What Makes A Hero Chapter 5
"I understand one of your men absconded with a Zodiac Stone." Zalbag said, a dark look in his eyes.
"Yes." Ramza bowed his head. "I thought he was trustworthy. I'm very sorry."
"It's not the monster alone I'm worried about, you know." Ramza looked up, curious. "If it was a single Lucavi Beast, then you and I could just beat the hell out of it like all the others, unless it had another little trick like Adramelk's. What I'm more worried about is if it joins forces with our enemies."
"Why would it do that?"
"Without the Bloody Angel, it doesn't have much hope of domination by itself. So it would need help. We still have eleven of the twelve stones, and I may be able to transform back into Gablazar. I'm not sure how."
"Would you be able to maintain control?" Ramza was concerned.
"I don't know. I seemed to be preoccupied with finding Balbanes before. I'm not sure what I would do if I did lose it."
"Hmm... There's something else that's bothering me too. You're the third person to "return from the dead." Malak was first, and a Temple Knight named Balk was the second. Is it possible that Vormav and the rest of them could come back?"
"Kletian and Rofel didn't have stones." Rad broke in.
"Um... Did anyone actually see Rofel die?" Whitman asked, a worried look in his eyes.
"I wouldn't worry about them right now. Velius is our top priority, and then Delita. But could they come back, Zalbag?" Ramza asked.
"I suppose if I could, they could too. It's a very odd zone they're all in, and I don't remember much about it. I know Dycedarg's never coming back. And I must have wrestled control of the Leo stone away from Vormav somehow. But Draclau, Wiegraf, and Elmdor? I don't know." Zalbag remained silent for a moment. "It won't do to chase shadows now. We need to set about tracking Velius as soon as possible. The one thing I would like to know is, why did this guy take off in the first place?"
"Well..." Ramza grimaced. "I believe it was a political disagreement over a, um, romantic interest of mine." Zalbag just looked at him for a minute. "What?"
"It's about freakin' time!" He smiled, pounding Ramza on the back. "I thought I saw you stealing a glance at Rafa. So, he was a bigot huh?"
"It seems like it. Although, where Velius is concerned, even that may not have been of his own volition."
"I get the feeling you don't like Velius."
"That's the understatement of the year." Ramza smiled thinly. Then he looked up sharply. "If Velius can come back, does that mean Queklain and all those other Zodiac Stone Monsters can come back too?"
Zalbag nodded. "And once there's at least one firmly established here, the other seven can come on in too. I don't know whether they would use the same human hosts as before or not. But if Zalera comes around, I wouldn't be surprised to see Elmdor too."
"I don't think I even want to know what Cancer looks like." Ramza shuddered. "Okay then, we better get tracking Velius as soon as possible."
"I don't think finding him will be too difficult. I think knowing what to do when we find him will be the hard part."
"Killing him came to mind." Ramza smiled openly now.
"Not if you want to save your man." Zalbag shook his head.
"Hmm... I'll know what to do when the time comes. I always have so far. Let's get the chocobos saddled up and move out."
Ramza tossed uneasily in his sleep. Delita, Dycedarg, and Velius were all attacking him at once. But this time, Zalbag was fighting alongside him, beating the crap out of Dycedarg. He tried to concentrate his attack on Delita, but Velius kept blocking his way. Suddenly, out of nowhere, Wiegraf jumped down into the scene, and to Ramza's immense surprise, began attacking Velius.
"What the-?! Wiegraf, why are you-?"
"No time to explain!" Wiegraf shouted, burying his sword into the devil. "Just go for Delita, Ramza!"
"All right, but..."
"Ramza." Someone was shaking him awake.
"Huh?" He wearily opened his eyes. A dark figure was standing over him. He couldn't make out who it was right away. As his eyes adjusted to the darkness, he gasped in surprise. "Rafa?"
"Yes. It's me." She whispered.
"What's going on? What do you want?" He sat up in his sleeping bag.
"Those are two difficult questions to answer. Look, I know you like me. A lot."
"I-" Ramza began to say something, but she cut him off. For some reason, he felt a lot more nervous and apprehensive right now than during almost any battle he'd ever been in.
"Let me finish here. To tell the truth, I like you too. You were willing to help me out when everyone else was turning on me."
His eyes narrowed imperceptibly. "And that's the only reason why-?"
"Don't be ridiculous." She scolded him. "You're also handsome, honest, trustworthy, and kind, among other things. But there's one thing I want to know."
"And that is?"
"How come you never let me in battle? The only time you did, only one lousy goblin was in Sweegy Woods."
"Well, uh... I gotta go with my crew." He stammered.
"Oh come on!" She scolded him again. "How many hundreds of battles did you fight just out in the field? You could have let me in on some."
"You know, battle isn't the fun thing you make it out to be. You should have figured that out from Gablazar."
"It probably isn't, but I still want to experience it for myself. Against normal, defeatable monsters, not some holy stone powered lion."
"You're serious about this?" He still found it a little hard to believe.
"Yes. Just once, but yes."
Ramza sighed, then threw off his sleeping bag and slowly stood up. "All right."
"What? I didn't mean right this minute." She looked up at him, surprised.
"It's something I'd rather be done with as soon as possible." He said as he buckled on his armor.
"Okay..." She seemed a bit taken aback. They had all been surprised already this morning when Ramza had announced that they were going on to Doguola Pass instead of Goland. He had pointed out that the other road would have eventually taken them back to Dorter, and he didn't want the whole long trip to be for nothing. He was just trying to be unpredictable again, as far as she could tell.
Ramza had another reason to go out and look for trouble right this minute. He wanted this battle to be unpleasant enough so that she wouldn't want to do it again. At least, he wanted it to seem that way. He didn't know if he could fake a Meatbone Slash, but he wanted to scare her out of her fascination with battle. She would probably be seeing more soon enough. After walking about half a mile along the ridge, Ramza spotted a soft glow. There were a couple of bombs hovering around not too far off. "You see those bombs down there?" He pointed. She nodded. "Will they do?"
"I suppose." She answered, not exactly sure what to say. Ramza guided her to a postion fairly close to the bombs. The flaming creatures suddenly looked their direction noticing them for the first time. "Eeaaaagghh!" Ramza jumped up shouting, but not too loud, because he didn't want to wake everyone else up. He ran up to the nearest bomb and stabbed into it hard. Rafa didn't notice that he was using a measly javelin instead of his Oberisk. He had that strapped to his back, in case of an emergency, along with the Masamune. The bomb responded by biting him. Ramza staggered backward, as if it had hit him really hard. Rafa seemed to be buying his performance. She warily ran up and whacked the bomb with her rod. Three other bombs surrounded them, biting into them with their red hot flames. Ramza quickly ran up and hit the first one again, and it vanished in a puff of smoke. There really wasn't much strategy. They just double teamed each bomb in turn, even as the bombs double teamed them, until they were all gone. Ramza sat down, breathing hard. He hadn't emerged unscathed, but he was still acting a little. "I... I'm sorry I was so stubborn about that Ramza." Rafa looked at him with concern, although she had probably actually got hit worse. "I just wanted to know what it was like to fight with you, and against monsters instead of people."
"Well now you know." He was still breathing hard. Rafa sat down next to him. Suddenly, the sound of another creature breathing was audible directly behind them. Ramza started to jump back up, but a huge paw with large claws ripped into his armor a second before he could. The sound of the fight had woken up a behemoth that had been sleeping nearby, and it didn't look happy to have woken up. "Oh shit!" Ramza dropped the javelin and quickly drew out the Oberisk, stabbing it into the monster. At least, he thought so. But without the light of the bombs, it was very difficult to tell. In his overzealous stab, he had actually driven his spear straight into the ground. The behemoth merely kicked him away as it clawed at Rafa. She brought up her rod to defend, but the behemoth's strong claws merely broke it in two and cut into her midsection anyway. She sank to her knees, but managed to blast it with Asura.
Ramza charged forward again, making sure to hit the behemoth this time. It roared and brought both claws down on him. Ramza found that he didn't have to fake the Meatbone Slash. Somehow, the behemoth was still standing after that. Ramza couldn't see it very well in the dark. Perhaps it was actually a king behemoth. He backed up to attack from farther away. The behemoth lunged toward him. He jumped to the side, and the beast's teeth cut through his belt. The two other weapons he had taken with him were thrown to the ground. As he landed on his stomach, he let go of the Oberisk also. Still woozy, he reached for the nearest weapon. The behemoth clawed at him again, but he managed to dodge. That would be the last thing it did, Ramza was sure of it. He brought the spear down hard. The behemoth roared in pain, but it still stood. Looking dumbly at the weapon he had in his hand, Ramza realized he had hit it with the javelin! He began to curse as the behemoth jumped toward him, its jaws open wide.
Suddenly, the monster's head exploded in a shower of blood. The behemoth's body landed on top of Ramza, pinning him to the dirt. Looking up, he saw Mustadio stood there, the barrel of his gun smoking. "Ramza, have you completely lost what was left of your mind?" He demanded.
"I... It's quite possible." He sighed, then struggled out from under the thing.
"It's my fault, really." Rafa bowed, partly in guilt, partly to try to staunch the flow of blood from her wound.
Mustadio just shook his head at them. "I don't know what you two thought you were doing. I don't see any other monsters around here, so I'll leave you to stagger back to camp at your liesure." With that, he holstered his gun and walked off.
"What was that test about Rafa?" Ramza sat down on the grass, wincing in pain. "Because I'm pretty sure that was some kind of test on your part."
"I'm not exactly sure." She sat next to him. "I suppose I was trying to reassure myself that you weren't just using me." She silenced his unspoken protest. "No, I don't have any idea what you would use me for. I think I'm even more paranoid than you."
"I am using you, in a way..." She looked at him sharply. "To fill my need for a companion. I hope you don't mind." He found that his armor was badly dented, so he began to unbuckle it.
"Not at all." She smiled at him now, but then winced. "I don't think I can make it back to the camp right now."
"Me neither." Ramza grunted as he lifted the bulk of his torso armor off of him.
"But it's going to get cold just laying here. Um... Would it bother you if I slept in your arms?"
"I think you already know the answer to that." Ramza lay back on his side, and put his arms around her waist, careful to avoid her wound. Much as he would have liked to savor the moment, he found himself falling asleep in just a few minutes. For once in his life, he didn't have any nightmares.
"Unless you make it to the top, you're only gonna be used, so you're better off dead!" - Gafgarion
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