Note from Author: As always, these characters do not belong to me, they belong to Namco Bandai. Of course as always if Namco Bandai is willing to give Asch to me, I would be happy to take him. But until then, all I can do is play around with them in my writings. This is a creation of my own overactive imagination and serious boredom, nothing more and nothing less.


"Asch, what's wrong? Are you mad that Jade forced you to come with us?" Natalia asked Asch, while they walked together trailing a bit behind the others.

"He wasn't the only one involved." Asch pointed out.

"I'm sorry, Asch. I just wanted to be with you again, I didn't mean to be a bother to you."

"You are never a bother, Natalia."

She smiled at him. "Somehow, I doubt that, you have protected me so much during our journey."

"I couldn't let anything bad happen to you, could I? So many would be so upset if something were to happen to you."

"Would you be among them?"

Whatever answer he was going to give was unable to be spoken. A group of monsters came, and they knew from their experience so far that the monsters here were very strong and very dangerous. Added to the dangers from the monsters was the lack of light and limited visibility due to the pollens and vapors coming from the mushrooms. They understood well that this was going to be far from easy.

They got lucky this time, it wasn't too bad of a group of monsters. These were just the small Heterodoxas that may usually come in groups, but are not as dangerous as the other monsters in the area, but still no reason to let their guard down, they knew that even a few scratches from these monsters could add to up serious harm, and their healer's abilities would need to be conserved to make it through.

Once they vanquished the monsters, they kept going. Natalia ran to catch up with Asch who had gotten slightly ahead of the others. "Asch, you shouldn't go off on your own, what if you get attacked?"

"I can handle it, Natalia."

"But these monsters are strong even for us, you must be careful."

"Fine."

"You didn't answer my question earlier, by the way."

"What question would that be?" A cute cheerful voice interrupted. "Hmm? Natalia, were you asking Asch if he cared about you?" Natalia blushed a deep red at the young girl's comment., as did Asch, which caused Anise to giggle. "He's blushing again!"

Asch found his face growing even warmer, but now it was not from embarrassment, it was from anger at the comments from the young former Fon Master Guardian.

Remembering what happened the last time Anise did this, Tear placed a hand on the girl's shoulder, "Anise, perhaps we should leave them alone." She not so gently dragged Anise away from Asch and Natalia.

"That is exactly why I prefer not to travel with your group." Asch grumbled. "Come on, let's get this over with, I don't want to spend any more time here than necessary."

"Asch, you can't mean that!" Natalia cried as he started to walk away from her.

He turned back towards her, "I didn't mean you, Natalia."

"Oh."

"Don't lag behind, Natalia."

"Sorry!" She exclaimed as she hurried to catch up with him.

The whole group kept walking along with Natalia and Asch taking up the rear. Tear kept Anise in the front to make sure she didn't bother them, leaving Guy and Jade in the center. It wasn't a bad formation, as it had those adept at fighting in all positions so that no matter where a monster attacked, it could easily be countered, and all the fonic arte users had a fighter to cover them. It was a sound plan indeed.

At least it seemed like one, until a large monster flower came out from behind them. Asch heard the sounds of its approach just in time to turn around to attack it, successfully deflecting its attempt at attacking Natalia and him.

Jade began casting a fonic arte to deal with that one monster while Guy and Anise looked around for its friends, since none of these monsters had come alone so far. Tear kept ready to attack if necessary, but didn't cast anything at this time, she knew it was best to stay ready to heal if needed.

Natalia was busy concentrating on attacking the Rafflesian that she didn't hear any other monsters coming. Asch didn't make the same mistake, he heard the sounds, but even he was too late to make sure none of them got hit by the ropey tendrils of the Medusa Roper who was about to hit Natalia and cause her serious harm.

Better that he get hurt, than her, he thought to himself, as he dove to push her out of the way of the attack. As he thought, he got hit as they fell to the ground, but she was safe, that was all that mattered.

"Natalia! Asch!" Tear yelled as before she started to chant one of her hymns. The two monsters that were targeting them were still seeing interest in their two targets.

"Natalia, don't move, let them think we are dead and they will move on." Asch told her, his voice barely above a whisper before he lost consciousness.

It wasn't like she could move anyhow, he had fallen on top of her, pinning her to the ground quite effectively, he had trapped her arms. She felt dizzy and tired from their fall to the ground. What little she could see around Asch was distorted. She closed her eyes as even trying to look was making her feel sick to her stomach, soon after she fell victim to the unconsciousness that had been trying to claim her.

With her eyes closed like this, and the warmth of Asch surrounding her, she could almost forget where they were. Yet again he had done admirably in protecting her. He was her own knight in shining armor, as the fairy tales went.

Tear finished her singing and a force field came down upon Natalia and Asch, it was the best she could do for now, since neither of them seemed able to move from that spot, it was best to get rid of this set of monsters, then they could spend the time needed to heal whatever happened to those two.

If they weren't in such a dangerous situation, she would have to smile at how sweet they looked, with him shielding her from harm, a knight protecting his beloved princess, but she was also concerned at how they weren't getting up. Something was definitely wrong with one or both of them.

"O admonishing melody, arise in the name of the Necromancer! Mystic Cage! Now know what true power is!" Jade chanted before the monsters all were defeated at last.

"A bit of overkill there, Colonel?" Anise inquired.

"No, time was of the essence, we didn't need them attacking Asch and Natalia after Tear's force field wore off."

Tear walked over towards the prone couple. They still hadn't moved one bit even after the monsters were defeated. She had hoped that perhaps Asch had just injured himself and was playing dead, but he seemed to be quite seriously injured. "Asch? Can you hear me?"

No answer was forthcoming, not even from Natalia. Now Tear found herself truly concerned, it had looked like Asch got hit as he went down, but she didn't think Natalia had also. "Colonel, could you help me move him off of her?"

"I admit, it is a shame to do so, but it does need to be done." The Malkuth Colonel answered her.

"Tear, let me help, you should save your strength to heal them." Guy offered.

"Thanks, both of you." She answered, relieved, since she hadn't been sure that she would be able to lift the unconscious red head.

Tear watched as the two men gently lifted their red haired companion off the Princess. She gasped when she saw the large amount of blood that had soaked into her clothes, had she gotten injured that badly before Asch got her out of the way, or was that Asch's blood on her. She couldn't tell, since the dark coloring of Asch's uniform made it very difficult to tell if he was the one injured or not.

"O healing power... First Aid!" She chanted in hopes that it would wake the Princess up. If it was indeed Asch who had been injured, it was obvious she would need Natalia's help to heal him.

Natalia felt a warmth come over her, the dizzy sickness she had felt earlier subsided and she felt more awake. Her eyes fluttered open, and she saw the others, but she had remembered that Asch had fallen on top of her, what happened to him? She didn't see him with the others, was he all right? She tried to stand up, but faltered. She wasn't quite steady enough.

"Natalia, don't try to stand yet. Give your body some time to recover." Tear admonished the girl.

"What about Asch? He's all right, isn't he?"

"I'll know as soon as I check him over, I just wanted to be sure that you were fine first. Were you injured at all?"

She looked down and saw the large amount of blood that had soaked into her dress and gasped. "Oh no! He must have been injured seriously, no wonder he couldn't get up after pushing me out of the way."

"Tear, she's right, he needs your help right away!" Guy yelled to them.

"Natalia, stay right there, I will take care of him for you."

"But I can help."

Jade knelt down beside the Kimlascan Princess. "Not in your condition. You were unconscious, let Tear handle things."

"Don't worry, Natalia, he'll be fine." Tear assured her.

Tear walked over to where the young God-General lay. Guy had removed his tabard and undid the top part of his uniform so Tear could see what she needed to heal. He was pressing a cloth to the wound in an attempt to stop the bleeding, but to no avail, the injury was quite deep. "He's a stubborn one all right. Too concerned for Natalia to make sure that he doesn't get himself injured in the process, I'm amazed he didn't die from this."

"I can handle him now, let me see how bad he's injured." Tear assured Guy.

Guy moved away to let Tear work. Tear gasped when she saw the wound, a very deep puncture wound that from the looks of things, went all the way through to his back, since the position he had been in wouldn't have allowed him to have gotten hit from the front. "Guy, can you take Natalia to somewhere where she might change out of those clothes?"

"Um, sure." He said as he led the Princess off. She didn't want to go, but she allowed Guy to lead her away.

Tear knew that the worst thing would be for Natalia to see Asch like this, this might even be beyond her own abilities to heal, but she knew she had to try. She couldn't let him die, Natalia and Luke would be so upset. "Come forth O illumination of life! Healing Circle!"

A green light appeared on the ground giving Tear a warm feeling, she could only hope that it would do the same for the young God-General that lay near death beside her.

Asch felt a warmth overcome him and the pain in his chest and back lessened finally. He felt much stronger now, it seemed that he was not bleeding nearly as badly as he was before, though the pain was indeed still there.

"Asch, can you hear me?!" Tear yelled. "Please, give me some sign that you will be okay!"

Did they really care that much? He could understand Natalia being upset, but not Tear. Of course, she was a healer, and healers did tend to have more of a reverence for life than most. He tried to open his eyes, but he could only accomplish opening them just slightly, but it was enough to reassure Tear that her stubborn patient would indeed live. "Thank goodness!"

Natalia came back with Guy who was shaking his head. "Natalia, are you really sure you should be wearing that?" The blonde haired swordsman asked her again.

Tear looked up, and sighed in relief that it at least wasn't the swimsuit Emperor Peony gave her. Not that this flashy outfit of hers was much better. Asch would likely either love it, or get seriously upset at how much of her breasts were showing.

"Well, it's either this or that awful swimsuit. None of the rest of them are clean." Natalia declared.

"Well, it's good to see Natalia is all right." Jade commented.

"Yeah, she's fine." Guy grumbled. "She tried to kick me when she thought I was looking at her changing. I thought I heard a monster, I wasn't trying to look!"

"Guy, do you really want Asch to hear that?" Tear asked.

"Tear, is Asch all right?" Natalia asked, quickly walking over to where Tear was.

"He should be fine. He likely saved your life." Tear told her as the princess knelt down beside her. "He really should be more careful about his own health when trying to protect you."

Asch heard Natalia's voice saying his name and tried to wake, this time he was a bit more successful and was able to open his eyes. "Asch! You're awake!" Natalia exclaimed.

His vision was a bit hazy, but quickly cleared up. He could see Natalia kneeling down beside him, and he could see…wait, when did she change into something that showed off her breasts like that? Was he still unconscious and now dreaming about Natalia in revealing clothing, or was he really seeing that wondrous view of her breasts? "Natalia, what is that outfit that you are wearing?"

"Asch! You're all right! I was so worried about you!" Natalia exclaimed, as she threw her arms around him.

"Natalia, you probably shouldn't do that, he's likely lost too much blood to be able to stand it." Jade commented.

"I-I'm fine!" Asch stammered, not wanting to admit that Jade was right, he was suddenly feeling a bit weak. "Natalia, could you let go?"

"Oh! I'm sorry!" She exclaimed as she released him from her embrace. "I was just so relieved. Did I hurt you?"

"No, I don't think you hurt him, but it can't be good to be making him blush in his condition." Tear explained.

"Why don't we rest here for a time? Anise can cook something that will help him regain his strength and the rest of us can recover from this."

"As long as Natalia's not doing the cooking, that's fine by me!" Anise cheerily exclaimed, as walked off to gather materials for a fire.

"I have gotten much better!" Natalia defended.

"Natalia, let Anise cook, I would prefer that you stay with me." Asch requested.

"Of course, Asch. Anything you want. And you never did answer that question from before."

"I think we should let them have some time to themselves." Jade suggested. "Let's go help Anise with the cooking."

The rest of them left Natalia and Asch on their own, though they did not stray far in case more monsters came, but finally fate was no longer getting in the way and was forcing him to answer her.

"I would be among them." Asch answered her finally.

"So you do care, and that's why you risked your life for me. Don't ever do that again!"

"I cannot promise that."

"But I don't want you to die protecting me!"

"I won't."

"How can you know that? You almost died today, had it been in just a small difference in where you got hit, not even Tear would have been able to save you."

He didn't answer that statement, because he really couldn't, if he could protect Natalia, he would do so, her life was more important. Instead, he sat up and was looking for his things. He needed get some sort of clothing back on, "Where did she put my uniform?"

"I don't see it, do you have anything else to wear?"

"An old spare uniform, it should be in my pack."

Natalia looked around and saw his sword and a small bag lying not too far away. She picked them up and handed them to him. He opened it and removed the parts that he needed to put on, and slid his arms into one part. "Here, let me help."

As much as he wanted to refuse her help and say he could do it himself, he knew that reaching around to fasten everything on his uniform with a cut like the one he had would hurt a lot until it healed completely. Even Tear's fonic arte wouldn't heal it completely, just enough to make it no longer life threatening. "Fine."

She grabbed his long red hair to move it out of the way and not surprised to find that it was just as soft and silky as she had imagined. Ever since she found out who she was and saw how gorgeous that hair of his was, she had a wish deep down to see if it was indeed as soft as it looked, and now she knew that it most definitely was. She didn't even realize that she had gotten distracted by his hair until he sighed. "Oh, sorry, I just, um…"

Oddly, he realized he was enjoying this, the warmth of her close to him, the feeling of her fingers pulling ever so gently on his hair to move it, it was actually not a bad feeling to let her take care of him for a short time, but he couldn't tell her this, she gently placed his long hair over his shoulder and quickly worked on closing all the fastenings. She was amazed at how complex it was, it was almost as complicated as some of the clothes she needed a maid's assistance to put on, but yet he obviously dressed himself.

As she was helping him with the tabard, the others returned with the food already prepared. "Ah, good, he's dressed now, so he must be doing better." Jade commented. "I was hoping the lovebirds enjoyed their time alone. We will have to get moving again once we eat."

Anise giggled at Natalia helping Asch dress, then she served everyone the stew that she made. "Don't worry, the Colonel only lit the fire, he didn't touch the food at all."

Natalia smiled, remembering the time where Jade had been talking about adding interesting ingredients to their food, and they all swore never to let Jade cook again. It was probably his way of making sure he got out of yet another chore though.

Each of them ate heartily of the stew, it was indeed delicious, since Anise was a good cook. Asch actually was impressed that it was almost as good as his own cooking, but the more impressive part was the fact that they cared enough about him to go through the trouble. That and they even gave him some time alone with Natalia, and no monsters attacked, likely also their doing. "Thanks, it's good.."

"So, Asch is nice after all." The girl commented.

"No, I'm not!" he quickly denied.

"Well, it's obvious that he's back to his old grumpy self." Jade commented. "Once everyone is finished we need to get moving again."

They all finished off their meal and let Jade handle the cleanup also, as that was one of the few things he could be trusted with. Once he finished they got back on their way to find the Rugnican Death Cap.


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