----- Epilogue : Can We Please Just End The Madness Now? -----


Darkness. Pain. No, not pain. An ache. A dull ache that spread through the entire body bringing with it a brightness that filled the entire world. The brightness brought with it sound, a faint murmur at first, climbing to a roar. The sound brought with it a smell, bitter and acrid... And sweet. The smell of disinfectant and... Perfume?

"Where..? Where am I?" Said Marla trying to rise.

"Please miss! You shouldn't try and get up yet, you've been through a lot." Came a gentle female voice.

The world swam back into focus and she was confronted with the sight of one of the newman nurses that worked at the Guild hospital standing at her bedside. She knew immediately she was at the Guild hospital since the nurse's uniform was almost criminally short, there was little surprise as to why Hunters were so eager to throw themselves into danger.

"You should relax now, you're safe. You've been in a coma for two days..."

"Two days?!" Exclaimed Marla trying to rise again.

The nurse was forced to press Marla's shoulders back down to stop her from leaving for several moments before Marla eventually relaxed again.

"Yes, but don't worry, you've had a constant guardian angel by your bedside..." The nurse said as she straightened up again and indicated to the corner or the room.

Standing against the wall in as a nonchalant fashion as he could manage was Bernie. He looked her in the eyes and gave her his widest grin.

"Looks like you did alright kid."

"He was very concerned for your well-being. He nearly never left the room and he was insistent that you be given a thorough sponge bath every one hundred and fifty Beats. I took care of that duty personally." Said the nurse smiling innocently.

"Oh he did, did he?" Said Marla raising an eyebrow.

"Yes. He said that it was very necessary on account of the problem you have with uncontrolled sweating. I made sure to wash every nook and cranny as he instructed..."

"OH HE DID, DID HE?!"

With the speed of a cobra Marla had thrown off her covers, rummaged through the drawer of the bedside stand and pointed her Varista at his head.

"Wait! Wait! It was all a misundersta-"

Bang

-----

"Hello? Hello? Echo! Is there anyone there?" Shouted Leo into the darkness that pressed in around him.

A surge of high-energy photons had swept through the area rendering his communicator and any WORKS terminals inoperative. Now he was down there alone and helpless. Well, not alone for long...

-----

The BATHUnewearl sighed loudly as she proceeded to soap herself down delicately. She enjoyed taking her time when doing this, she loved the sensations that coursed through her firm, supple body as her hands explored every centimetre of herself, this was her third bar of soap so far. Suddenly she hesitated... Something was terribly wrong.

"What exactly do you think you're doing?" She demanded.

The FOnewearl with the crazy hat paused as she half-lowered her cute, petite behind into the water.

"I... Uh... Well I'd been running around all day and was so tired and sweaty that I needed to take a bath. I figured your door was open..." She indicated with a thumb the gaping hole in the bathroom wall that lead to the street packed with gawping on-lookers. "... And my house is so far away, I thought it would be more convenient if I stopped here."

"I really need to remember to get that fixed." Said the BATHnewearl resignedly.

"But don't worry, I brought my own soap!" Said the FOnewearl holding up a plastic bag filled with bars of soap.

-----

Nasca lowered the tip of his sword slowly till it just rested upon the ground. The constant effort of concentration was exhausting, the sweat collecting across his brow. His only consolation was that his opponent, Zi'Zuku, was in a similar enough physical state. Zi'Zuku's heavy breathing amplified by the mask that he wore.

"How long do you think you can keep this up for?" Nasca asked him.

"Long enough to see you dead." Hissed the FOnewm.

A loud snoring caused both combatants to stop. They looked around and were amazed to see that their audience had fallen asleep because they had been waiting for so long for the battle to actually start. The sun had set many hundreds of Beats ago and now the only sound that could be heard were the crickets chirping in the distance. Zi'Zuku lowered his Caduceus also.

"Now what?

"Well, how about we take a coffee break? I haven't eaten all day. I could really go for some cheesecake."

"Cheesecake... Hmmm... Okay, but you tell anyone about this and I'll deny it vigorously shortly before eating your spleen raw."

"It's a deal!" Laughed Nasca as he threw an arm around his nemesis and led him towards the nearest 1000-Beat cafeteria.

-----

The room was almost pitch-black, faint rays of light from the street outside unable to illuminate the darkness through the large glass window. To the untrained observer, it appeared as though the room was devoid of life, but closer inspection showed that assumption to be false.

On one side of the room just in front of the climbing frame was a giant shallow box filled with small, coloured, plastic balls. Gradually, the balls in one corner parted and a cloaked head emerged to silently take in the surroundings.

"They'll never think of looking for me here." Said Hugh to himself.

He was about to sink back down when he spotted another head at the other end of the ball pit.

"Hi!" Said Logical nervously.

"Find another hiding place." Snarled Hugh.

"But I was here firs-"

"Now!"

"Fine..." Mumbled Logical climbing out. "Can I at least hide in the playhouse?"

Hugh thought about it for a moment. "Sure... But you'd better not snore."

-----

Darkness. Pain. No, not pain. An ache. A dull ache that spread through the entire body bringing with it a brightness that filled the entire world. The brightness brought with it sound, a faint murmur at first, climbing to a roar. The sound brought with it a smell, bitter and acrid... And sweet. The smell of disinfectant and... Perfume? No, not perfume... Aftershave?

"Where..? Where am I?" Said Bernie trying to rise.

"Please sir! You shouldn't try and get up yet, you've been through a lot." Came a gentle male voice.

The world swam back into focus and he was confronted with the sight of one of the burly male orderlies that worked at the Guild hospital standing at his bedside. Looking down at himself proved difficult on account of the neck-brace that held his head in place.

"After you blacked-out you suffered a concussion and some heavy bruising to the chest and ribs from repeated kicking." Continued the Orderly.

"Concussion?" Queried the confused RAmar.

"But don't worry about a thing. I have instructions from a Ms. Decker that you are to be given sponge baths every one hundred and fifty Beats. I'll be taking care of that duty personally."

-----

"NOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOO!"

In Pioneer City's central park, all the pigeons flew up into the sky.

-----

Marla put her hands behind her head and reclined back comfortably in the big, black, leather chair that she had bought today for her office. She grinned broadly at the thought of the expression on Bernie's face when the orderly delivered his lines. It had cost her a cool thousand Meseta to set up the joke, but it had been totally worth it. Besides, once Bernie had recovered, she fully intended to get her money's worth out of him in backrubs, full body massages and 'personal services'.

Yes, life was good again. Montague was a genius, even if it was a twisted sort of genius. Ult had been recovered and was now in the process of being rebuilt. WORKS's sinister plans for whatever secrets the Ruins held had been foiled and their operations dealt a stinging blow. Hugh 'the blade's name had been cleared of any wrong-doing (this time) and all the loose ends had been neatly tied up.

And yet...

Marla could not help feel empty once more. That day had been a real rollercoaster ride of emotion. Thrills, spills and chills enough to last an ordinary person a lifetime. And yet...

"Why is it so damn boring? I just wish something would happen!"

The door to her office burst open...