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The Road To Recovery
by Philip Greaves


"So Kyra, what do you think?", asked Rika.

Kyra bit her lip thoughtfully. Given the circumstances, there was really only one answer.

"It’s all too obvious, isn’t it?", she said sadly. "He’s depressed alright. How did it come by, exactly?"

"Alys’s death hit him badly, you know… Much more than even I realised. During the battle against Dark Force, it was revenge that kept him going. When you went back to Dezolis and everyone pretty much sunk back into routine, we started to go out together as every normal couple." She paused to have a sip of tea. "But then Alys’s birthday came, around two weeks ago. He became very quiet, stayed mostly on his own…Well, you get the picture. I sort of expected this to happen, so I just let him be, asked a few times if he wanted to talk about it. I thought it’d pass, given a couple of days. We went to Krup for a mourning. He asked to be left alone with her for a while, so I did. He stayed there for roughly two hours and then we came back home. He was a bit shaken and cried a lot, but overall, it seemed he’d been able to unload a lot and I thought he was getting better. That was around ten days ago. But since then, it’s…"

" …got worse?"

"Well, yes and no. The crying is less frequent, and he’s talking to me a bit more… But he barely eats, is always in his own world, and I had to make him resign temporarily from the Hunter’s Guild because he narrowly gets rescued in almost every mission. He’s locked Alys’s bedroom and kept the key in a locked chest under our bed. He goes into her room every day and tortures himself about how he couldn’t save her." Rika’s speech became more and more frantic, and tears started to run down her cheeks. "And…and he’s dead inside Kyra, completely dead… Heck, he’s even beyond anger! He hasn’t got any emotions left. His love for me, his hate for Zio, all that’s been drained out of him! He just exists, he’s a walking shell, and…and…and I don’t how much of this I can take!", she finished, and collapsed on Kyra’s shoulder, crying her heart out.

Rika vaguely felt a hot liquid slid down her throat before she jolted up in bed, coughing and spluttering.. She looked around to see Kyra smiling warmly at her.

"Did I pass out? Really?"

"Yep. How are you feeling now, Rika?"

"Exhausted…"

"I figured that one out. Look, you’re doing too much. The whole situation’s got the better of you. You need to rest, O.K? I’ll take care of both of you. Where did Chaz go?"

"I sent him to check up on Demi."

"Right. And…one more question. It’s not a pleasant one, but it has to be asked. You don’t think that Chaz would…"

"No", interrupted Rika firmly. "I told you: he’s beyond any kind of emotion. That’s always one thing I don’t have to worry about", she added bitterly.

"Well I’m glad. I’ll be off to see Hahn now. You try to get some sleep now, or go and see Gryz or something. Just don’t go get drunk, that’s the last thing you need right now. Sleep tight now."

"You realise that they’re both craking up, don’t you?"

"Of course I realised that, Hahn. Chaz is a walking corpse and the whole situation has wrecked Rika’s nerves. She collapsed on my shoulder not half an hour ago."

"She’s had another one, then? That’s her fourth, you know. One yesterday, and two on the day before that."

Kyra buried her head into her hands. "Gosh, this is so hopeless. Chaz can’t stay in this state forever, or Rika will become insane, and then Chaz will accuse himself of the death of the other person most important to him. There has to be something we can do. Have you tried talking to him?

"Me, Gryz, even Saya tried… No result. Me and Rika thought of Rune, but he’s…well Lutz, and besides, he’s probably not the best person when it comes to lift Chaz’s spirits. The only other person would be…"

"Alys, I know…", muttered Kyra sadly.

"…you, actually."

Kyra looked up at Hahn, bewildered. "Oh, come off it, Hahn. If his fiancée didn’t succeed, tell me how I could?"

"Because you’ve always had a special connection with him that not even Rika can have. You’ve always considered him like the kid brother you never had, right?"

"True, but…"

"And", continued Hahn, ignoring Kyra’s but, "he considers you like a caring older sister. You took a liking to each other back on Dezolis immediately, Rika told me so. We both carefully discussed this, you know. Sorry to sound melodramatic here, but in a way, you’re his last hope."

"So no pressure then, right?", said Kyra dryly.

"Exactly. Anyhow, right now, you’re having lunch with Saya and me. After lunch, I’m heading back to the Academy and I suggest that you take care of Rika. You know, try to cheer her up too… And tonight, you can try and crack up Chaz. Oops, wrong choice of word…

They both started to giggle.

"We’re bad, very bad.", laughed Kyra, still grinning.

"Terrible. Look here, Kyra. Chaz and Rika may have made a name for themselves, they may be getting married soon, but in their heart and mind, they’re still kids. Chaz was thrown into the world at Alys’s death and Rika faced the same situation at Seed’s destruction. They need to depend on the adults. Gryz and me, hopefully not so much Raja, but mostly you. You’re the one that connects the most with those two. C’mon, it’s lunchtime."

"Hey, watch it there, kid!"

Sorry…" muttered Chaz Ashley.

That must have been the fifth person that he’d bumped into today. After he’d checked up on Demi, who tried her best to cheer him up, despite the fact that androids have no emotions, Chaz decided to wander around in Kadary for a while, pushing back as much as possible the time when he’d have to head back to Aiedo, where Rika would treat him as a timebomb which was bound to explode at any moment. He wondered why Rika had sent him to Nurvus, as it was precisely the place with the most painful memories, since it had once been under Zio’s Fort, exactly there where…it…had happened. He felt a new surge of tears forming and would probably collapsed right in the middle of Kadary, but for a voice that immediately interrupted his train of thought.

"All praise the mighty Zio! He shall return and deliver only the faithful from this pitful world! All praise the great dark god Zio!"

As if in a hypnotic state, Chaz remembered from a distant past, a past when Alys was still alive, this man who was a fanatic follower of Zio’s cult. And in front of him was this man who worshipped the very evil who had killed Alys. Something in Chaz snapped and incredible hatred swept over him, a hatred comparable to when he had fought Zio for the second time. He lunged at the man’s throat.

"Praise the great Zio! Prai…What the…?

Chaz’s punch got him right in the jaw. The man staggered, but a second blow in the stomach knocked him down. Chaz was upon him, punching this man as hard as he could. He could hear himself yelling, but what, he could not tell. Listening wasn’t important, what mattered was to destroy this man. Standing up, after that the man was now only a crumpled, severly bruised heap on the floor, Chaz took out his titanium sword (no longer having Elysdeon), preparing to strike the terrified wreck on the ground, when a solid pair of arms grabbed Chaz and immobilised him. A deep, authorative voice spoke to the man:

"I strongly suggest that you run as fast as you can…"

"Thank you, kind sir. Be blessed…", stammered the man, getting to his feet.

"Not by your filthy god, I won’t.", snarled the voice. "Now flee, before my grip accidentaly slips…"

No need to be told twice, the man ran away frantically, knocking a few people to the ground on his path. Blood drops fell to the stone ground as he fled. When the man was safely out of reach, Chaz was released. Chaz spun around immediately to see who was the person who’d immobilised him.

In front of him stood a tall man in his midthirties, quite solidly built, with long, floppy brown hair and light grey eyes. He wore a grey mantle and metallic shoulder pads. Thick leather boots and gloves completed his attire. On each side of his mantle was a leather sheather containing what Chaz’s expert eye identified as titanium daggers. The man’s face was contorted with disgust as he watched Zio’s follower run, but softened when he looked back at the young hunter. The patronising look annoyed Chaz a lot.

"Calmed down now, sonny?"

"Why d’you do that? I was about to get him!"

"That’s sort of why I stopped you, isn’t it?"

"What, you’re another one of Zio puppies? O.K, put ‘em up!"

"I am most certainly not. I hate him just as much as you do." He paused for a while, looking hard at Chaz. "Well nope actually, probably not as much as you do, apparently. But I do hate him, promise. But, tell you what. This isn’t the kind of conversation you can have in open Kadary. Come to my place and we’ll talk about it over a drink…Sounds reasonable to you, sonny?"

"Sure, whatever…", said Chaz grumpily.

Chaz followed the man to a house in the lower west part of Kadary. On entering, Chaz realised that the man must have moved in recently and that he was somewhat a foreigner, because the inside furniture and decoration ressembled nothing of the average Motavian home, even for a bachelor.

There was a Dezolis Owl’s stuffed head hung on a wall. An elaborate chemistry set was set up underneath the Owl’s head, as was a telescope facing the skies in a room with a glass roof. An impressive collection of weapons were scattereed around the house’s walls, regrouping axes, swords and daggers.

"So, what you having to drink, sonny? I’m having a smalos myself."

Chaz was surprised. Smalos was the most gut burning drink in all of Motavia. Most people dropped unconscious after one gulp.. The only people that Chaz had seen it considered a normal drink were Alys and the Hunter’s Guild bartender with whom Alys often had a few drinks with a tough job.

Looking around again at the unexpected decoration, Chaz felt compelled to ask:

"Who…What are you…?"

"Brom Rychker’s the name. As for what I am, you’ve got some nerve to ask that kind of question. As far as I can tell, I’m just like you, with a few differences. Unless you have a third arm hidden somewhere, hmm?

Chaz was starting to feel very irratated by Brom’s patronising tone.

"I don’t get it.", he interrupted. "I was about to kill one of Zio’s followers. If you hate Zio, why did you stop me?"

"You were about to kill a human being, needlessly and be labelled as a murderer to be tracked down by Aiedo’s Hunter’s Guild. Was that what you wanted? That guy may well be a Zio follower, a fanatic, but he’s harmless really. A guy gone a bit senile in the head, driven insane by Zio’s preachings. He’s a nutter alright, but a harmless one."

Okay, so you stopped me from killing evil scum. Big deal… Bye now."

Chaz headed for the front door, but Brom’s deep voice stopped him in his tracks.

"I not sure that would be wise. How do I know that you’re not going to finish off what you started?"

"Easy. If you hear screaming, you’ll know that I will have…", replied Chaz tensely.

"That’s the wrong answer, sonny. Why not tell me your troubles? We can talk."

"Great. Just what I need: another "talk"… My girlfriend and all of my friends have had "talks" with me…"

"An outsider’s perspecive may be refreshing, sonny…"

"Stop calling me that! My name is Chaz!"

For a fleeting moment, Brom reminded Chaz of Rune when they had first met in Molcum. Both Brom and Rune were superior in their ways, and both very patronising.

"Right then Chaz, take a seat and tell me all about it."

Chaz looked at the seat offered by Brom. Chaz didn’t like this man very much, but the thought of going back to his overexcited household didn’t please him either. Besides, an outsider’s perspective may well be what he needed… He sat down and took the glass that Brom handed him.

"Was it a really bad idea to have sent him to Nurvus?", asked Rika for around the tenth time.

They were all sat in Rika’s living room in Aiedo. Kyra was making a round of tea for everyone, adding a few drops of smalos in Rika’s cup. Hahn was reading a book on Dezolian flore and fauna and Rika was lying on the couch, with a pocket of ice on the forehead. Even Gryz was there, having taken a bit of timeoff from the reconstruction of Molcum to help Rika. He was currently trying to handle Kyra’s slashers, quite successfully. A brief but tense silence ensured, until Gryz, having caught a slasher, said what none of the others dared:

"Yes Rika, it was a pretty stupid place to send him, actually the worst you could think of, but…"

"Gryz!", exclaimed Kyra and Hahn together.

"But", he continued loudly, speaking over the other two, "if you are sure he’s not about to blow his fuse, then it should be O.K."

"Really Gryz, even Lutz would have been more cheerful…"

"It’s Rune, Kyra…", said Hahn lazily, silently laughing.

Gryz laughed at the joke, then said "Anyway, I only voiced what we all think. Even Rika does, I’m sure."He turned to her, and grinned knowingly. "Right, Rika?" She avoided his gaze, and said sheepishly

"Well yeah, but you’re supposed to say that he’s fine, that it wasn’t a dumb idea, and that everything is as nice as nice can be."

They all laughed and Kyra was glad to see Rika in fairly high spirits, though Kyra was secretly worried where Chaz was. It was way past nightfall, around 2 a.m, and Chaz had been sent to check up on Demi at around noon. The whole operation would have taken a couple of hours at the most, especially since Chaz could use the "Ryuka" technique. She was about to voice her worries once more to Hahn and Gryz when she heard the front door open and close. Soon after, everyone heard Chaz’s boyish voice shout "Rika, I’m back!" and they all sighed with relief, but mixed with surprise. Chaz hadn’t spoken so cheerfully since his depression had started…

When he entered his house, Chaz had expected Rika and Kyra to act like nurses to a highly unstable patient, but he hadn’t expected Hahn and Gryz to be in Aiedo at 2 a.m, and even less for them to react like the girls were.

"All this crowd just for me? Wow, I’m flattered, guys.", he grinned.

Smiling was also something that Chaz hadn’t done in a while. Everyone was staring at him, gobsmacked.

Chaz went directly to Rika, kissed her deeply, and said:

"Look Rika, I realise that I haven’t been quite myself lately and the reasons are pretty obvious, right? But I also realised the pain that I caused you, and I wanted to apologize."

All four of them were staring at Chaz, dumbstruck. Rika was flustered, and managed to stammer:

"Oh w…well, I’m just gla…glad that you’re better, Chaz. You are b…better, aren’t you?"

"Well, the pain’s still there, but I’m healing Rika, I’m healing…", he smiled reassuringly.

"Right guys", cut in Gryz. "I don’t want to be the partypooper here, but I’m sure we’re all wondering how?"

"Ho, that’s a long story Gryz… Better sit down"

He lead them all to the living room, and they all followed him, their mouth wide open, except Rika, who was grinning from ear to ear. They all sat around in a circle, Hahn and Gryz in armchairs, Kyra on the coffee table, Chaz and Rika on the sofa. Chaz put his arm around his fiancée’s shoulders, and gently tugged her to him, with Rika’ head resting on Chaz’s shoulders.

"After having checked up on Demi, I wandered around Kadary, feeling…well, depressed."

"I’m sorry Chaz. I should have never sent you there…"

"It’s not your fault, Rika", he said, ruffling her hair. "You couldn’t know. Anyhow, I was wandering around when I came face to face with that nutter who preached about Zio. Well, you remember him, don’t you?"

"Yeeessss…", said Hahn slowly.

"Well, I’m sorry to say that I probably lost my marbles right then. I jumped on him and beat him up pretty bad. I was actually about to kill him, but…"

"I’m sorry", interrupted Kyra brusquely. "You were abou to KILL him? Should I start to worry again, Chaz?"

"Kyra!", warned Hahn.

"No Kyra, you don’t have to worry. A guy immobilized me and the preacher ran away. The guy who immobilized me was called Brom Rychker."

"Brom Rychker? I’ve heard of him.", said Hahn." Though it’s not his profession, he’s an excellent chemist. He works independently, but he’s been to the Academy a fair amount of times. Tall guy with long brown hair?"

"Yeah. He also had a impressive telescope and a massive weapon collection. Even had a Dezolis Owl’s stuffed head hung on his wall. Know anything else about him, Hahn?"

"No. You seem to know more about him than I do."

"I can’t believe that he has a Dezolis Owl’s head on his wall, like a trophy", muttered Rika. "Disgusting."

"Go easy on him, hon. He did prevent me from becoming a murderer…"

"This is all very sweet and all, but how did this guy help you?", asked Gryz.

"Hard to tell, really. He just had that kind of charisma. Plus, I guess it helps to talk to an outsider. No offense to you lot, and especially not to you Rika, but…well, he allowed me to unload in ways I didn’t even think possible."

"Great, but what kind of advice did this Brom give you?", asked Kyra.

"That’s the strangest part. Pretty much the same stuff that Hahn, Gryz and Rika had already said. He just had that…aura."

There was a small, puzzled silence, that Gryz eventually broke.

"Right", said Gryz. "I don’t know about you lot, but it’s 3 a.m, and I’ve got a town to rebuild, and I’m sure that Hahn has some report or another to work on, so I’m gonna wrap it up and say good night. And Kyra, I suggest you go to bed too, as I’m sure that Chaz and Rika have some catching up to do."

"That’s really none of your buisness, Gryz.", said Rika.

"I meant talking.", replied Gryz.

"No you didn’t.", retorted Rika.

"O.K guys", cut in Hahn. "I’ve got a lot going on at the Academy right now, so I probably won’t be seeing you for a while. Good night all."

"Same here. Rebuilding Molcum is no easy feat. See ya around.", said Gryz, as he followed Hahn through the door.

"I’ll say good night too.", said Kyra, still grinning from the RikaGryz minibattle. "Plus, you do have some catching up to do." She yawned. "Oh gosh, I’m exhausted… See you tomorrow!"

Chaz and Rika fell asleep on the couch, still in each other’s arms.

A week had passed. On a grey and rainy day, Kyra was having another lunch with Hahn back in Krup. It had been quite hectic at the Academy lately, so Hahn was glad to have a nice, quiet lunch with a friend, plus he wanted to know the development in Chaz’s behaviour. He was intrigued by Chaz’s sudden "recovery" and couldn’t really explain it. He was pretty certain tht Kyra felt the same way.

"It’s hard to say, Hahn. He’s still in mourning, that’s easy to see. But he’s less gloomy. There is some crying, but it’s more the "stiff upper lip" tears rather than "The dam is breaking!" ones. Rika’s absolutely fine now too. He’s really been treating her like a queen. They’ve started to go out again. Champagne, romantic dinners… He even took her dancing!", added Kyra, bursting into a laughing fit.

However, Hahn didn’t join in this time. "But this bugs you right?"

"Yes, and I feel terrible about it…", she said, frustrated. "I mean, we should be happy, shouldn’t we? Never mind how and why he’s better, so long he’s better, that’s what I should be feeling. But I don’t Hahn, I really don’t…"

" I spoke to one of the professors at the Academy, Professor Vormas. Asked him if Chaz could be having a "false" recovery. His precise words were "Don’t be paranoid, Hahn my boy. Just be grateful that your friend is feeling better!" I don’t know, is something wrong with us or what? Chaz is back at work, I guess?

"Even if everyone else thinks he’s fine, I’m still worried and I’m not taking any chances. I don’t want him to collapse in the middle of a mission and give a sandworm a free meal. I told him to take another precautionary week off. Right now, he’s with that Rychker guy. Brad, Bris…"

"Brom", prompted Hahn "Look Kyra, all we can do is to keep as close eye on Chaz. That’s the best we can do. Just watch him and make sure he doesn’t do anything stupid."

"Yes boss…"

They ate the rest of the meal in silence.

Over in Kadary, Chaz was having a drink back at Brom Rychker’s house. Brom was having his usual glass of smalos while Chaz was having a simple cup of coffee. Sipping it absentmindely, he looked at the Dezolis Owl head hung on the wall.

"How on earth did you get that Dezolis Owl head, Brom? How did you get to Dezolis?

"As a matter of fact, I come from Dezolis, from the town of Tyler. As you identified the creature, I assume you know where Tyler is?

"Umm, yeah…How did you land on Motavia then?

"I’m a descendant of the Parmanians that landed there when Palma exploded. Space travel technology has been transmitted from generation to gerneration. I plan to stay on Motavia a couple of years, to study the Motavians, then go back, have a family, and continue the family tradition. Got it all figured out, see…" Seeing Chaz’s blank expression, he added "Of course, I don’t run around yelling that I’m from another planet or I’d already be in an asylum…You raised the question, sonny."

Chaz gulped in amazement, then said "I suppose that your research involves that chemistry set over there?"

"Yeah. Motavians are amazing, you know. Probably more than Parmanians. I managed to stay in Molcum for a while before Zio destroyed it, and I learnt a lot. When Molcum was still a town, Motavians were more trusting and far less suspicious…though I can’t really blame them after what they went through… Anyway, I learnt how to create Ashline and the secret of refining Titanium. You can see the result with all the weapons on the walls

"Yeah, I noticed."

"Another drink?"

"Sure, thanks.", said Chaz, amazed.

"Here you go."

"Thanks. So you actually made all these weapons yourselves?

"Sure did. Well, except for my two knives. Present from the blacksmith in Molcum."

"Wow…By the way, this drink tastes funny. What is it?"

"Sleeping potion. Sleep tight, little idiot…"

Almost instantly, Chaz fell on the floor, unconscious. His glass broke and the remains of the sleeping potion poured onto the carpet.

As he headed for the front door, Brom muttered "Well, I wonder if all the Protectors are as stupid as this one. Anyway, it’s time to pick a package… So long for now, Chaz Ashley."

Back in Aiedo, Rika was in an excellent mood. She was attempting for the very first time to cook dinner to celebrate Chaz’s recovery. She was trying very hard to remember the few cooking tips that Kyra had given her, but so far, it wasn’t going very well. The meat was burning, the potatoes were rock hard, and the sauce had turned a strange purple colour… Rika had hardly noticed her total culinary failure and was happily humming a tune that she’d heard in the Hunter’s Guild bar two nights ago. The song was cut short by a knock on the front door, soon followed by a deep voice asking, in a somewhat hurried voice:

"Excuse me, are you Rika?"

She glanced at the man, and, not recognizing him, she turned off the cooker and faced him. She saw a tall man, with long brown hair, wearing a grey mantle.

"Yup, that’s me. You must be…Brom Rychker, right?"

"Has Chaz told you about me then?", he asked, smiling. "Such a warm smile", thought Rika.

"Oh yes, he has. He’s very fond of you, you know?"

"Well, I’m fond of him too. That’s kind of why I came to see you, Rika."

"Why? Has something happened to Chaz?", she asked worringly.

"Yeah…I’m afraid so. We were having a walk around Kadary, he seemed completely fine, but then he muttered something, took out his sword, and ran into that church that’s in the back of town. He hasn’t came out since and I’ve heard screams. I’ve tried to talk to him, but he sends a laser to anyone approaching. I thought you’d have more success."

"Oh gosh, oh gosh… I’ll come right away. Come on!"

Great, I’m relieved… Oh, and by the way…?

"Yes?"

"Nafoi!"

Rika was flung backwards amnd her head banged against the cooker. She fell unconscious on the floor. Brom picked her up and headed towards the door. A pair of slashers flew through the air that he narrowly dodged. Kyra was standing in the doorway, ready to strike again, as she caught her slashers.

"Let go of Rika immediately, Rychker!"

"Well, well, well…Another Protector. Blue hair, slashers…You must be Kyra Tierney, I presume?"

"I’m sorry, does it look like I’m in the mood for a gentle chitchat here? I thought that the blow aimed at your head would have been a hint."

"You want to pick a fight? You can’t win. Forget it, kid."

"I’ll just say that my slashers are very eager to meet you!"

Once more, Kyra threw her slashers at Brom, and once more, he dodged them. As a counterattack, Brom threw a dagger at Kyra’s feet, and yelled "Earth!"

"Arrgh…can’t move… You don’t believe in fairplay, do you?"

"Zio’s men rarely do, kid. Let’s finish this, shall we? Tandle!"

Kyra fell to the floor. Brom laughed and kicked her body out of the doorway.

"One down. Time to awaken my master…"

A couple of hours later, Kyra awoke with every fiber of her body aching. She muttered "Medice" to heal her wounds. Still dazed, she stood up and tried to recollect what had happened. "That’s right. Rychker kidnapped Rika and beat me to a pulp. I ‘ve got to get Chaz! I just hope he’s O.K…"

Kyra quickly used a Telepipe to get to Kadary. When she entered the town, she noticed a small crowd in front of a house to her left. A thin layer of smoke was coming out of it. Kyra pushed her way to the front of the crowd. The front door was wide open, and she could see a young person, lying unconscious on the floor.

" Oh gosh, Chaz!"

She ran over to him and shook him. She was relieved to see that he wasn’t dead, just unconscious. After some more shaking, Chaz began to come to his senses.

"Kyra? What are you doing here? What happened?"

"I’m guessing Brom did something to you…"

Oh, now I remember… I drank a sleeping draught…"

"Listen, Brom kidnapped Rika! You’ll remember later!

As they left Brom’s house, they became aware of some powerful source of evil energy emanating from Zio’s church. They ran through Kadary’s streets, both drawing their weapons.

When they entered the church, they saw Rika chained to an altar in the back of the room. Brom was clad in black ceremonial robes, a silver scalpel in his hand. Hearing Chaz and Kyra entering, Brom turned around to face them. He was no longer the kind, benevolent figure that Chaz remembered. He looked threatening, and his shining scalpel didn’t reassure the two Protectors.

"Ah, good, you’re finally here. As planned."

"Release Rika NOW!", yelled Chaz.

"Don’t worry Rika, we’ll save you!", shouted Kyra, as she threw her slashers at Rika’s chains. Brom leapt into the air and caught them both, crushing them with his bare hands as he landed.

"You’re a tenacious little girl, arem’t you? You played your part, you brought Chaz to me. Now begone! Legeon!"

Before she could react, Kyra was once more flung to the floor, completely crushed, so destroyed that she didn’t have any energy left to even heal hereself.

"You see Chaz" and somehow, Brom’s voice paralzyed Chaz "Simply offering Protector’s blood to Zio isn’t enough to revive him. The blood has to be poured when the victim is feeling extreme despair, he needs to feel hopeless. I’ve got you a little something that will make sure you do, and then Rika will feel it too when she watches you die…Catch!"

As in slow motion, Chaz saw Brom fire some sort of black laser beam. Realising it only seconds later, the beam hit Chaz straight in the heart and electrical waves ran all through his body. Chaz felt as if he was falling into a dark and bottomless hole. After a few seconds of being immobile, Chaz finally dared to open his eyes.

He was watching in incredible detail his first battle with Zio. He was forced to relive that horrible fight. As in slow motion, Chaz saw Zio fire the Black Energy Wave at him, Alys pushing him out of the way, and her cry of pain. He saw her once more on her deathbed in Krup, and felt, as if he was reliving the whole terrible experience, the horrible pain and anguish he had experienced at Alys Brangwin’s death.

And then, he was back in Kadary, back in Zio’s church. He vaguely noticed Kyra crumpled on the floor next to him, Rika chained to the altar and Brom’s menacing shadow looming over her. He collapsed to the floor, tears flooding his face and dripping onto the floor.

"Alys! I’m so sorry, I’m so so sorry!"

"Better…", muttered Brom.

"Chaz!", yelled Rika, struggling to break free "Don’t do this!"

As she said this, a wind lifted and small black shadows came out of nowhere and incorporated themselves into Brom, who started to mutter what seemed like a ritualistic chant.

With great difficulty, Kyra painfully got to her feet. She stumbled over to Chaz, and collapsed next to him. Though she could no longer fight, she could at least try to help Chaz…

"Chaz…You’ve go to fight Brom…"

"Leave me alone Kyra, you can’t do anything for me…"

You’re…the only one who…"

"You can’t do anything. Just let me die in peace…"

"Dammit, do you want Zio to be revived?

"I couldn’t save Alys,…the only person that I should have saved…You can’t understand…Wish I was dead right now."

"Chaz, what about Rika? She’s about to die if you don’t do something about it, okay! I thought you cared about her?"

"Of course I do, but…", said Chaz weakly.

"Don’t you love her?"

"Yes, but…"

"Then blast, and snap out of it! Yes, Alys died and we’re all very very sorry about, but it wasn’t your fault. You couldn’t do anything about it. But if you stay here on this floor, torturing yourself, your wife to be is going to pay the consequences! So get moving!"

"Right!"

Chaz stood up. The black abyss that had envelloped him had gone. He now stood, proud and determined. He felt that his very soul was on fire. Sensing that Chaz was feeling quite murderous, Brom was forced to cease his chanting and took out his knives.

"Are you sure you’re up to this battle, sonny?"

"Release Rika now, Brom!

"You’re in a nowin situation here, Ch…

"NAZAN!"

Taken by surprise, Brom was caught in the tornado and was thrown against the back wall. Chaz ran up to the altar and hacked at the chains. When they were finally destroyed, Chaz flung his arms around Rika.

"Honey, I’m so sorry…"

"It’s O.K Chaz, it’s not your fault. Let’s take care of this guy first and then we’ll celebrate.", said Rika, grinning.

"Right!", said Chaz, grinning back.

They both turned around to face a furious Brom.

"Never mind. I’ll still be glad to take your lives! Tan…"

"Flaeli!"

Other than distrupting Brom’s spell, Kyra’s fireball hit him right in the chest and he fell over, gasping for breath.

"Rika, you take care of Kyra. I’ve got a score to settle here."

"You’re on!"

Chaz and Brom charged at each other, starting a deadly yet unusual duel, with one sword against two knives. Brom’s two weapons nearly gave him the edge, but Chaz’s Hunter training helped him to dodge most of the numerous attacks. However, Brom’s titanium knife eventually hit Chaz in his side, who stumbled, only to be hit by many other attacks that knocked him to the ground.

"And now Chaz Ashley, you die!", yelled Brom as he lowered his knife.

"I wouldn’t count on it, Rychker!", yelled Rika.

Rika’s deadly claws killed Brom Rychker on the spot and his lifeless corpse rolled onto the ground.

"Close one, Chaz.", said Rika, as she helped Chaz to his feet.

"And ironic too. I nearly get you killed, and you save my life…"

"Well I’m just glad you finally recovered."

"Well, Kyra’s pep talk helped a lot. By the way, thanks Kyra, I owe you."<7p>

"Anytime Chaz", said Kyra, as she joined them. "Like I always say, just let Big Sister Kyra take care of you!"

They all laughed. It seemed to Rika along time since she’d laughed so merrily, with Chaz at her side.

"So, shall we head home now?", asked Rika.

"In a moment. I just have one more thing to do here.", said Chaz tensely.

"What is…"

Rika was silenced by Kyra.

"Let’s head outside."

They all three left the church. Once outside, Chaz faced the entrance, and Kyra dragged Rika a few paces behind.

"What is he doing, Kyra?"

"He needs to draw a clean leaf."

Chaz raised his hands and yelled "MEGID!". Almost instantly, the church exploded and desintergrated entirely. When it all calmed down, not even ashes remained, as if Zio’s church had never stood there. Everything had been destroyed.

"Right, let’s go home, shall we?", said Chaz brightly.

"Do you, Chaz, take Rika to be your wife, until death do you part?"

"I do."

"And you, Rika, do you take Chaz to be your husband, until death do you part?"

"I do."

"I now pronounce you husband and wife. You may kiss the bride."

The wedding bells ran clear over Aiedo to celebrate the union of Chaz and Rika Ashley.

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