Disclaimer: I do not own this.
I will never forget the flight to the Divine Tree. We all clung to Coolon to keep from falling off. We had to, the constant attacks from a couple hundred Virages would have dislodged us otherwise. Fortunately, none were Super Virages, or we would have been in really big trouble.
"Talk about wild rides," Richie said. "Don't they ever give up?"
"They are protecting the Moon," Zieg responded. "The Virage Embryo is there."
Just as he finished speaking, our luck ran out. A shot from one of the Virages clipped Coolon's right wing, and we plummeted to the ground. I think I blacked out for a moment, because I suddenly found Miranda standing over me. "Are you alright?"
"I think so." I got up, wincing a little. "Everyone here?"
"Yeah." Mac rubbed his neck. "Bruised, but we're all intact."
I stared up. "So this is the Divine Tree. I guess we've gotta climb."
Even on the Divine Tree we had to deal with monsters. Some were recognizable as relatives of vermin we'd fought in other places, others were totally new. Meru had more than one close call; I was eventually forced to shield her from a vaguely gorilla-like creature.
"Thanks, Ray." The Blue Sea Dragoon retrieved her hammer. "That was close."
"No problem." I sheathed my blade. "How much farther?"
"Not far now," Amanda said. "I think we're getting close."
We had gotten very close. The only problem was, there was a giant insect in the way. We killed it, but it took a while, since the thing had three different forms to destroy: a caterpillar, a cocoon, and what looked like a giant, homicidal butterfly. A giant insect, on top of everything else?
"Come on!" Dart yelled. "We're running out of time!"
The entrance to the Moon was mere feet away. Inside, though, was a completely different environment. I had a sudden flashback to the Prairie back in Serdio. From the ledge we stood on, we could see a long stretch of plains. What the!?
Lavitz stared around in disbelief. "Are we back on the ground!?"
Rose shook her head. "The Moon is showing us this. I don't know why."
"Who cares why!" Richie was getting impatient. "Let's just get on with it!"
The plains lasted all of a hundred feet. Passing through an archway, we found ourselves in a snowy forest, suspiciously like the Evergreen Forest in Mille Seseau. Are we where I think we are?
Miranda confirmed it. "This looks like…the forest near my home." She walked toward a nearby cave. "There's something I have to take care of. Alone."
Dart nodded slowly. "Be careful."
For the next half hour, we sat and waited. I couldn't help fidgeting; I'm normally patient, but with Melbu Frahma within hours at most of becoming a "god", this side trip was making me very nervous. I hope this is all there is to it.
Amanda noticed my nervousness and effortlessly managed to misinterpret it. "Worried about your girlfriend, Ray?"
I glared at her. "Shut up. For your information, thief, I'm not worried about Miranda at all. She can take care of herself. What I am concerned about is the possibility that Melbu Frahma is even as we speak merging with the Virage Embryo. That would give new meaning to the word 'catastrophe'."
She smiled, clearly not believing me. "Whatever you say."
Miranda rejoined us shortly thereafter, looking much subdued. "I'm ready."
"You okay?" I asked as we resumed our trek.
She sighed. "I found the place where I last saw my mother. I fought…a demonic rose there."
I laid a hand on her shoulder. "You don't like roses, do you?"
"My mother would never look at me directly." Miranda sighed again. "And she beat me up. But I remember, there were always roses on the shelf behind her."
"And that's why you hate roses." I nodded. "Understandable."
"I saw an image of my mother in the rose. She…asked for forgiveness."
Miranda nodded. "I can't hold that in forever. I have to move on."
"Just like when I killed Caminetti." I slashed a small dragon-like creature. "Of course, your mother wasn't totally bad. Caminetti was just a thug. Back about five or six hundred years ago, half the world, my world, that is, was aflame with religious warfare. His specialty was torturing people to death over microscopic differences." I shuddered. "Twenty years ago, he joined the Mafia, which doesn't even have the flimsy cover of murdering people in 'God's name'. They're just scum, and an Immortal Mafia gangster doesn't bare thinking about. I speak from experience."
"Like you said, he's gone." Miranda sent an arrow into a berserk unicorn.
Our next stop was the strangest yet: Bale.
"What the!?" Dart stopped in his tracks.
"Where are we?" Methos asked.
"This is…Bale, from twenty years ago," Albert said. "Just after my uncle Doel took over. It was only after Noish rebelled that he moved his throne to Kazas."
I surveyed the area. We had arrived in a hotel, a popular one by the looks of it. I saw a piano player, a man who was recognizable as a young version of a drunkard I'd met in the present-day Bale, a girl with dark blond hair, and an oddly familiar boy of about six. Is that who I think it is?
Haschel stared at the girl. "That girl." He followed her through a portal similar to the one that brought us in.
"What's with him?" Dart wondered.
Zieg sighed. "Dart, that was your mother."
The younger Fire Dragoon gaped. "What!?"
"You heard right. She looked just like that the day we met." Zieg shrugged. "Haschel has to settle things for himself."
Lavitz, meanwhile, was staring at the six-year-old in complete disbelief. "That…that's me! I remember, I was six when Emperor Doel took over!"
I sank into a chair. "Okay, this is officially weird. Miranda fights a demonic rose that has her mother's face, Haschel goes chasing after his daughter, and now Lavitz sees himself as a six-year-old." This was by far the strangest part of our crazy adventure.
Haschel was back within an hour. "It's over."
I heaved myself up. "Let's get going."
An hour's walking later, and we found ourselves on a transparent plain, looking at the ground far below. This area was definitely not for those with a fear of heights. Fortunately, none of us had such a fear; Immortals have little reason to fear anything, and Dragoons can fly, so for them heights are irrelevant. It was still disconcerting, though.
A roar startled us. "What was that!?" Kongol yelped.
Rose stared at a black shadow. "That is…Michael! My Dragon! He was with me for more than ten thousand years!"
Michael, however, did not appear to recognize Rose. Letting out another roar, he dove at us, unleashing some sort of black laser beam. We scattered, most back the way we came, but Dart and Rose fell off a cliff. We Immortals took another route entirely, and found ourselves in what looked like an abandoned warehouse. Now what?
Amanda drew her sword. "Heads up. We've got company."
Company came in the form of five Immortals, all of them deceased. Mac moved to confront an old enemy, Xavier St. Cloud, who had joined forces with Horton just before his death. Amanda faced a former partner in crime whose name I never learned. Richie was taking on a bounty hunter named Mako, whom he had killed two years earlier. Methos had his hands full with Kalas, a former opera singer with a facility for holding grudges for a very long time.
I eyed my own opponent warily. I'd had a less than pleasant encounter with Ernst Daimler just prior to the former Nazi's death at Mac's hand. He'd struck me as the epitome of Nazi evil. He'd also spent fourteen years at the bottom of the Seine, so his sword skills weren't what they used to be. So, I get to kill the image of a Nazi. How fitting.
Suddenly, Daimler moved, aiming a slash for my had. I blocked, and countered with a stab at his chest. His blade intercepted mine and knocked it out of my hand, then drew a line of blood across my stomach. I had to jump away to avoid his next strike.
"Ray! Catch!" Having disposed of Mako, Richie tossed me my katana.
"Thanks, Rich!" Spinning around, I beheaded Daimler just as he was preparing to do the same to me. As I expected, there was no Quickening. How can there be, when the Immortal in question is already dead? These are just images from the past.
Methos sheathed his weapon. "Let's get out of here."
We caught up with the others just in time for them to be attacked by a Super Virage. The hideous beast fired off a massive blast of energy, hitting them all at once. If it wasn't for Albert's Rose Storm, they probably would have died.
I transformed. "Mind if I crash the party? Divine Dragon Cannon!!"
"Whoa!" Zieg barely dodged in time. He spun. "You guys all right!?"
"We're fine!" I yelled back. "Had to take out some dead Immortals first." Flapping for altitude, I used the same move I'd hit Lloyd with in Flanvel. "That'll leave a mark."
"Wing Blaster!" Lavitz shouted, sending a bird-shaped blast of wind.
"Final Burst!" Dart charged, trailed by a sheet of flame.
"Thunder God Attack!"
Kongol backed away. "Everyone, get back! It's going to explode!"
We did as he said, just in time. The Super Virage detonated violently, sending a massive shockwave our way. We were barely able to ride it out; were it not for the fact that some of us were Dragoons, and others were Immortal, (and I was both), I highly doubt we would have survived.
"Where to now, Dart?" I asked, cleaning gore off my sword.
"We go to the core," he said grimly. "We destroy Melbu, and the flesh of the God of Destruction. We'll put an end to the cycle of the Moon Child, and give Rose a chance to live a normal life."
"Or as close to normal as someone who doesn't age can get," Shana put in.
We stayed in Dragoon form for the rest of the trip, since flying is faster than walking. Lacking wings, the other Immortals compensated by riding Regole, who was obviously glad of the company. I was more than ready; after all that had happened, I wasn't going to let some megalomaniac Wingly ruin an entire world.
Meru saw it first. "Guys, look!"
We were just too late. Melbu had merged with the flesh of the Virage Embryo. His discarded body lay still on the ground. It's not over yet. He'll need time to gather his power, and we're not going to give him that time. It ends here.
Melbu laughed. "I have acquired all. The immortality, and the ultimate power. I am the god who purifies the world, according to the fate determined by Soa. Death to all who rebel against fate! Death to all life! And may your deaths bless the new world to which I shall descend!"
"We won't let you!" Dart shouted. "We are the Dragoons! We are ready to fight against fate! Let's go!"
"Perhaps I can be of service."
I spun around, recognizing the voice instantly. "Lloyd!? What are you doing here!?"
The Wingly shrugged. "There is no room in my utopia for someone like Melbu." He turned to Albert. "Your Majesty, I apologize for my actions. Had I known of this, I would have aided you from the beginning."
"Don't worry about it," Albert replied, hacking off a tentacle. "Melbu alone was at fault."
"As you wish." Lloyd dove on Melbu from above, stabbing deeply with the Dragon Buster.
"Divine Dragon Cannon!"
Melbu screamed, and began to change forms. At the same time, our surroundings began to shift, becoming a tunnel of light. This is getting surreal. I glanced quickly at my friends. Everyone seems to be holding up all right, though the other Immortals look a little disoriented. I fired off another cannon blast. You can't win, Melbu.
Another change of scenery came, leaving us on a rocky landscape.
That form didn't last long. The final change took us to the heart of a volcano. By this point, Melbu was looking like a giant worm. All of us were still in the game, thankfully, and Melbu Frahma was in dire straights. Just a little more, and I was sure we'd get him.
Rose stabbed once, then flew back. "Everyone, summon your Dragons! That should finish the job!"
We did as she said, all at once. The release of energy was violent beyond belief, blowing a huge hole in the wall and restoring the true form of the core. A death eleven thousand years overdue. Melbu Frahma, please don't rest in peace. You have done too much evil for that."
Melbu writhed. "How dare you! Inferior humans…cannot outshine me…a god."
Lloyd snorted derisively. "A god? Don't make me laugh." he calmly surveyed the carnage. "We best get out of here while we still can."
I sent one final cannon shot into the Virage Embryo. "He's right! Let's move!"
The flight out of the Moon was, if possible, even crazier than the flight to the Divine Tree. (Insert Return of the Jedi metaphor here.) Dodging debris was tricky, with explosions rocking the place on all sides. I had to vaporize another Virage before we could get out. Kongol smashed a large rock before it could hit anyone. Almost there.
I burst into the open sky, the last one out. Behind me, the Moon That Never Sets exploded in a manner reminiscent of the Hiroshima bomb. Even facing directly away, I could see the brilliant light. Coming to a stop midair, I checked to make sure everyone made it. Zieg and Dart, check. Rose, Shana, Miranda, Kongol, Meru, Lavitz, Albert, Haschel, Regole, the other Immortals, yep, everyone made it out.
Dart breathed out once. "It's over."
Miranda gazed at the rubble. "The cycle of the Moon Child is over."
I tucked one arm around the Sacred Sister. "Now we can relax. Where to?"
"How about Indels Castle," Albert said. "We can celebrate there."
The party was even larger than any of us had expected. When the Moon exploded, a blast of magic from Melbu's death throes had somehow revived Rose and Zieg's old comrades. I guess they deserved another chance at life. Even if Kanzas is the most bloodthirsty man I have ever encountered. Meru and Damia were starting to act like sisters, a trend I found more than a little disturbing. There's fodder for centuries of practical jokes.
"Enjoying the party, Belmont?"
I shrugged. "For once, I actually am, old man. I don't normally like parties, but in this case we're celebrating the salvation of an entire world." I sipped some wine Meru's parents had provided. "Besides, I like it here."
"So you're staying?" Methos didn't seem in the least surprised.
"Yeah. I'm going to help rebuild Deningrad." I grinned. "And yes, Miranda does have something to do with that; I'm not going to pretend otherwise. Not that I expect her to change much. She'll be annoying as ever."
"I heard that." Miranda appeared at my elbow. "How do you know I won't change?"
"Because you are who you are, and adults rarely change except under extreme conditions," I said mildly. I glanced at MacLeod. "You're welcome to drop by if you so desire, Mac. Amanda too."
The Highlander grinned. "It must have been like pulling teeth for you to say that."
"Yeah, well, you'd kill me otherwise. Many times." I winced. "Just make sure she doesn't steal anything, okay?"
I checked my watch. "I've been here for hours. Miranda, I think we should say our goodbyes." I searched for Albert, since it was his castle. "Albert, Miranda and I are leaving."
He smiled. "You are always welcome here."
"Thanks." I glanced at the Light Dragoon. "Shall we go?"
"Let's." We transformed and began the long flight home.
Author's note: And that's that. By the time you read this, I'll likely have registered separately, so this is the last story I will post by this method. (It's about time!) If anyone's looking forward to more of my stories, rest assured I already have something in the works, so you won't have to wait too long.
On a side note, the Blinding Light move is just what it sounds like, an extremely powerful Light spell.
Thanks to everyone who reviewed this. D.S.