AUTHOR'S NOTES: I do not own Monster Rancher, otherwise I would make absolutely certain it would still be on. Names for characters that were previously known only by species name and sometimes title were given by Yours Truly. Please don't sue.

Some elements from the Monster Rancher 2 game, like the IMA, Colart Tea, and actual ranches (let's be honest: How many ranches are on the Monster Rancher show?), have been added. I don't own those either. I hope nobody minds.
Please review and bring any inconsistencies with canon, just plain awful word arrangements, and other lovely stuff to my attention.

WARNINGS: This fic contains some possibly-disturbing images and a bunch of other stuff, including monsters apparently getting very-much-needed shrink appointments. (Incidentally, whoever he's talking to, it's not Tiger)

Rufus: This Honor Stuff

First off, don't call me Rufus. Anything but Rufus.

There used to be some sort of a pixie on the Montgomery, now I don't remember exactly what kind. She wasn't really spectacular, never got past D class. Just one of the ones that got sent to the D class cups for easy gold. I remember after a year or two fighting they stopped being excited and all had these really bored looks, like they wanted to say "Here we go again" but didn't dare. This pixie could read, sure, she was one of the ones we on the ranch got when there was something to be read, but she wasn't very good at that either. The problem was her name. It was Ruth.

You don't know what it's like, do you, having everyone and his brother come up and say, "Hey Ruth, could you read something for me?"

I know some of the others kept their names. They were given by humans, sure, but it was about the only different thing they'd got from all those others. They mostly had better sorts of names, like Drake and Salazar. Not one of them kept a name as dumb as Rufus. And I didn't keep it either. Just because Mu's whole thing's gone crashing down in flames doesn't mean I have to take it back, does it?

Just call me Captain Salamander.

You know about Centaur. I really never figured out what was so great about him.

Sure he could've been a lot stronger, probably could've kicked Grey Wolf's arse all the way across the continent if he wanted. Could've taken on Grey Wolf and Naga at the same time. Would've gotten some pretty bad scratches, sure, but if he'd done all he could he probably could've done it. But he didn't do it. This honor stuff was why he didn't. He'd got too much of this honor stuff for his own good.

Tell me truly what good honor does. It just holds you back from what you could be, what you could do.

Centaur was supposed to be one of the good guys, good guys being people who fight us, because we're supposed to be the bad guys. You know after they took the town (we weren't there. We were freelancing then, just plain old under command of Mu), this story was going around with the Cabalos (you might think it's just another story, but Murasaki saw it and told me so and she never lies. We're not friends, Murasaki and me, but we don't lie to each other).

So they'd lost. And then Grey Wolf was standing right in front of him, daring him to strike. He'd gotten his spear back and everything, and Grey Wolf was just standing there, laughing, just asking for Centaur to up and clobber him over the head.

And I bet just about any one of the other good guys would've not only clobbered him but done it again, and used that spear to do what it was meant to do. And Grey Wolf would be a Lost Disk and he would've asked for it. Not to mention Mu would pitch a fit. Score another for the goodies.

But oh no, not Centaur. It wouldn't be "honorable."

I guess he was dumber than most everyone on the Montgomery. By the time they hit ten at the latest everyone on the Montgomery knew the only rule was you had to win.

You ever hear of Colart? Big city, there's this one human who made this stuff called Colart Tea that cost a lot. Montgomery-Lyman, first name Michael according to the rumors, used to hand some out to the pixies once in a while when he was in a really good mood. One of the ones that wasn't Ruth let me try some. I was five. It was awful. Still can't figure out why Montgomery-Lyman'd pay for that stuff or why the pixies'd like it.

The Montgomery was near the outside of Colart, with the other ranches, away from where the watching humans lived and where they made the tea. I think the theory was something like if Colart got attacked we'd all go out to defend it before any humans were in danger. We didn't mind. It made it that much easier to run away.

We'd not yet discovered the wonders of "If you don't give us something besides those stupid potatoes then you'll just have to find someone else for that tourney." We were mostly D or C-classers. Plenty of replacements if we got killed or threw tantrums.

I wasn't anything special there. There were a lot of Salamanders on the Montgomery. We got numbered just so they could tell us apart. But I don't think there're that many Salamanders on the Montgomery anymore...

There was someone on the Montgomery I called a friend-Murasaki's brother, which was how I knew Murasaki. Now I don't think we were friends at all. We just said we were because we didn't know a word for what it was.

We both knew the rules, we both had to win. He won in a way they liked. He was the first one to make B-class since the days of Montgomery-Lyman's father's owning the ranch had ended. Once he went on one tourney after another away from Colart, and they said they'd had to hire a couple of freelancing monsters to haul back all the prize money.

I fought all right for a C-classer (though I'd lost points with the powers that be for nearly killing that poor dumb widdle Ape), but I had to win in a different way. Most of the time they couldn't send anyone to the Punishment Room because I spent most of my ranch life in it. Some of the others made bets on "How many weeks before Rufus gets back in Punishment," with extra food as stakes. It became "How many days." Then "How many hours." Sooner or later they would've started making bets on "How many minutes." I'd gone before then, though.

We didn't talk a lot. It was just things that happened. Sometimes when I got out of Punishment, if he didn't have a drill or a tourney he'd be there waiting for me. Murasaki'd sometimes be along with him. That was how I started to know Murasaki. Sometimes when most of the ranch was living off potatoes someone would come up. They'd give me meat or fish, wrapped in paper. They'd say he'd sent it. Sometimes when the top performers were put on tablets I'd get ahold of someone to sneak half a fish into his stall. I'm not sure how many of those actually got there, though. Not a soft sweet fair place, the Montgomery.

Oh, if all this Phoenix stuff is right, then he's still around somewhere. Otherwise...

... I've no idea how he croaked, actually. Probably one of the other B-classers whacked him just too hard enough (just making sure to follow the rules and all that) and that was the end of him, boo-hoo. Accident, of course.

I couldn't ask Murasaki about that one. I went up to her and said, "What happened to your brother?"

She said, "What? What happened to him?"

I wouldn't know.

And now that Mu's gone they're all saying of course they would never do anything that wasn't the H-word. It's disgusting. You expect me to believe they wouldn't have taken that spear and killed Grey Wolf if they'd gotten so good a shot at it? There's nobody else like Centaur, a good thing for everyone else.

I think actually he might've gotten by quite well with Murasaki's brother. They'd talk to each other very quiet and civil-like and they'd call each other friends. But he got Captain Ruth.

I could tell he looked at me and wondered how it was possible I could even exist, how I could manage to be every single thing opposite to his honor stuff. It's just the way I am.

Oh, you're going to see him next. Then take him a message, why don't you.

Does he remember when I said I was going to kill him and tell Grey Wolf the kid did it? Like Grey Wolf would have believed me. Tell him I wouldn't have actually done it. Tell him I'dve just gone and gotten all the credit I was supposed to get. Tell him I was just making sure he wouldn't make a squabble about whose territory they were on or whatever.

Because, after all, rules are rules.