help, but he was grimacing and pressing his left arm over his chest.
"I've been into worse... ouch!" he muttered and pulled a face.
"Come on, we have to get those spikes out," Rydia said, forcing herself to keep calm.
Edge tried to walk by himself, but stumbled.
"What the...?" he said and touched his left knee in confusion.
"It's poison, but it'll be alright," Rydia explained and hoped that she was right about the last thing.
She took Edge's arm and wrapped it around her neck to give him support standing.
"It's not ordinary poison, is it...?" Edge muttered.
"No, and I can't remember..." the caller said, unable to hide her anxiety anymore, "I have to ask Asura or the sprites to help you. But first we have to take care of the spikes."
They managed to stumble over to the shadow of the cliff. Rydia's long, dark swim tunic was pasted against her body and legs, and it was turning cold fast in the winds. But she didn't care at all. Edge managed to untie the towel he had around his waist, and Rydia placed it under his head as he lay down in the shadow. Her clothes and own towel laid a few feet away behind a rock, but there was no time for drying herself and dress up properly.
"Feel so numb..." Edge muttered as he tried to loosen the buttons of his shirt.
Rydia's stomach turned colder than ice. Good gods... it couldn't be the poison of an octomammoth that... that... no, it couldn't be!
It couldn't!
Good gods...
Edge noticed her eyes.
"What's the matter?" he asked.
Rydia cleared her throat and shook her head.
"Look, I'll help you," she said, trying to shake off the unease.
He caught her hands as she reached for the buttons of his shirt and looked her straight in the eyes, frowning.
"Rydia, what's happening?" he asked, "what is this poison?"
She bit her lower lip.
"I'm sure that there's a cure," she said in a low voice, "but if we don't get it in time, you might... turn lame."
"Good grief..." Edge muttered.
"I'm sorry, it's my fault..."
"Your fault?"
He forced himself to smile a bit.
"Hey, sweetcheeks, it's not like you called me like one of your pets. I just happened to be around."
The weak smile faded away.
"Look, about yesterday, I was..." he began.
Rydia shook her head.
"No, you don't have to say anything," she softly said, "it's alright. I know it was a joke."
"It was stupid of me."
"That doesn't matter now, we have to take care of the poison."
Edge released her hands so that Rydia could loosen the buttons and remove the cloth from his muscular torso, experiencing a strange trembling in her chest as she did so.
There were only five spikes, and they weren't very deeply buried. However, there was quite some blood despite the fact that the wounds were small. Rydia found that her fingers were shaking slightly as she carefully put her hands on Edge's skin to pick the spikes out, and she somehow wished that she could have blamed it on the blood. But she had never been nervous about wounds this small ever before. It wasn't the blood, and she knew it. It was Edge; she had to admit that even though she didn't fully understand. He was a friend... nothing more.
'A friend?' some hidden part of her mind scornfully said, 'just a friend, is that really all? How long are you going to pretend that you don't care more about him than anyone else of your friends?'
Rydia was almost startled by the sudden thought.
'He's a good friend,' she told herself, 'we share the same pain...'
'What would you know about it?' the hidden part snorted, 'do you have any own experience of love? No, you have only seen Rosa with Cecil, and Asura with Leviathan. You don't know anything about it yourself.'
'Now cut it out!' Rydia furiously told herself, 'I am not in love with Edge!'
'What? Is it some kind of crime? You're just afraid.'
'Afraid? What should I be afraid of?'
'Beats me. What are you afraid of?'
"You OK?" Edge asked, startling her.
"Yes, I'm fine," Rydia said after a second of pulling herself together.
"You were frowning pretty badly. Are you sure you're alright?"
She looked down at his concerned face. Did he care that much for her? Rydia's heart made a sudden twirl at the thought, making her even more confused.
"Don't worry about me, Edge," she said, and her voice was a lot softer than she had planned.
He tried to smile a little, but it didn't work very well.
Rydia removed the last spike and then turned away, putting her hands together and closing her eyes.
"I call you, Asura, queen of all espers," she chanted.
Transparent, green orbs danced around her, and a soft note announced that the queen had heeded the call of her young friend. As Rydia opened her eyes, the female many-headed esper stood in the sand with a concerned look in her several eyes.
"What's wrong, Rydia?" Asura kindly asked.
"An octomammoth poisoned Edge, can you help him?" Rydia worriedly asked.
"Oh, dear..." the queen said, "I know that I have an antidote, but I can't bring it to you when I'm called. Don't worry, though, I'll ask Leviathan to swim to you with it."
"How long time do we have?" Rydia asked, a lot more relieved but not to the fullest.
"If the antidote is taken within ten hours there's nothing to worry about," Asura calmed both the caller and the king, "and it'll only take Leviathan about one or two hours to swim all the way. You might turn a bit numb, Edge, but you'll recover."
"Thank God..." Edge and Rydia mumbled simultaneously.
"However, there's a risk that you might get high fever as the antidote works, but if that should happen, I believe you're strong enough to take it."
Asura gave an encouraging smile.
"Just wait for Leviathan," she said, "the only thing that you can do is to wash the wounds and make sure that Edge don't fall asleep before he has taken the antidote, Rydia. Then everything will be fine."
"Thank you..." Rydia said with a small smile.
"I agree with her, Your Majesty," Edge mumbled.
"Don't worry, my friends. Good bye for now."
And with that, Asura turned transparent and disappeared. Rydia and Edge exchanged relieved glances.
"Let's see, clean water..." the caller said and put her hands together again.
"Take it easy," Edge said, "don't overstrain yourself just for me."
"Oh, don't be so stupid. I can't use the saltwater."
Rydia smiled at him and then closed her eyes.
"Powers of Water, I bid of thee to lend me thy powers... send me bubbles..."
As she held out her left hand small balls of water, bouncing but keeping in shape, appeared in her palm. Rydia stood up and went to fetch her towel and clothes. Edge watched her as she walked away and back again. The deeply blue, long vest she wore was stuck against her body by the water, so well that it was like a skin. If he hadn't been slightly dizzy because of the poison, the sight might have made him bit through his lips. Rydia raised her eyebrows as she came walking back, noticing that he looked her. He managed a small, friendly sneer.
"Seeing something you like?" Rydia teased.
It surprised Edge a bit. It was always he who made such jokes, and she snapped back at them every time.
"Indeed a lot," he answered and blinked with one eye, "changing our ritual, sweetcheeks?"
"I should keep you awake, shouldn't I?" she replied and sat down by his side again releasing the clothes she held in her right hand.
"My, my..."
"Oh, no. No strange ideas, your majesty. You're not in a condition when you'd survive a storm of icicles and lightning bolts," Rydia said.
"I'm poisoned and you're still mean to me. It's not fair..."
They grinned at each other.
"Now don't try anything I'll make you regret," Rydia warned and dropped half of her small water orbs over his chest.
Edge hissed as the liquid touched his wounds. It felt as if it was fire, not water, that softly hit his flesh. He had experienced greater wounds, but the poison had already infected the small holes in his body, making the slightest touch send arrows through him.
Rydia rubbed her clean towel against Edge's chest as careful as possible, concerned noting his grimaces and the angrily red areas around the wounds.
"I'm sorry, I can't make it more careful than this..." she said.
"A ninja like me shouldn't have any troubles... ouch... surviving this," Edge muttered and pulled another face.
It was long ago that Rydia had wished that she could use white magic instead of black, in fact this was probably the first time. But she had pushed her healing powers away in order to be strong enough to help the world. Now that seemed like a foolish decision. Edge needed powers she had gotten rid of, and now she couldn't help him.
She placed the last bubbles on his chest and commanded them to break into droplets with as much caution as possible. Still Edge's eyebrows painfully crawled together below a forehead that brought the thoughts to an earthquake. He took a few deep breaths and slowly relaxed as the water reached his temperature and became less intruding.
"Thanks for helping me with the octomammoth, by the way," Rydia smiled as Edge had pulled himself together.
"Don't mention it," Edge said and tried to smile, "we're used to save each other's lives, aren't we?"
"Yeah, I guess..."
Rydia smiled and rolled her eyes.
"Incredible what you get me to say when facing certain doom. Like when we fought Zeromus."
"I'm glad you haven't forget about it," Edge grinned, "my poor heart would have been totally broken."
"But remember that I only said you were handsome in compare to him," Rydia pointed out.
"Doesn't matter, those words has kept me alive since then..."
His voice had become harsher and harsher for every word the last two times he had spoken. Rydia put a finger by her lips.
"Don't try to speak for a while, alright? Wait, what am I saying?"
They exchanged glances and smiled. A chilling wind from the ocean made Rydia shiver a bit.
"I'm just going to change into my clothes," she said and stood up, "don't even consider peeking, you hear?"
Edge chuckled and closed his eyes as she walked away. He listened to her soft footsteps over the whispering sand, guessing that she went behind one of the big rocks that laid around close to the cliffs to dress up. He tried to think about icebergs, without much success.
As Rydia came back, now wearing her green outfit with its hanging sleeves and high boots instead of a skirt or trousers, she was still rubbing her hair with the towel in order to get rid of the water.
"Nice hairdo," Edge smirked as she sat down.
"Don't push me," Rydia warned, but smiled.
Her green hair was pretty messed up by the quick drying. Edge had wondered about the color of it as they had first met, but he had come to the conclusion that it was because she had grown up with magic constantly around.
She looked up at the edge of the cliffs, frowning.
"I wish I could send for help," she thoughtfully said, "but a chocobo wouldn't make it all the way up, and I can't keep the other espers in this world for long enough... and their spirits can't move that far from me. We'll just have to wait for our friends to start wondering where we are."
"I give you nothing but trouble, do I?" Edge sighed.
"Shh..." Rydia softly whispered and put a finger by his lips, before considering it.
The two young humans froze, both of them highly surprised. Their eyes met.
'Does she care a little bit more?' Edge hesitantly thought, almost fearing to hope, 'just a little?'
'Why did I do that?' Rydia thought, slightly panicking, 'what if he thinks... believes... something?'
That hidden part of her mind sighed deeply.
'Oh, stop it,' it said, 'don't be so stubborn. Don't you like him?'
'Like him? Of course I do, he's my friend!' Rydia thought.
'Is he your friend just like Cecil is?'
'I... no.'
Cecil and Edge couldn't be compared in friendship. Nobody could. She didn't know Cecil as she knew Edward, Rosa, Yang or Kain either.
Cecil had always been like a big brother to her, he had sacrificed his old life at Baron as he choose to protect her. Just as Kain, even though he hadn't made it through as smooth as the paladin. The dragoon had always been quiet and a bit depressed, bitter because of his feeling of guilt. Yet, he had been able to smile a little now and then. Edward... weak at first, broken and scared after Anna's death, he had been like a younger brother though several years older than Rydia back then. But he had found courage, and straightened up. And Rosa... a big sister, always there. At first, when Rydia still had been a kid, the white magician maybe had played the role of a kind step mum. Yang, he was a rock, impossible to budge. A father.
Not to forget Tellah. Rydia hadn't known him for long, but he was still kept in her memory as a grave yet kind grandpa. Oh yes, Cid was also one of those, but eccentric instead of serious all the time.
That was what her human friends was; her family. She didn't have any other, except the espers.
But Edge?
He couldn't possibly be similar to an older brother, and definitely not a father. It didn't suit him at all. He was simply Edge; smiling, joking, flirting and teasing. And Rydia liked him in his own special way. All about him... his light, soft hair, his laughter and those silly, half-hidden smiles behind the cloth he wore when he expected battle, his deep, grey blue eyes...
Rydia suddenly remembered that she still kept her finger at his lips, touching them as light as a breath. She carefully removed her touch, for half a second feeling an urge to caress Edge's cheek, stroke it with the back of her hand.
They looked at each other.
'Will I ever even dare to breath that I like her a lot more than a friend?' Edge thought, holding back a wish to carefully take her hand in his and kiss her fingertips.
He wouldn't risk something like that. What if she'd snarl and violently pull her hand free? But it was hard to keep from doing it as he looked up in her eyes, where a small sparkle of confusion could be spotted.
'What does she feel about me?' he wondered, 'anything even close to what I feel for her? I can only wish...'
He wanted to tell her that she kept him awake through the nights with her absence, that he dreamed of her as soon as he closed his eyes. But he was afraid that she would laugh or snort, thinking it was just another chapter in his game of flirting badly.
Once again, his thoughts drifted away to his need for a queen. If possible, it made him feel even more troubled than it usually did.
'I don't want any of them!' he thought, 'they don't interest me the least... but Rydia...'
He couldn't stop himself from sighing.
"Does it hurt?" Rydia carefully asked.
Edge slowly shook his head.
"Nah, I'm fine," he lied.
"You sure?" she asked, smiling hesitantly as she used his words, "you were frowning pretty badly."
No, I'm not fine at all, he wanted to say.
I missed you so much after all the battling was over that I could scream.
Every time I look at you, I feel warm at heart.
Won't you come with me to Eblan? I don't want to go back without you.
I have no idea what I would have done if the octomammoth had harmed you.
I love you.
"No problem," he said and somehow forced a small smile to his lips.
"Alright, if you say so."
Rydia smiled a little and began to work on the mess of her hair, with only her fingers as a comb. Edge watched her.
I love you.
The words laid like a piece of red hot coal in his mind. But he couldn't drag them over to his lips no matter how much he wanted to. And speaking of his lips, they still burned with the memory of her gentle touch. She had probably moved before thinking, but... yet...
I love you, Rydia.
She looked down and smiled encouraging.
"Don't worry, Leviathan will show up soon enough," she smiled, misunderstanding the bothered flicker in his eyes.
"Oh, that's nothing," Edge mumbled, "I'm enjoying your company so much that I forget about the poison."
"Aww, you flirt you..."
'I wish you'd believe me instead...' Edge bitterly thought.
He fought another sigh back. Instead it turned to a yawn, and he blinked.
"What is it now then...?" he muttered, managing to reach up and rub his eyes with the back of his hand.
Suddenly he felt so terribly tired. No, not now! Not when he was alone with Rydia for the first time, maybe even the only time ever! He couldn't fall asleep!
"Hey, don't leave me now," Rydia said and carefully slapped his cheek, not so much that it hurt, just to help him stay awake, "remember what Asura said. And you never fell asleep when we fought Zeromus, did you?"
He had to smile at that.
"No, then you would have killed me yourself, wouldn't you?" he mumbled, "but that wasn't half as exciting as this, on the other hand."
"What, you found Zeromus boring?" Rydia smiled.
"In compare to this? Of course..."
He yawned again.
"You bigmouth, stay awake!" Rydia demanded, "forget what I said earlier, keep talking."
"How I wish women could hold onto an opinion..." Edge drowsily smiled.
She pinched his nose.
"Keep your eyes open, ya hear?" she said, "why don't you tell me how Eblan is doing?"
"Well, recovering. And I have my hands full of keeping the members of my council from killing each other. They seem to think it's funnier to curse everyone else then to actually discuss how we're going to proceed with the rebuilding. Did Leviathan ever have those kind of problems?"
Rydia gave a short laugh, and Edge's heart made a little twirl.
"Yes, he actually had. But he sent a tsunami at his advisors every time they began throwing lightning bolts and big swords around. Made them calm down at once, at least they were calmer when they awoke."
She looked down at him and raised her eyebrows.
"Why don't you just use your magic when they get too violent?" she asked.
"I don't want to hurt anyone," Edge said and rolled his eyes, "I don't have as perfect control of my powers as you do, you know. Ninja magic is a lot clumsier than regular black."
"You should really get some kind of prize by admitting that truth, your majesty," Rydia smiled.
"Oh, that's too obvious to hide for long... especially for a smart girl like you."
Edge reached up and touched the tip of her nose with a finger. That much did he dare; it was harmless. Rydia smiled a little.
"Come on, that can't be all that's happening over by your place," she said.
"Well, I suppose that the next big thing that everyone will talk about is 'king Edge get beaten up by caller Rydia while lying poisoned on a beach'. Sounds like a really tasty piece of gossip, doesn't it?"
"It'll make your poor ninjas drop their hammers," Rydia nodded with a grin.
Edge widened his eyes in a really silly way.
"You got me there," he whispered and blinked with one eye, "but please don't allow it to be commonly known that I force my troops to work as carpenters."
"Your secret's safe with me," Rydia said and blinked back, "hey, you said 'the next big thing'. So what is everyone talking about now?"
His tongue moved without the permission of his brain.
"They keep going on about me finding a suitable queen..."
The treacherous part of him was very close on getting at least one inch shorter.
He looked up in Rydia's eyes, and she stared back for an eternity.
"Oh," was all that she finally said.
Nothing more.
'Damn!' Edge thought, 'what did I have to say that for?'
'Of course I knew he'd get married someday,' Rydia thought, feeling a growing coldness in her stomach, 'I just... what will happen to our friendship then?'
Their relationship involved so much jokes and jocular flirting, it couldn't be the same without those things. But when Edge got married, well... no wife would allow such a friendship, any woman would feel threatened by it. Rydia felt sick thinking of that. She had missed him for two months, she didn't by no means want to miss this friend forever.
'Is that it?' that hidden part of her said, 'is it only the fear of loosing a friend that makes your heart ache so? Isn't the imaginary picture of hundreds of Eblanian women that stand in line before him?'
'Shut up!' Rydia angrily thought, very frustrated.
'I shouldn't have said that!' Edge thought, 'I've just made her uncomfortable. Idiot!'
It wasn't hard to see that she was uncertain about what she could say now. He couldn't think of anything to say that could make her feel better again. And as she finally spoke, she sent daggers straight through him.
"So, is anyone interested?" she asked, sounding as if she heavily pushed the words from her lips without really wanting to.
"A few," Edge admitted, unable to look back at her.
"And you're still a bachelor?" she said, straining herself to smooth the whole thing, "I thought you loved women..."
He felt as if an ogre had sent him flying into a wall.
It was terribly hard, but he forced himself to turn his face back at Rydia. There was something twisting in her eyes, as if she had no idea how to handle his statement. They were at least two with that problem, then.
"Hey, Rydia..." he hesitantly said.
She startled.
"I... they... I just..."
Edge sighed and tried again.
"Look, I don't... I do like women, but not like that. I don't know what to..."
He fell silent and turned away again.
"They're just trying to push me," he said, making a third attempt to mend what had gone wrong, "but I don't want to... marry someone that... I don't know that well. Or love."
She didn't say anything, so he risked a glance at her. Rydia was watching him, looking very uncertain. Just as he felt.
'How can I tell her?' he thought, 'dare I?'
'Last time we talked like this was in the Sealed cave,' Rydia thought, 'he can be serious when he's vulnerable or uneasy. But it's not a good thing this time. Edge... what can I tell you to make you feel better?'
"Don't look so disturbed," she tried, "it doesn't suit you well. Your advisors will just have to wait until you've been taking your own time, they can't exactly tie you up and drag you to a priest, now can they?"
"No, but..."
Edge sighed.
"It makes me so terribly concerned," he said.
"I'm sure it'll end up fine. Things seem to do so when you want them to."
Now that felt good to hear. Especially right now, from her. The words lit a ray of hope inside of him.
"Thanks, Rydia," he said in a low voice.
"For what?" she wondered.
"For making my heart a lot lighter, for a start."
They smiled tentatively at each other. But suddenly they both startled at an unexpected roar.
It wasn't angry or threatening; only a friendly call from someone that was too big to control his loudness well.
"Leviathan!" Rydia called back and stood up.
A blue, enormous head could be seen in the water beyond the cliffs.
"I'm sending the bottle with the waves, my friends," the king of espers roared, "I can't swim in the shallow water."
Rydia hurried down to the wetter parts of the beach and looked around for a moment, searching. Then she walked out into the water and picked up something.
"Thank you so much!" she called to Leviathan.
"Anything to help you, my friends," the great sea snake replied with a smile, "I have to return to the deeper ocean and my country now. Take care!"
Rydia waved with her hand until Leviathan was unseen below the surface. She turned and ran back to Edge, holding a small bottle in her hand. The liquid inside had a greenish color.
"Yummy..." the ninja king muttered.
"Doesn't look too tasty, no," Rydia agreed, "but I guess we have no choice."
"Right. Let's get it over with."
Edge tried to sit up, but fell back. His arms had no strength left.
"Take it easy, I'll help," Rydia said.
She removed the cork and smelled the potion.
"It doesn't smell that bad," she reported, encouraging, "come on..."
Carefully she moved her arm in under his head and put the bottle by his lips. If the potion tasted heavenly or was the worst sludge to ever touch his tongue, Edge didn't even bother. To feel Rydia's arm, her skin against his neck... maybe it was a good thing that he hardly could move, right now it didn't feel like a threat anymore, more of a blessing that had given him some time with Rydia. And if he had been able to use his arms properly, he could have embraced her without considering it. But now he couldn't, and it was plain torture even though he knew that it perhaps was just as well.
It had been so much easier to fight for the worlds future. Good-Evil, live-die, victory-Apocalypse. Simple. But this? It was so complicated, a mess of thoughts, feelings and secret wishes. It made him want to scream.
The bottle was empty, and Rydia removed it from his lips. Knowing her arm soon would leave him too, Edge had to clamp his teeth.
"Do you feel anything?" she asked, not moving away yet.
"The usual warmth and all that..."
Potions and antidotes seemed to feel much the same whatever they mended. First there was a cooling feeling as they ran through the throat, but as they reached the stomach a warm feeling began to work its way through the whole body.
Edge wasn't tired anymore, but that had nothing to do with the antidote. The poison's drowsiness hadn't had a single chance against the bitterness that the slip of his tongue had given birth to. He still felt like an idiot.
Rydia looked down at him as he closed his eyes and waited for the antidote to do its work. He somehow still seemed miserable.
Edge, married?
Rydia didn't want to think about it, but she imagined a timid, slender Eblanian woman with long, black hair. Someone he could rest by, someone that embraced him whenever he was tired and troubled after a hard day ruling the rebuilding country of Eblan. Someone that shut the door and locked it for Rydia, never allowing her to see Edge again.
Rydia's eyes burned for a second, then she forced it back. There was no use to cry like a baby. When Edge got married he got married, and she couldn't exactly ask him not to just to save their friendship.
'Friendship here and there... pha!'
'Shut up. You're not making me feel any better,' Rydia bitterly thought.
'I'm not here to make you feel better,' the secret part of her said, 'I'm trying to help you into making it yourself. Dear, dear, just look at him...'
Edge had never looked vulnerable for all the time she had known him. He had always been like an embodiment of power, reminding of an armed tornado as he attacked whatever kind of monsters he and the others had faced. But as he laid there now, looking as if he slept, he seemed somehow broken. His head was still resting on her arm.
'I'm giving him support now...' Rydia thought with a tight throat, 'somebody will do it after me...'
She had come to Cecil's and Rosa's wedding from the world of Espers, all the time wondering in which world she would choose to stay later on. She had no real home among the humans, even though she had friends in almost every town up in the sun. But it wasn't the same as a home; she had that in the land where Leviathan and Asura ruled. Of course she could go between the worlds anytime, but she had to find out where she wanted to dwell most of the time. The esperworld seemed like a natural pick, but something told her that wasn't right. Even though she was loved by every monster and all of them wanted her to stay with them, yet... she was a human, not an esper. No matter how much she loved the monsters too, they just... there wasn't anything wrong with them, she just... couldn't explain it.
Edge suddenly frowned and slowly shook his head. Instinctively Rydia put her hand on his forehead, subconsciously remembering Asura's warning about fever. And so it was. Edge was burning from inside. As he opened his eyes, they had an eerily, feverish glimmer.
"Shh, don't try to speak," Rydia mumbled, "I'll help you."
She removed her arm from his neck and sat up, placing her towel on the sand.
"Powers of water, I bid thee to lend me thy power... send me coldness."
As she pointed at the towel, a small, blue stream left her finger and turned into an icicle. Rydia broke it in two pieces and put them beside each other. Then she made a package of the towel and placed it on Edge's hot forehead.
Edge felt as if his whole body was made of red hot iron. His numbing mind tried to keep above the paralyzing tentacles that tried to snare it, fighting to keep him away from unconsciousness. He vaguely remembered that he had felt like this once before, when he was twelve years old. Then he had gotten such a fever too, so grave that everyone had feared the worst and even prepared for the funeral. His parents had been sitting by his side all the time as he had been twisting and screaming in nightmares. His parents...
The memory always brought agony. And now, with the fever trying to engulf him, it was almost unbearable. Edge's eyes widened and he gasped in inner pain. Rydia's cool hand came to his scorching cheek, and he blinked at her touch.
"It'll be alright," she softly whispered, "I promise, you'll be fine..."
He could hardly speak, the tongue was so hard to control.
"Shh..." she mumbled, but the whispering was trembling.
Rydia bit heer lower lip, hoping that her own worries didn't show. She hadn't been this afraid since that horrible day when her mother had screamed and fallen to the ground, never to rise again. No! Not again! She couldn't bear to loose Edge too!
"Good grief..." she harshly whispered before she could stop herself, "Edge, don't die!"
Don't die, don't die, don't die, don't die... don't... please!
"Ry-Rydia... don't worry..." Edge harshly whispered.
Shaking, he managed to reach up and touch her cheek with his fingertips. Then the hand fell; he had no strength now, even though the antidote had worked on his numbness.
"I won't die... I promise..." he whispered and fell into an uneasy slumber.
Rydia sat like a statue for a while, watching him turn his head and mutter as he dreamt. Her hand was on her cheek, where the memory of his touch still remained.
'That's better...' the noisy part of her mind softly said.
She didn't find it irritating anymore. She hardly heard it. She didn't feel the wind in her hair or the sun on her skin. She only felt that simple touch and watched Edge's struggle against the fever.
Don't die.
I won't. I promise.
Please keep what you promised.
His face was twisted in agony of whatever horrors his tortured mind created as he slept. And Rydia could only watch, helpless. For a while she wondered if the sylphs maybe could help, but figured that they had no such power. The fever was the product of the antidote's war against the poison, therefore it couldn't be healed. It had to fade away by itself, there was no other way. She could only wait and pray for that he would survive.
Edge had no idea how long time he slept, but to him it felt like an eternity. Again and again he saw his parents die; the worst thing that he ever had experienced was displayed in his twitching mind over and over again. They ran their claws through their cursed bodies, strangled each other... Rubicant killed them a couple of times too. Then in the final nightmare, Zeromus stood before Edge with a sword in his claws.
"Take your sword, Your Majesty," the demon screeched, "I command you to follow my orders and sacrifice either your mother or father to honor me!"
Edge tried to scream in rage, but he couldn't control his own body. He just took the sword and turned around. His parents stood there, watching him calmly. They weren't monsters this time, instead the man and woman that he had known and missed for so long.
"Kill me," his father said, "I can't live without your mother."
"No, kill me," his mother said, "you need your father."
"No," Edge harshly said, "I can't do it!"
The sword fell from his grip.
"Kill us!" his parents screeched and began to transform into monsters; the memory escaped the cage he had surpassed it to.
"No!" he screamed.
"Kill us or we'll kill Rydia!" his mother sneered.
Edge spun around and faced Zeromus again. Battered and seemingly unconscious, Rydia laid by the demon's feet. With a scream of agony, Edge threw himself towards her. But as he almost reached her bloodied hand, Rydia rolled aside and stood up. Before his eyes, she began to laugh manically. Her fingers turned into claws while her green clothes melted into her skin, which was turning into green scales. She turned to a monster... even more horrid than his mother and father...
"Look at me!" she screeched, "Lugae got me too! Am I not beautiful, Edge? I always wanted to be an esper, but this is just as wondrous!"
He backed away in terror, but she leaped forward and knocked him down on the cold ground. He stared up into the yellowish lizard-eyes that drifted above him. They blinked, and suddenly Rydia's warmly green eyes were there instead, filled with pain.
"Help me, Edge..." she whispered, "help... they stole my humanity... please help me... you have to..."
With a scream of terror he sat up, eyes wide open in fear. The cold towel fell down on his knees.
Rydia's arms caught him as he was about to fall back.
"Shh, shh... I'm right here..." she whispered, "it was just a dream..."
Edge was gulping for air. Rydia carefully helped him to lay back and put the cool towel in his forehead again.
"It's alright," she mumbled and brushed a drop of sweat from his cheek, "just a dream... do you feel any better?"
"Don't know..." he harshly whispered.
His heart was a pounding lump of pain in his chest, with every beat filling his body with arrows.
"Don't strain yourself," she kindly told him.
"I have to..." he muttered, "please, if I should die here..."
"You won't!" she furiously interrupted.
He tried to remember how to force his lips into a small, encouraging smile.
"No, I hope I won't," he whispered, "but if I do... please promise me you'll take care of Eblan for me..."
She stared at him.
"Wh-what?" she stuttered.
"You're the only one I trust that much," he muttered, "please, Rydia..."
For a moment longer she just stared down at him, disbelieving. Then she gravely nodded.
"Alright Edge, I promise I would do anything I can. But you won't die, you promised me that earlier."
"I'll try my best," he whispered and managed to produce the shadow of a smile.
He vaguely noticed the sky above her head. It was slightly purple. Had he been sleeping for a whole day? And Rydia had been watching him...? If he hadn't been so tired, the realization had filled him with a dancing feeling of tenderness.
The ground was so hard and cold... he was cold all over. So cold that it hurt...
He tried to breath, and the chilling air cut through his lunges.
"Rydia... so c-cold..." he whispered, shivering.
She tore the towel from his forehead, putting her hand on his cheek. He felt just as warm as before, but it was only the outer part of him...
If only she'd had a blanket, anything better than the towel! She hurriedly got rid of the fourth generation of icicles and dried the piece of cloth with a fire-spell. Then she spread the towel over Edge's shivering body, knowing it wasn't going to help much.
His breath was so terribly trembling and sharp... she felt helpless like never before.
'Mother,' she desperately thought, 'what can I do?'
But her mother wasn't there to help. No one was. She just had to help Edge by herself. His skin felt cold too now... she had to do something to keep him warm. There was no logs around that the waves had brought in, so she couldn't lit a fire. A magical flame wouldn't burn longer than any normal one without something to eat.
Maybe if... but... could she do that? It didn't matter, she had no choice.
Rydia took a deep breath. Then she lay down beside Edge and carefully moved in her arm under his neck again. He turned his head at her in tired surprise, almost too dizzy to realize what kind of thing she did to help him.
"It's alright," Rydia mumbled, not certain if she tried to excuse herself or calm him, "it's only me."
She placed her right arm over his chest, putting as little weight in it as possible. Then she moved as close to Edge as she could, lying by his side and offering him the warmth of her own body. He looked at her through the mist of fever and harshly whispered her name.
"Everything will be fine," she mumbled, "I promise."
He managed to move his lips into a weak smile. Rydia looked into his feverish eyes and tried to ignore that she felt that strange trembling in her chest again as she lay there by his side, holding him tightly.
A few stars looked down at the two small humans there they laid in quiet caring.
It was getting colder for every minute that passed, but Rydia only thought about keeping Edge warm, not about her own shivering. Then suddenly, just when her teeth began to chatter, she heard somebody's distant voice. Somebody was yelling her and Edge's names high above, on the cliffs. With a rock leaving her heart, she hurriedly sat up. There were lights up there, torches that moved around, searching. More voices shouted.
"Down here!" she called, "powers of fire..."
There was a victorious shout as the flame down on the beach was spotted, and the torches assembled to a line of sparks by the cliff's edge.
"Are you alright?" Yang's voice called down.
"Edge has got fever," Rydia shouted, "he need help! Could you throw down a blanket or something?"
"Wait, my friend, I'm coming..."
"Be careful!"
But she knew that Yang didn't need to hear that. He was the kind of man who didn't need any eyes to climb down a cliff. It didn't take him very long either. Rydia was so relieved that she had to hug him in the light of the torch he had brought down.
"Don't worry, Rydia," Yang warmly said, "you've done well, I'm sure... you go back to Edge for the moment, I will unpack a tent."
He ran the torch down into the sand so that it could stand by itself while he dug around in his magical backpack. Rydia sat down by Edge's side and carefully put her hand on his cheek. He was half unconscious now, didn't seem to know what was happening.
Yang brought a stretcher from his sack, and carefully he and Rydia moved Edge over on it, away from the cold ground. Then the king of Fabul kept his promise about a tent. After putting that up and carrying the stretcher inside, Rydia heavily sat down on the ground and took a relieved breath.
"I was so worried about him, Yang," she sighed, "I was sure he was going to leave..."
"It will be alright now, Rydia," the karate-master kindly said, "now that His Majesty is above the coldness, I am sure that his strong body will face no more problems."
Rydia looked up and smiled. It was so heavenly calming to hear someone else say that again...
"Rydia..." Edge whispered, stuttering.
His hand fumbled and fell to the ground, searching her blindly. She hurried over to him and took the hand, putting it back by his side.
"I'm here, don't worry..." she softly mumbled.
Yang watched the young king and the just as young woman, and a small, warm smiled tickled the lips of the great warrior.
Rydia didn't leave Edge for the whole night, just waved away Yang's suggestion about sleeping a little.
"No, it was my fault he ended up like this," she told her older friend, "I can't leave him; he might need me."
"I understand," Yang nodded at that, and didn't insist.

Part 3

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