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Author's note: This fic stands well enough on its own (on a significantly more original note from my first one), for those who have gotten past chapter one of the game, at any rate. But it would hold just a little more meaning if you've at least read the second part of my first fic. i know i made very lousy use of the minitaurus' attack methods, and i hope all minitaurus fans out there will forgive me for that. Thanks for comin! ~xiaol i
TIME WITHOUT YOU
by Xiao Li
The echo of Ramza's clear voice rang through the ruined fort, heavy with a despair darker than the torrent which poured from the flashing sky.
He couldn't shout anymore. The name he had been calli ng brought a stab of pain every time it escaped his lips. His hands hung at his sides, torn and bloodied from hours of shifting through the rubble.
Still his heart called out. He let it writhe with the pain his tired body could not respond to. Dren ched in the downpour, his flaxen hair traced shining rivulets down his fair face.
Ramza didn't flinch as a crumbling pillar of rock exploded in a brilliant flash of light some metres to his left. The bolt clove all the way into the ground, tearing a crazed pattern into the flagstones around his feet.
Beautiful eyes reddened by the tears and the rain blinked once, slowly, and Ramza marveled at the cracked earth and how it looked so much like how he was feeling.
Someone threw a warm bl anket over his shoulders, and he finally began to take notice of the cold. It was Heinline there beside him, with one of those water-proofed cloaks on. He'd left his equipment behind, and without the bulk of the pack the already diminutive chemist looked even smaller. Ramza turned to him, a helpless look in his eyes. Heinline flung a second cloak over the young noble. He placed a hand on Ramza's shoulder, and led him from the devastated fort. His own fingers were taped in bandages.
"Do you think he's still alive, Heinline?" Ramza said softly.
" If he is, we'll find him," was Heinline's confident reply.
Behind them, several bolts of lightning struck the ground simultaneously, tearing at the broken fort like...like carrion beasts into a corpse.
Ramza and Heinline turned sharply at the unnatural display, half-expectant, completely disbelieving as they stared in horror at the hulking shadow which had appeared amongst the new ruin. Electricity crackled red on flame-coloured fur, and the monster advanced toward them at a frightening pace.
They drew their weapons, Ramza's sword handle immediately staining red from the raw wounds in his hand. Heinline waved his new mithril dagger about unce rtainly.
"What on earth would a minitaurus be doing in these parts?" Ramza barely heard the chemist as they skidded down the slope, away from the dangerous--and for some reason, very angry-- creature. A red chocobo also topped the rise, followed by a goblin, which promptly fell over with a gurgle ( as though it could make any other noise ), a black quarrel protruding from its throat.
"I see you're needing a hand, Ramza," Slader grinned and removed his crossbow from the no ble's shoulder, where he'd propped it to make the shot.
"Or a sword," added Dawson, coming up from behind the handsome archer, then he saw the demon. "And Heaven help us all."
The group, now fo ur, fled in all directions as the huge minotaur-like creature came charging into their midst. The monster let out a roar that shook the tensed air, and the hair on its back stood on end, heavy with electric charge.
Seeing the beast pause, Slader wh ipped round, his hands moving too quick to see, and a thick iron shaft buried itself to the fletching into the heaving muscle just to the left of the creature's neck. The monster only grunted in irritation.
Dawson turned to strike also, but was fo rced to dodge a meteor which the chocobo had tried to drop on his head. The flaming rock exploded in a rain of sparks and stars, and the knight sneezed violently under the colourful shower.
"What is it with you birds and tinsel powder?? ?" was about all Dawson could get out before his opponent barreled him down the slope, and the two rolled on yelling and warking and hacking and clawing while angry red feathers flew about in a whirlwind in their wake.
Along the way the mad tu mble picked up a very startled Slader. There being a long way down that slope yet, Ramza and Heinline were again left to face the red bull demon.
"Take him from the back," Ramza suggested as he wiped away the large sweatdrop he'd develope d during the past few seconds.
The chemist edged away quite willingly as the minitaurus swung a heavy paw at Ramza, who side-stepped and received it with his sword, which flew a very, very long way away.
Both Ramza and the minitaurus watche d the weapon spin in the air, and as it clattered to the ground the monster, who towered above Ramza but was hunched over from the strike so that its head was slightly below the noble's, looked up at the youth with what looked to Ramza like a smirk.
A very irritating smirk.
Ramza kicked it in the eye.
The creature howled (of course) and took a wild swing at him, hitting the young noble squarely this time. Ramza rolled over in agony as he hit the ground, clutching a broken arm.
If the youth had cried out, he was drowned out as the minitaurus roared again, Heinline's swift blade having made several bloody lines across its broad back.
The furious creature turned and bore down on its new opponent, slamming the chemist to the ground with huge clawed hands. It reared its head to strike, its dripping maw gaping with a set of yellow teeth, blunt except for the two upper canines.
Heinline's scream died on his lips as the creature brought its head down, stopping just short of hit neck. The monster's head jerked, forced backward by a strong arm wrapped around its horns.
Man, training as a monk does pay off! thought Ramza, and he attempted to break the creature's neck. He failed, of course, and the minitaurus re ached back, hauling the youth from its back (which was stinging real bad right then, darn the little bugger).
As Ramza flipped forward the sharp razors tightened their hold, grazing his scalp and slicing through his hair. Heinline was quick enough to scramble out from under the falling Ramza, and as the minitaurus roared its triumph the chemist slammed his weapon into its throat.
The creature keened its protest as the blade bit through thick hide, severing its windpipe. It flung its head ba ckwards, taking the dagger with it, then slammed its forehead into Heinline's, the force driving the chemist back to the ground, where he lay unmoving.
The pain which jolted through Ramza when he fell made him swoon, and with blurry eyes he watched the mortally wounded minitaurus lurch about in its final death throes. Seconds later it lay still, and the only sound was that of the persistent rain and Heinline's shallow breathing beside him.
The assault of the downpour receded to a patter. The ground was broken and cold where Ramza lay. His ponytail had been completely cropped off by the monster, and shreds of it lay glimmering on the wet stone. Water had collected in a shallow depression in the rock in front of his face, and the clear water i n the tiny pool began to swirl red. At first the young noble thought he was bleeding, then blue and green streaks appeared in the water also.
Vision fading, youth looked to where the colours were leaking into the water. A familiar wooden paintbox l ay upturned amongst the rubble, the rain washing its colours slowly into the pool.
He remembered. He remembered how long Delita had stood staring at that box in the marketplace two years ago, and the delight on Teta's sweet face when they'd given it to her. Hours before, that very face had been pleading, eyes tearing from the pain as she looked at her beloved kin, gentle eyes that asked only one thing...
Instead Delita had cried out for vengeance, against all he though t responsible for his sister's death, against Algus, against Ramza's older brother Zalbag, even...
Ramza's heart ached at the memory of the hate on his friend's face. He didn't want to remember...didn't want to believe...Delita was angry, he didn't mean it. They would come through this together again...
If indeed the commoner youth still lived.
Ramza either couldn't reach the box, or his arm wouldn't move...he couldn't really tell. The night was trying to swallow him, a nd Ramza decided to let it. He breathed out once, softly, before he drifted into oblivion.
All was still on the rocky slope. From the direction of the fort a tired, somewhat charred figure made its way toward the bodies on the ground.
His hair uncharacteristically tousled, Delita stopped before his comrades. He looked at the minitaurus, and let out a low whistle. That was quite a feat, especially since he hadn't been here.
The commoner youth knelt beside the friend he'd known since childhood, whom he'd turned on in his grief and outrage when Teta was killed on the bridge. He picked up Teta's box, and as he tucked it into his shirt he leaned over to Heinline just a while, shifting the chemist's head so he'd stop blowing bubbles in the mud.
"Ramza...I was wrong to blame you, my brother. Forgive me for that, and for what I'm going to do...I need a time without you, without your unjudging acceptance, to find out where I stand in this world, if indeed I have a place..." his voice was hoarse with grief, but calm as the scene around him.
From the ground next to Ramza's fair head Delita picked up a fallen lock of blonde hair. This he put into his belt pouch. He's make a paintbrush f rom it later. The brown-haired youth drew out a small feather the colour of flame, and holding it over Ramza's still form closed his fist around it. The phoenix feather dissolved into shimmering ash, which flowed like liquid fire over the noble's broken b ody.
He would wake soon, but Delita hesitated just a second, eyes fixed on Ramza, branding into his memory the face of his dearest--alright, his only--friend, one last time. Then he turned, and fled into the night, taking a good tumble when he tripped over a snail down the other side of the slope.
Ah yes...Ramza would have to learn to manage without him from now on.
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