Nerves of Steel
(retelling a forgotten story)

by R. Hyperion

"You remember the story of the 'Kindred Souls', right?" Tommy pushed back his chair, standing. "And the Metal Demons they fought." East watched him walk to the opposite side of the room and fold his hands behind his back.

"Yeah. Beat 'em all, saved everyone. Who doesn't know it?"

Not the right answer, earning him a glare that sent cold shivers down his spine. "You don't, Truesdale. At the very least, you don't know what I've heard."

On their quest to save Filgaia, they faced a particular demon named Zeikfried.

Several times.

When he was at last defeated, he went mad -- and used his remaining power to create a black hole. All of them would be sucked into the void to die...even himself.

But Cecilia prayed to the Teardrop...and its power blasted a hole into the gap between dimensions. She, Jack, and Rudy were instantly transported to the grassy fields near Adlehyde.

The problem was that they weren't the only ones the hole opened to.

"Aaghk-!" A strangled shout, then the damning sound of a body hitting the ground -- and dragging.

Cecilia turned back and shrieked in horror. "Rudy!"

Rudy had been closest to the portal. Thus, he had been the one Zeikfried's grappling arm grasped as it reached through. His left arm was stretched taut behind him, ensnared by silver metal. And though he strained against its pull...he was on his knees, and sliding backwards.

"Oh, shit --" Jack lunged at him, grasping Rudy's outstretched right hand. Together, they struggled until both were upright. Barely.

Their efforts were mocked by crazed laughter. "I'll take you with me!" the demon bellowed, voice growing more and more distant. "I won't let you live!"

Jack whipped his head backwards. "Cecilia!"

She was three steps ahead of him, already halfway through an offensive spell. But then...she stopped, the magical glow fading away.

"It's closing..."

Indeed, now the portal was only the size of a manhole. Jack smirked, craning his neck to shout over Rudy's shoulder. "Only thing you're taking with you is half an arm, you bastard!"

No more than five seconds later, the smile died on his face.

The portal had sealed itself shut around the metal that stuck through. Light flared angrily around Zeikfried's arm, but nothing else. It wouldn't close; couldn't close until the path was completely clear.

Jack's boots slid forward an inch through the grass. Rudy grimaced in pain as his shoulder was wrenched back.

"...Hey! What the hell do you think you're doing!" Jack's surprised yelp made him open his eyes. A pair of thin arms were wrapped tightly around his waist -- Cecilia's. Her wand lay discarded.

"You need all the help you can get right now, okay! If you think I'm gonna stand back and just let this happen, you're wrong!"

Jack didn't argue. Just turned his eyes back to the task in front of him, and Rudy's openly-terrified stare.

"Hang on, kid." The man's expression was grim, dark blonde hair hanging in his face. "We'll get you out of this somehow."

Nothing else was said for a few painful moments. Then Rudy bit his lip.

"...I can't let you do this..."

He took one step forward and pushed with whatever might he had left, hoping it'd be enough. Caught off-guard and off-balance, Jack stumbled backwards and fell, taking Cecilia with him. Rudy immediately hit the ground, shaking hand reaching for the hilt of his knife. Backsliding faster than ever, he thrust it deep into the thick mass of twisted wire.



On the third stab, the blade chipped. He stared at it in shock, then back at his comrades. Cecilia was sitting up. Jack was almost on his feet again. Too fast...too stubborn. Well, fine. Rudy set his teeth.

Jack's eyes went wide. "Rudy --!"

An electric jolt of the worst pain he'd ever felt, ever -- then his body pitched forward, left arm flying in the opposite direction. Severed at the shoulder by his own hand. Portal closed; game over, we win. But...

...he'd realized something was wrong the moment he'd done it.

Jack grabbed his other shoulder; flipped him face-up, cradled Rudy's body tightly without even thinking. "Cecilia!"

"Heal!" was wrong. He could hear it more in Cecilia's frightened voice as she drew closer.

"It didn' won't...I can't..." She trailed off, seeing the wound his trembling fingers had already discovered.

Metal. Cold steel, only a little bit slick with blood. No, not-blood. Whatever it was that flowed through his veins.

By now he was sobbing, shaking uncontrollably with pain and fear and who-knows-what-else. The last thing Rudy heard before the pain won out was Jack's rough baritone, desperate in a way he'd only heard once before.

"...Guardians preserve us."

Wild Arms 1 © SCEI 1996.

notes: Oh-kay! *nervous laughter* Riiight, explanation... >_>;;

Obviously, this is a retelling of A Certain Event. In WA1. Yeah, it happened in WA:ACF too -- but Rudy's still using a knife as his main weapon. Thus the distinction.

And yes -- I know. It's not exactly what happened, and yes, it's probably been done a thousand times before. But I have an excuse, even if it's a crappy one! It was actually written for another story -- Due East. One character is retelling it to another (hence the very beginning) ...and just as details are lost and explanations are fudged in our legends, the same goes for the legends of Filgaia.

...I'll admit it, I've wanted to write this scene out since the early 90' when I gave myself a good excuse to, it got out of hand. So I just ran with it, knowing I'd like the result too much just to send half to the bit bucket. Oh, well~ :D