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Dreams Of The Past
by Lauren Leibowitz


Chaz stirred restlessly in his bed. It was certainly nice to be home again after months of traveling, but traces of Alys lingered everywhere he looked. Sleep waited just outside his grasp, and after several hours of insomnia he had reached the conclusion that he would not be able to reach it that night. Perhaps fresh air would help clear his head of the confusion and turmoil that swirled chaotically inside it.

He got out of bed quietly, careful not to wake his sleeping companions. They slept peacefully, with the exception of Rune, who murmured in a voice that rose and fell as though he were arguing with someone. Chaz smiled lightly at those who dozed around him. Somehow, seeing them all together and knowing that they cared for him as he did for them brought warmth and comfort to his aching heart. Rika's face was angelically beautiful in the moonlight from the window, her sweet smile indicative of good dreams. Chaz forced himself to turn away from the pleasantly peaceful scene of his sleeping friends and left the house.

A girl he did not recognize stood outside, her brown hair lifted lightly around her face by an evening breeze. She turned and smiled warmly at Chaz. He wondered how she could tell he had come; his bare feet made no sound on the soft ground, and the door did not creak when he opened or closed it. Still, something about her made him relax completely, despite her unearthly calm. She was almost ... maternal, in a way no one had been, not even Alys. He resisted the urge to run and hug her. She was clothed in pink and white, and her armor shone gently in the moonlight.

"Hello, Chaz Ashley," she greeted him. Chaz backed up, startled. How does she know my name? he wondered. Her eyes twinkled with amusement. "Don't worry, Chaz. You have nothing to fear from me."

"Who... are you?"

She shook her head. "That's not important." She sat on the grass and stretched out comfortably, her eyes never leaving the magnificent night sky. Chaz sat down beside her, almost against his free will. A graceful hand swept across the stars. "That's what's important. This solar system, these planets, these people..."

"Algol."

She turned to Chaz abruptly, as if surprised by his indifferent tone of voice. "You don't love it, do you?"

"Why should I?" Chaz shrugged his shoulders. "I love my friends. They mean everything to me. But I have no love for the planets themselves."

"To save one is to protect the other. If you would shield your friends from harm --"

Chaz drew back sharply. "Of course I would," he retorted quickly, offended. "I would protect them from anything!"

"If you would shield your friends, you must protect the planets of Algol," the strange girl continued as smoothly as if she had never been interrupted. She looked at Chaz intensely. "You must not allow evil to conquer our solar system."

"I ..."

"Promise me," she pleaded. Chaz met her blue eyes for several moments and then looked away, overwhelmed by the sadness and wisdom they contained. Whoever this girl was, she had known and seen more than he could even imagine, and the tenderness with which she looked at everything around her, as though each thing she laid eyes on was impossibly dear to her, filled him with a sense of awe.

"I promise. I'll do my best, but..."

"That's all that can be expected. I'm sorry; I didn't mean to imply that you didn't want to protect your friends. I understand what it's like to be willing to give everything to protect someone." She smiled at him in her serious way, and he felt comforted by her approval. Her eyes wandered back to the stars. She peered intently for a few quiet moments and then pointed at a particularly bright star.

"That one's new to me. What is it called?"

Chaz struggled to bring to mind the little bit of astronomy he had picked up throughout his life. His mind drew a blank, and he sighed. How am I supposed to know that? I haven't even been to school. He remembered Alys's frustration at trying to teach him the many skills that were vital to a Hunter. Words slipped into his mind, a memory of one of Alys's lessons on navigation by the night sky, should he find himself lost without a compass or map.

"That's one you can always count on," she had said. "It has a story behind it, but you don't need to worry about that. And since it rhymes, you ought to be able to remember the name, too..."

"Nero. The hero." Chaz completed her statement and thought foggily of his beloved partner. Through the mist forming in his own eyes, he saw with considerable astonishment that tears were trickling down his strange companion's cheeks. Her eyes were closed and her face tightly set. Hesitantly, he placed a hand on her shoulder. She smiled limply, with considerable effort.

"Nero," she repeated. "Nero's star." Her wet cheeks shone in the moonlight.

Chaz bit his lip. "I'm awfully sorry if I said something wrong."

"Oh, you didn't," she said, laughing through her tears. "You're a sweet one. Don't worry about it. The name ... brought back a memory of someone I knew, someone I loved. It's not your fault." She stood up awkwardly, and he found himself steadying her. She blinked a few times.

"Are you all right?"

She nodded and wiped the tears from her face, looking for a brief moment like a lost little girl. Then she pulled herself together and contemplated Chaz again. He felt himself squirming under her strong gaze, but suddenly her face softened and her hand brushed his cheek.

"You've lost someone too," she whispered, and he was sure that she knew exactly what had befallen Alys. This time it was his eyes that began to brim with tears, and the stranger pressed his hand with sympathy. She understood what he was going through; he could see that clearly in her face. Perhaps it was the someone whom she had recalled just minutes before. "It is not for me to comfort you, I am afraid, but I can offer you what help I have within my power."

She placed a hand on his chest and suddenly he felt himself filled with strength. Her hand throbbed with a dim light as determination, love, and courage flowed into him, helping to lessen the pain in his heart. At last she pulled her hand away, and the throbbing light covered her whole body for an instant. She stood, magnificent, awe- inspiring, like the heroine of yore that had slain evil in days long before Palma was destroyed. Chaz fell to his knees before this marvelous being. She bent and kissed the top of his head.

"Good luck, dear one," she whispered to him. "May the strength of many heroes bring you success." She straightened and began to walk to the house. "Now, there is an old friend that I must visit." She turned and walked through the open doorway, where Rika stood watching her in amazement.

"I know you," she exclaimed. "I've seen pictures of you..."

The stranger flashed a smile at Rika as she disappeared inside Chaz's home. Chaz and Rika both watched after her in silence. After a few moments, curiosity defeated awe and Chaz asked the question that had been burning in his mind.

"Is she..."

"Alis, the savior of Algol?" Rika said, almost overlapping him. "There were images of her stored in Seed's memory from a long time ago. I learned about her from him, but I never expected to actually see her. She's been dead for quite some time now... but it has to be her."

Chaz drew a long breath, remembering the stranger's -- no, Alis's -- words about saving the planets, and the mysterious strength that she had passed on to him. "It must be her. She ... talked to me about Algol. And she asked me about the Hero Star."

"Nero," Rika said wonderingly. "Her brother's name. He died trying to defeat Lassic ages ago, and he passed the battle on to his sister."

Suddenly, the night's events began to make sense to Chaz. Though he was uncertain how a long-dead heroine could manage to come to his house in the middle of the night on this of all nights, he accepted it as something bizarre that seemed almost normal compared to half the things he had seen over the course of his adventure -- the things that were completely out of his control. He found himself thinking that Alys would be mad when she learned that she had missed meeting one of the people she had actually looked up to. Pain overcame him again. Alys...

Apparently, Rika saw the change in his expression. It took her quick mind no time at all to determine the reason, and she came towards him, hesitantly at first, as he started trembling. He covered his face with his hands, clenching his teeth in frustration and anger. Why her? Why Alys? She may have seemed hard at times, but underneath it all she really was a wonderful person! She didn't deserve this! He was unsure whether he had spoken any of this aloud, but he was beyond caring.

Gentle hands touched his shoulders inquisitively. He looked up and saw Rika on the verge of tears. With her customary sympathy and a sob of sorrow, she threw her arms around his neck and cried into his shoulder. He was taken aback for a moment, but then his arms curled around her protectively. It was all right to grieve today; vengeance would come in its time.

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