by Frodo

Chapter 1: The Heart of Darkness--Lemon

It's cold here. So cold. So very cold. Is this what death is like? But I'm not dead, I don't think. I couldn't kill myself before, so why should I be dead now? But if I'm not dead where am I?

It's cold and empty here. I can't see anything. Am I blind? I remember seeing things, though. There was green grass, trees, the blue sky, birds singing, blood...

Blood. I don't want to think about that. It ******** memories that I can almost remember, and they are disturbing. I don't want to think about that again. I don't want to remember. I never want to be reminded.

Blood covering me from head to toe. The blood of my victims. Innocents. The Red Baron was a monster. I was the Red Baron. Does that make me a monster? I will never be able to wash my hands free of this blood, never.

It's not my fault! I was possessed. I had no control over my actions! Leave me alone, please. I want to spend my death in peace.

But, I'm not dead. I know I'm not. I remember grappling with King Galam, forcing him through the hole, resealing the evil he had released. Bowie was there. Bowie, where are you? I need your help again!

He can't hear me. No one can hear me. Where am I? Where is everyone else? Why am I here, alone? I would have gone with them. But I had to come here. But where is here?

It's dark and cold here. Is this the Dark Realm where they sealed Zeon? Is that where I am? I don't know. It's cold here, cold. I'm cold. I'm freezing to death. Is this what Zeon went through? And if I'm here, that means King Galam is here too, right? Where is he? Is he sane again? Or is he still Zeon's creature?

So many questions. I don't have any answers. There are no answers that I can give. Sir Astral, I need you. You always had the answers. Bowie depended on you. Will you help me now? Can you help me?

He can't hear me. No one can hear me. I'm cut off from humanity, stuck here in this Dark Realm. They can't help me. I'm stuck here. There's no way out. No way out. Why did I come here? Why did I give up my life? Why couldn't Bowie have done it? Why not Astral? Why not Peter, or Kazin, or Sarah, or Rick, or Jaro, or Taya, or Claude? Why was it me out of all of us? Why was it me?

I had to pay for my sins, though. I couldn't die. I'm not dead now. I had to pay. I had to come here. It was my punishment. My punishment. Why do I deserve being punished? I wasn't the one who killed all those people. It was the Red Baron. I couldn't stop him. I was possessed. It isn't fair. I don't deserve to die. I deserve to live. I'm dying here. I know it. It's so cold. I'm going to freeze to death. I can't see. Help me, someone! Anyone! Help me!

They can't hear me. No one can hear me. I'm all alone. I'm here, in the heart of the darkness. I'm alone. There's no one else. I'm here. They're out there. They're alive. I'm dead. I'm dead. I'm dead. I'm dead. I wanted to die, but I don't now. I want to live. I don't want to be here. I don't want to be dead.

I'm not dead. I can't die. But I'm not alive here, either. Nothing is. I just exist. I'm not dead. I'm not dead. I'm not dead.

I'm going crazy. I can't help myself. I'm crazy. I'm not sane. I'm insane. It's their fault I'm like this. It's their fault I'm not alive. It's the rat's fault. He unleashed Zeon. If it wasn't for him, I'd be alive. It's Slade's fault. Not mine. Punish him. Don't punish me. Punish Slade.

Why me? What did I do? It wasn't my fault. I'm not guilty, I tell you. I'm Lemon, I'm not the Red Baron. Don't blame me, blame him. It's not my fault. I'm not guilty. He's the guilty one, not me. Don't leave me here. You've got to help me. Can you hear me? Can anyone hear me?

They can't hear. I'm all alone. Alone. I don't want to be alone. What did I do to deserve to be alone. It's Volcananon's fault. His and Mitula's. If they would have helped. They could have destroyed Zeon. Then I wouldn't be here. They call themselves gods? They didn't do anything. Why am I suffering for their lack of action? Why me? Why not Slade? He unleashed Zeon. He stole the Jewels. Not me. I didn't do anything.

There's the memories of blood again. Why won't they leave me alone. I don't want to remember. I don't want to be Red Baron anymore. Do you hear me? I don't want to be Red Baron. I won't kill for the joy of killing. I won't become that bloodthirsty demon again. Do you hear me? I won't! I won't! I don't want to remember what I've done. Isn't it enough that I'm here?

Don't remind me! I don't want to remember. No! Not that! Don't do that! I don't want to remember what I did. I don't! No, leave me alone. Go away. Leave me alone. Just leave me alone. Go away. I'm already in enough torment. I don't need that kind of mental anguish. Go away I said! Leave me alone. I don't want to be Red Baron anymore! He's dead. Bowie killed him!

I don't want to be Red Bar... gaauuuu....

Chapter 2: The Kiss--Bowie

Oh god, I'm scared. I don't want to be this forward. I don't know if I can stop myself once I start. I don't want to do that. I don't want to. She's so pure. I don't want to defile her with my darkness.

There is darkness in my heart, I know. I couldn't have born the Jewel of Evil that long and come out unscathed. It's growing, festering, like a tumor. It's growing daily.

I don't want to be like Oddler. But I don't want him to be like me, either. He wanted to be reborn like me. But that isn't what he really wants. I have all those deaths on my conscience. I even killed him. And he was my friend. I didn't want to, but I had to. I had to stop Zeon. He would have destroyed everything.

Oddler shouldn't have gotten in the way. I shouldn't have left him with Creed. I couldn't trust Creed. He used to be a Greater Devil. I shouldn't have trusted him. He corrupted Oddler, turned him into Oddeye. He turned my friend against me. It's his fault.

No. It's not. Oddler always was Oddeye. I have to admit that. He was my friend, but he was also my enemy. He always was. It's not my fault, or Creed's, or anyone else's that things ended up that way.

Then why is my conscience always troubling me? It's because of the darkness in my heart, I know. The darkness. Will I end up like Oddler? I hope not. If I do, I hope they kill me. I don't want to be like him, or Lemon. I'm turning out to be like Lemon. I have all these deaths on my conscience, and I'll never be allowed to forget.

I want to forget. I want to forget ever so badly. I don't want to remember. I don't want too. I need to forget. I need to get on with my life. I can't live in the past forever.

I don't want to do this. I don't want to kiss her. She's the princess. I'm a nothing. Oh sure, I beat Zeon, but that was luck. I couldn't have done it without Peter and the others. Without Luke, or Kiwi, or Chaz, or Sarah, or Karna, or Frayja. Without them I'm nothing. I couldn't have done anything if it wasn't for them.

I'm scared. I'm afraid of what's going to happen. What if she doesn't remember me? What if she resents this? I don't want to kiss Elis. She's the princess. I don't have any right to kiss her.

I love her, though. I've always loved her, from the first moment I saw her. I love her, but I don't want to hurt her. I'm afraid I'll hurt her. I don't want to do that. I don't want to hurt her. But I know I will. The Jewel of Evil left its mark. Because of the darkness, I'll betray her. I can't trust myself.

I'm climbing the stairs to her room. I don't want to do this. I want to turn and run. I don't want to always be the hero. I'm a person, too. I don't want to be lifted up on a pedestal.

I'm scared of what's going to happen. What if she doesn't wake up? I'll be the fool then. I'll have let everyone down. Is that what I want? They wouldn't think I was the hero then, would they? I don't want to be a hero. I just want to be a normal person. Heroes can't live a normal life. I don't want to be a hero.

I'm opening the door to her room. My hand's shaking. I can't stop it. I'm scared. I don't want to do this, but I have to. Someone has to wake her up. I guess that someone is me. But why does it have to be me? Why can't it be Chester, or Jaha, or Rhode, or Elric? Why me? Why? I'm not that special. I'm not a hero, I know it. I'm not a hero, so why do they treat me like one? I don't want to be treated like one. I want to be a normal person. I'm not a hero! I'm not.

I'm standing over her bed. She looks so beautiful. I want to touch her, to have my way with her, but I can't. She's a princess. I don't deserve even to kiss her. I don't want to do this. I'm scared. I'm more afraid of this than I was of fighting Zeon. Why does it have to be me? Why me?

I'm bending over. I'm about to kiss her. I don't want her to wake up. I don't want to be a hero. My **** are on hers. I'm kissing her. Her eyes are opening. She's awake.

I only hope I've done the right thing. I don't want to hurt her.

Chapter 3: No Right of Hope--Kazin

I didn't do anything. I'm a failure. Sir Hawel shouldn't have spent all that time teaching me. When it mattered most, I couldn't do anything. I'm a failure. A failure.

I couldn't help Bowie. He needed me, and I couldn't help him. I'm no Wizard. I'm a failure. I was out of Magic. I couldn't help Bowie. I couldn't help Bowie. Zeon almost killed him, and I could just stand there and watch.

I was out of Magic. There was nothing else I could do. It's not my fault. It's not my fault. There was nothing I could do about it. I defeated those other monsters. I helped Bowie kill them.

But I couldn't do anything about Zeon. Chaz could. So could Tyrin. And Taya. But I couldn't there was nothing I could do. I was out of Magic. I'm a failure. I should have helped. But what could I do? What? There was nothing. Without my Magic, I'm a weakling. I couldn't have hurt Zeon with my staff. I would have only gotten killed.

But I would have died a hero. I would have sacrificed my life for a cause, like Lemon did. I envy him. Lemon's the lucky one. He doesn't have to live with guilt, like I do. He's dead. He's the lucky one. I'm not. I have all this guilt to live with.

If only I had the Right of Hope. I could have done something then. I could have made a difference. I knew it existed, but I couldn't bring myself to find it. I hesitated. I shouldn't have done that. I should have searched for it. I'm sure that with Bowie's help I would have found it. We could have used it. We needed it so badly.

Bowie was hurt, and Sarah, Sheela, and Karna were out of Magic. Frayja only had enough Magic left to cast a Heal Level 1. We'd already used all the Healing Water we'd found, and there were pitifully few healing herbs left. Tyrin had already used the ***** Tear so he could cast more Neptune spells. Chaz was busy healing the wounded after he ran out of Magic to cast Freeze. And I stood there. While my friends were battling and dying, I stood there doing nothing.

It was luck that saved us. It was luck that gave Bowie the strength he needed to strike the final ***** It was luck that let the Force Sword destroy Zeon. And I stood there, doing nothing.

I can't live with the shame. If I had told the others about the Right of Hope, if I had made them search for it, things would have gone better for us. Sure we won, but just barely. The Right of Hope would have given us the Magic we needed to cast more spells. Unlike the ***** Tear, it would completely restore all of our Magic. But we didn't have it, because of me.

I can't live with this guilt. It's painful. I'm always shutting others out, especially Sarah. She can't love me. It's inconceivable. I don't love myself. There's nothing to love. There's just a coward who's unsure of himself.

I should have come back here to Sir Hawel's house sooner. Surely it says where to find the Right of Hope in one of these books. I'm going to find it, because next time, if there is a next time, I won't be caught unprepared.

Next time, I won't have to live with guilt.

Chapter 4: From the Ashes--Peter

I'm a phoenix. That means I can't die. I always rise from my ashes. That's a good thing, right? I mean, no one wants to die, do they? We all want to live. Life is want people want. Death is what we're supposed to fear.

Then why do I want to die?

I'm the last of my kind. Somehow, they died. They're the lucky ones. They're not all alone, the sole survivor of their race. They don't have to live from day to day, knowing no one like them. Sure, Luke is my friend. But he's a birdman. There's a big difference between birdmen and phoenixes. There are others like him. There are no others like me.

Am I just supposed to live my life serving Volcananon? There's got to be more to life than that. I envy Bowie, he has Elis. He has someone he genuinely cares about, someone who he can give up his life for. Me? I've got an impassive god.

I know I shouldn't feel sorry for myself, but I can't help it. Life goes on drearily from day to day for me. There's nothing to look forward to at the start of a new day. There's no reason for me to go on living. I want to die, but I can't.

Since Bowie and I defeated Zeon, I don't have any purpose anymore. I'm just an empty shell of the person I was. I want to die. I don't want to live.

I'm jealous of Luke and Bowie and the others. Sure, they're my friends, so I shouldn't be jealous of them. But they can die. They can die. They can do what I want to do so badly.

They have friends and companions of their own kind, too. Luke has Screech. Kazin has Sarah. Bowie has Elis. Bowie has Elis, someone he loves. He's lucky. He always was lucky. He's the big hero now. I'm just Peter, companion of Bowie. I'm not Peter the Hero.

Why should Bowie be the Hero? He couldn't have done it without me. By himself he would have failed. He needed someone strong like me to depend on. He needed me. I know he did. He wouldn't have one without me. So why does he get all the glory?

Why am I second to him? Why?

Why do I even go on living?

I don't know the answer to the first question, but I do know the answer to the last. I go on living because I am unable to die. I can't die. I can't do what everyone else I know can do. I can't die. I can't end my life.

I've tried. I really have. I killed myself several times. But each time, I rose from the ashes again. Why do I have to have this curse? I'm not a vampire. I'm a phoenix. There's a difference. Vampires are evil. I'm not, am I?

Sure I'm jealous. But that doesn't make me evil, does it?

I don't know anymore. I really don't. I wish I knew. I wish I had the answers to half of my questions. But I don't. I have to live with it. I wish I didn't, but I do. I can't do what I want to do and die. I just can't.

Why not, though? The other phoenixes did. If they can die, why can't I? Maybe I should ask Mitula. She'd tell me more than Volcananon would. She might not be able to tell me everything, but she'd tell me all that she knew. Or everything that Volcananon would allow her to tell me.

Volcananon looms up everywhere in my existence. Why? What am I supposed to be, his personal lackey? I don't want to live my life serving him. I want to die. I don't want to live, period, but I have to. And because I do, I don't want to live life the way I'm currently living it.

I want to see Bowie again, to tell him how lucky he is, but Volcananon wouldn't let me. He thinks we should leave the ground dwellers alone. I wish he was more like Mitula. Mitula's so much more understanding. I guess that's the difference between gods and goddesses.

Why do things have to be the way they are, though? Why can't I join the other phoenixes? That's all I want to do. I don't want to be alone anymore. I don't like being one of a kind. It's too lonely. I want to know others like me, others I can talk to, pour my heart out to. But there's no one like that.

I can't even remember any other phoenixes. What if I'm the only one? What if everything I've been told all my life is a lie? I couldn't stand that. I don't want to be the only phoenix. But I am. The others, if there are others, are dead. I'm the only one left.

So what am I going to do? I really don't know what I should do, but I know what I will do.

I'll rise from the ashes. I'll live, and I'll wait, and someday, maybe someday, I'll die.

Chapter 5: Mission Completed--Zynk

I've done what I was designed to do Master. I've accomplished my mission. There's no evil left in the world to threaten Rune. Master? Master, where are you? Why won't you answer me? Master?

I've done what you wanted. What should I do now? There's nothing in my programming about what I'm to do after my prime directive is accomplished. Master, why won't you tell me what to do?

Zeon's dead. So are Dark Dragon and Darksol. Adam took care of them. Good old Adam. He took care of the danger in Rune. I saved Paramecia.

What do I do now, though? There's nothing in my programming. There's nothing to tell me what to do. Master, are you listening? Why won't you help me, Master?

I've accomplished my mission. Like I said, Zeon's dead. Now what? I don't know what to do. My programming doesn't say anything about this. There aren't any Greater Devils left. They're all gone. Bowie killed the last of them. I helped him. That's what I was supposed to do, right Master?

Zeon's dead. There's nothing left to do. We've won, Master. The Ancients won, right? We've beaten the Devils. There aren't any left.

Master? Master? Master! Where are you? Don't leave me alone, Master! I can't survive without you. I'm not programmed to. I don't know what to do now. My prime directive is accomplished! What do I do next?

Master! Master! Answer me, Master! Why won't you answer? You never failed to answer before. I did what you programmed me to do. I protected the innocent.

Master, are you... dead? Please don't tell me you are. Master, answer me! I need you, Master. You can't be dead!

Master's dead. I know he is. He would answer if he wasn't. But what I am supposed to do without him? My programming doesn't say. I can't act against my programming. I can't know what to do unless my programming tells me what to do. I can't do anything without my programming.

What would Master want me to do? I don't know. I don't think he wanted to make me. I had to bypass a lot of directives to fight. But my programming said to do that if I had to. Master wouldn't have put that in there if he didn't want me to be used as a weapon. So I'm not supposed to fight anymore, right?

I wish Master was here. He would know what to do. But he must have died a lone time ago. I haven't seen him since he made Adam. That was a long time ago. Dark Dragon must have destroyed him. He destroyed a lot of the Ancients, before they sealed him away.

What am I supposed to do now, though? I don't know what to do without Master to upgrade my programming. I'm a machine. I'm not supposed to think for myself. I'm supposed to do what I'm programmed to do. I can't go against my programming. I can't act without my programming telling me what to do.

I'm not programmed to do anything after I accomplish my prime directive. So I should be here anymore if my mission is accomplished, right? Now I know what Master wanted me to do. I know what to do.

Mission accomplished. Activating self destruct sequence. 5...4...3...2...1...