It had been almost a year now since the fateful day Max had wielded the chaos breaker into Dark Dragon. Almost a year since the Castle of the Ancients had sunken with him inside. Many of the Shining Force doubted his survival, their spirits dampened. After Max's presumed death most had returned to their homes near and far, and had not gathered again. That was, until today.
This morning had started out nothing special; Queen Anri rose with the sun and looked outside the window of her Guardiana palace like she always did. Remembering her father and remembering Max, the one who had led her and the others for so long. Anri sighed as she stared out the window into the training grounds below. Young knights just getting used to their armor were gathering around one central figure, watching with interest. Anri leaned a bit further out the window to watch and she wasn't surprised when she got a glimpse of the figure gaining so much attention. Mae was at it again, training vigorously, striving for perfection. Anri sighed, if the hurt was bad for her at the loss of her father and a friend, she could only imagine how hard it was on Mae. "You never got to tell him you loved him, did you?" Anri said in a whisper, putting a hand under her chin as she watched pensively.
"Are you alright, M'lady?" came a familiar voice followed by the sound of hooves on a stone floor.
Anri jumped slightly and turned "Oh Arthur, you startled me" she said.
"Are you alright?" he inquired, concern in his eyes.
"Yes, of course, why do you ask?" Anri said, pasting on a light smile.
"You seem so sad. What's on your mind?" Arthur asked.
"I was just thinking, Arthur" Anri stated.
"I've known you since we were kids, you don't look sad unless you are so what's wrong?" Arthur asked.
"I was thinking about my father and Max…" Anri said.
"We all miss Max" Arthur said, putting a hand on her shoulder.
Anri sighed and looked back out the window, Arthur followed her gaze "Mae's taking it pretty hard, huh?" he said.
"She loved him, Arthur, she just didn't get to tell him before it was too late" Anri said.
Tao was in her bedroom, reading a book on fire magic as she fiddled with a strand of her pink hair. She glanced up from the book and looked at Domingo; the small creature was curled up on a chair sleeping. She sighed "Poor fellow"
Domingo had seemed to fall into a depression after max left, even though he was young as it was, he slept even more to try and escape the reality that Max was gone. He only seemed to cheer some in Mae's company, but it was no surprise, Mae had carried his egg for some time before it hatched, keeping it safe.
Tao sighed as she stared at the magical creature.
Hans stepped into the room, brushing a loch of his white hair from his eyes "It's awfully quiet in here for a fire mage, you alright, Tao?" he asked.
"Yeah…" Tao said and sighed.
"Missing Max?" Hans asked again.
Tao nodded "Domingo misses him a lot too"
"It's no surprise, we all grew to know him as a dear friend, we all miss him" Hans said softly.
Tao laid her book on the bed and stood "I know Hans, I just wish there was some way… any way at all we could bring him back" Tao said.
Hans went over and rubbed her shoulder "We all wish that, Tao" he said, trying to be of comfort.
Suddenly Domingo bolted up off the chair into the air "Guys guys guys!!!! Guuuuuys!" he said almost sounding hyper.
Tao blinked "What's wrong with you?"
"Max is alive! I can feel it! He's alive I tell you!" Domingo yelled out, doing flips through the air.
Tao blinked and bit her lip. Hans put a hand over his mouth as they watched Domingo.
Domingo floated to the door "Aren't you guys, coming?"
"Domingo, we want to believe you, but max sunk with the castle of the Ancients a year ago, he couldn't have survived" Hans said sadly.
"He's alive!" Domingo insisted and looked to Tao for support "You believe me don't you, Tao?" he asked, looking at her with large, pleading eyes.
Tao bit her lip "Domingo-"
She was cut off by a wise, familiar voice "Domingo is a magical creature and his senses are far more attuned than ours, we must assume he is right" Nova said, stroking his blue beard.
"Even if he is right and Max is alive, how are we going to find him?" Hans asked.
"Our first steps should be convincing Mae that Max is alive, then Anri will be more likely to agree to all this" Tao said, thinking strategically and Nova smiled slightly.
"I shall go summon the shining force" Nova announced as he left Tao, Hans, and Domingo.
Domingo floated out the door at top speed "uh, where's he going?" Hans asked.
Tao laughed "Come on!" she said, she grabbed Hans by the arm and pulled him along with her as they followed Domingo outside to the training grounds. Knights of all sizes were still gathered around Mae, watching her train.
"Excuse me, let us through" Tao said, trying to get by but the knights didn't seem to hear. She growled and stepped backwards. She called on the powers of her guardian staff and cast blaze level 1 into the air above the knights, causing them to scatter.
"Next time let us through" Tao huffed and walked past the knights, Domingo floating by her and Hans walking behind.
Mae paused in her training and glanced at the three "is something wrong?" she asked.
"Mae, it's about Max" Hans said.
Mae's expression became rather gloomy "May he rest in peace'' she said softly.
"But he's not dead! He's alive! I know it!" Domingo exclaimed.
Mae looked at him softly "That's right Domingo; he lives on in our hearts"
"Mae, he's alive, really, Nova even believes so" Tao insisted.
"We all want to believe it Tao, we all wish he had survived-" Mae broke off and turned away, her shoulders shook slightly as if she was crying.
Domingo floated in front of her and hugged her with his tentacles "Don't cry, mama." he said softly.
Mae looked at him "You called me 'Mama' " she said.
"That's because you are, at least to me." Domingo said.
Mae smiled lightly "Thanks Domingo"
"Max is alive! I know he is! We just gotta find him" Domingo said, looking Mae in the eyes.
Mae bit her lip, but slowly smiled. She just had to believe Domingo, it was all the hope she had left of finding max ever again.
"Alrighty then, we better get busy, huh?" Mae said softly.
Domingo almost seemed to smile as he let go of her with his tentacles.
"Next step is convincing Anri" Hans said.
Tao nodded "We were hoping you'd help us, Mae?"
"Of course" Mae answered, following them into the large stone palace.
Meanwhile, in the undersea town called Aquos Aegis, a man with hair of light reddish-brown and deep blue eyes worked the fields with care. Other farmers glanced at him as he seemed to do his tasks with little effort. In little time he'd finished for the day and began to head back home as farmers looked on astonished. A robot with light gold coverings walked up aside the man "You broke your record, you did it even faster today" the robot said calmly.
The man did not respond, his head lowered in deep thought.
"Something wrong, Master?" the robot inquired, pausing.
"Please Adam, call me Max" the man said distantly, almost sadly.
"You're thinking about them again aren't you? The Shining force?" Adam inquired, looking his master in the eyes.
Max paused and adjusted the green band around his forehead "Yeah" he said in a grim tone.
"Well don't be so grim, master Max, at least they are all safe" Adam insisted.
Max sighed "Yeah…" he said, walking alongside his robot friend to his house up ahead.
When they got inside Max sat down and began to think about every member of the shining force individually "Even before the shining force started, Lowe was my best friend." he said softly, remembering Lowe with his grey hair, blue eyes, and black hole of a stomach. "He may not have fought well, but his healing skills got us out of a few jams" Max said.
Adam nodded "Fighting was more Luke's thing, wasn't it?"
"Ah yes, Luke proved size certainly was no factor in battle" Max said, remembering the short, raven-haired warrior whom had been with him since the start of the shining force.
"I also remember Tao, she was the first mage that joined the shining force, despite her low defense she never let anyone down." Max said, recalling the pink haired, golden eyed Elvin woman and smiled slightly " I think she and Hans the archer had a thing for each other" he recalled the slim, white haired, golden eyed Elvin archer whom had joined when Tao had. He went on to remember others and then last he came to Mae "She lost her father, Varios not long before she joined upon Anri's father's dying requests. She was always so brave, so sweet-" Max broke off and was silent.
"You never got to tell Mae you loved her, did you, master?" Adam asked.
"No Adam, I never got to tell her" Max said quietly and fought back tears. He only hoped Mae had found happiness…
Back at the palace, Anri sat on her thrown, a hand under her chin as her white hair gracefully draped down over one of her blue eyes. She was a bit surprised to see Mae inside the palace; she almost never came inside anymore. "Has something gone wrong?" Anri asked. Her tone calm, but slight concern was apparent in her eyes.
"No, just the opposite, your Grace" Tao said, curtsying.
"Please Tao, you're my best friend, just call me Anri" Anri said, brushing a bit of hair from her eyes.
Tao nodded "Anri, we request your permission to embark on a mission" she said.
"What sort of mission?" Anri asked curiously.
"One to the place where the castle of the ancients once stood" Hans said.
Anri sighed "We all watched the castle sink, Max went with it, and what more proof of his death do you need?" she asked sadly.
"He's not dead!" Domingo protested.
"Please Anri, I just know he's out there, we have to look for him" Mae pleaded.
Anri bit her lip "Mae, as much as I'd like to believe it, would you, or anyone else be able to handle it if the search was fruitless?"
"With all due respect, Queen Anri, I'm on my last hope and I've just got to keep believing" Mae said.
Tao, Hans, Domingo, even Arthur who had yet to leave Anri's side nodded silently, waiting for Anri to answer.
Anri stood up "I haven't seen you this determined since we were once the shining force and we must become the Shining force again for this mission" she said.
Nova entered the room "Well then, follow me, M'lady" he said in his wise voice. He led Anri, Arthur, Tao, Hans, Mae, and Domingo to the armory. The one that had been vacant for near a year now.
"Hans!" a familiar female voice exclaimed and suddenly Hans found himself embraced by a pink haired, ruby eyed Elvin archer.
"Diane, it's so good to see you" Hans said, smiling.
"How's my favorite cousin?" Diane asked him.
Hans made a face "I'm your only cousin"
Diane laughed "That's why I'm allowed to say that" she said.
Tao was glancing around the full armory and noticed Alef and went over "Hi! Long time, no see!" she said brightly. She, Anri, and Alef had been quite the trio and had become really close friends during their time with the shining force.
Alef's orange fur seemed to shine in the light, her hair covering one of her blue eyes "I know, it's been forever almost. Do you know why we're here?" she asked.
"Hello Alef" came a calm, deep tone from behind her. She whirled around to see the wolf baron himself, Zylo standing clad in his special armor "It's been a while" he said calmly.
Alef almost felt like she was going to melt "Yeaaah" she said, blushing beneath her fur.
Zylo blinked "Err, you okay?"
"Yep! I'm wonderful" Alef said and giggled.
Zylo blinked at her and walked off.
Ken, Pelle, Vankar, Earnest, and Lyle were all exchanging stories about supposed adventures they'd had this past year. Most simply fish tales.
Balbaroy was fluffing his brown feathers as his wife; Amon flitted a bit in the air with her silver wings, trying to convince Bleu that there was a bird spell to make a girl fall in love with you.
Gong and Torasu were talking with interest about the importance of healing herbs while Musashi and Hanzou were practicing their fighting skills against one another.
Jogurt had scrambled up on top of Guntz's back and had fallen asleep while Kokichi was arguing with him about the importance of his flying machine vs. the steam suit.
Lowe looked at Kris "Well hello" he said with a grin.
"Hi Lowe, how's it going?" she asked sweetly, twirling her holy staff a bit.
"It's going good, after this want to go to dinner? We could get steaks in Bustoke, or maybe even Pao Pig pork chops!" Lowe said brightly.
Kris laughed lightly "We'll see" she said.
Luke walked over to Gort and noticed he was frowning "What's the matter, you aren't happy to see the Shining Force together again?"
"Yeah, we're all reunited. But no one has told us the reason yet." Gort said and his frown worsened "When are we gonna get some answers around here?!" he shouted and the entire room fell silent.
"The reason you have all been gathered is because the Shining Force has one last mission to complete" Nova said in his wise voice.
"And what mission is that?" Gort inquired, his heat axe in hand.
"We are going to embark on a mission to locate the resting place of the castle of the ancients and find Max" Anri announced.
That caused quite the commotion amongst the members of the shining force.
"Max sunk with the castle of the ancients, he's dead" Zylo said.
"It'd be a waste of time and effort" Hanzou said.
"Gosh darnnit he's dead, why can't you people leave that be?!" Gort's objection the loudest.
"Max isn't dead! I know he's not dead! I can feel it!" Domingo called out.
All protests fell silent, not wanting to hurt the magical creature's feelings.
"Domingo is accurate, we must find Max" Nova said.
They began to set up a plan of who would go and who would stay at the palace and guard it.
By the light of the moon Anri, Arthur, Tao, Hans, Luke, Lowe, Kris, Gort, Mae, Balbaroy, Zylo, Alef, Domingo, Bleu, Torasu, and Nova boarded Anri's ship.
"As much as I hate being left out of the action- good luck you guys!" Ken called out from the shore, his blonder hair in his eyes.
"Remember to heal up if you get hurt!" Gong called, the moonlight glinting off his bald head.
"Have a safe trip Balbaroy, honey!" Amon called out.
"I'll take good care of your thrown Queen Anri, you can count on me!" Diane yelled.
Pelle ran a hand through his raven hair "You took on Runefaust guys, you can do this!" he called.
"We'll help the others guard the palace!" Vankar and Earnest called, Earnest's white hair covered his scar for once as he said this.
"I'll use my skills to keep any intruders at bay!" Lyle said.
Guntz and Kokichi were simply waving as they whispered back and forth.
"Armadillo-brain" Kokichi muttered.
"Old man" Guntz shot back in whisper.
Everyone waved Goodbye and the ship set sail.
Jogurt's helmet dropped over his eyes and he heard yelling so he pulled it up and blinked his hamster eyes at Kokichi and Guntz "They're at it again" he mumbled…
Adam was in the house recharging his circuits as Max sat outside in the light of the stars, his eyes focused on the roaring campfire in front of him and for a moment it wasn't a campfire to him, it was Tao's blaze spell, roasting an enemy alive and he smiled slightly.
"Err Max?" came a voice, snapping him out of his trance.
Max glanced up from the fire and into the face of a kindly old farmer, Gaddy. Gaddy had been the first one to find him in this town, he'd given him somewhere to stay until he'd been able to earn up money enough to get his own place. The only reason he'd been able to earn up money is Gaddy offering him a job lending his hands to the village fields. "Yes Gaddy, what do you need?" Max asked.
"Is somethin' wrong?" Gaddy asked kindly.
"No, why do you ask?" Max said, pasting a smile on his face.
"You haven't touched your dinner" Gaddy said lightly.
Max glanced down into his full bowl of soup and sighed.
"Is it about where ya came from? 'Cause ya never talk 'bout it" Gaddy asked.
"I don't want to talk about it, Gaddy, please, don't push me on the matter" Max said.
"Well, if ya change yer mind, lemme know, kay?" Gaddy said and walked off.
Max stared into the fire remembering each and every member of the Shining Force as tears welled in his eyes and spilled over "If only there had been another way for the end of Dark Dragon to come, I would have taken it even to get five seconds to have told the Shining force how much they meant to me, and tell Mae how much I love her" he said. He buried his face in his blue cloak and wept inconsolably. His sobs only heard by creatures of the night and nothing more…
Anri's ship sailed well into the night and kept on sailing until 12 PM the next day. The ship stopped and all its passengers gathered on deck.
"Why in Blue blazes have we stopped?!" Gort demanded.
"We've reached the destination zone" Nova said simply.
"So which way to Max?" Zylo inquired calmly.
"It looks like a looooooong dive" Bleu observed, looking over the ship's side.
"It is quite a long way down" Nova said in confirmation.
"Have you all gone crazy, some of us can't swim and those who can can't hold their breath forever!" Balbaroy said in objection.
"I agree with bird-boy" Gort said.
"That's obvious, so I'm betting someone has a plan" Hans put in.
Arthur nodded "Yeah, there has to be a way to work this one out.
Gort crossed his arms, grumbling.
Luke couldn't help but snicker at the old dwarf.
Tao suddenly had an idea and she whispered it to Anri to see if it was dumb or not.
Anri nodded "It might work" she said and in turn whispered it to Nova, everyone else had fallen silent.
Nova nodded " Healers, front and center, all of you use your strongest healing magic and hold it, the healing energies should work to encase the group in a protective bubble and allow us to go as far under the water as we need"
"What if it doesn't work?" Gort objected.
"Well if you're scared you can stay behind" Luke teased.
"I didn't say that" Gort spat.
"Well then Gort, are you coming?" Mae asked.
Nova looked at Lowe, Kris, and Torasu "Give it all you've got" he instructed.
Kris, Lowe, and Torasu raised their holy staves and cast their most powerful heal magic and then held it there. As Tao had strategized, it formed a bubble-like shield around the group and the descended into the sea.
They sank deeper and deeper until in the distance what appeared to be an oversized snow globe came into view.
"What is that?" Kris asked, straining to maintain her part of the shield.
"It looks like a crystal ball, kind of like the one Otrant had" Hans said.
"It's too big to be a crystal ball" Tao said.
"Oh, right" Hans said and Tao laughed.
As they got closer it came into clearer view. "It appears to be some sort of village, but what's with the spherical roof?" Arthur said.
"Maybe it's a shield!" Domingo said.
"I think he's onto something" Anri said, looking out the shield.
"I'm sure of it, it has to be a shield" Alef commented.
"If we collide with it, who knows what will happen" Tao said.
"What're we gonna do?" Bleu asked a bit nervously.
Nova tapped his lip in thought and then looked at Tao, Anri, Alef, and Domingo " All four of you use your strongest spells to try and burst a hole in the Village's shield, it should last long enough for us to get through"
The 3 wizardesses took up their guardian staves and went over to the edge of the Vicars' shield.
Domingo floated over to them and at once they all released their most powerful spells, Tao cast blaze 4, Anri cast freeze 4, Alef cast Bolt 4, and Domingo cast freeze 4.
The village's shield began to ripple as a hole was torn in it, the Vicar's held onto the shield as the spell casters kept on casting. Everyone braced for collision.
As the shining force hit the shield and slid through the hole the magic casters had made. As soon as they were inside, the shield popped and the entire shining force was falling downward Balbaroy and Bleu began flapping their wings, but the falling force was too hard to resist and they were pulled downward with everyone else.
The group landed in a large hay pile that was surrounded by soft soil. Balbaroy was first to scramble out of the pile "Ack! I hate hay." he said, pulling pieces of it out of his feathers.
"Hey, don't get mad at the hay, it cushioned your landing" Domingo said brightly, sitting on Mae's back.
"He is right" Bleu said, brushing hay off of himself.
Everyone got out of the hay pile, but Kris got on top of it and leaned back to relax " Ahhhh" she sighed, holding that shield had been a big strain, she was tired.
Lowe sort of smirked and sat by the base of the hay pile and shut his eyes, Torasu followed suit.
Gort frowned. How could they not be taking this seriously? Just lying around!
The three wizardesses stared up at the hole they'd made or rather the hole that had vanished "I hope we can get back the way we came in" Alef said and swayed a bit tiredly. She'd used a lot of magic. She felt a pair of strong hands steady her and she glanced up at the owner of the hands " You did your job and you did well, you should take a rest" Zylo said calmly and helped her over to a place she could sit and relax.
Tao and Anri had both used a lot of magic themselves.
"You ladies should rest some too before we move on" Arthur said.
"Yeah, we would have been in a real jam without you gals" Hans added.
Tao and Anri were about to sit down when Gort stormed over "We must move on! We can't stay here and not take our duty seriously!"
"Gort, our vicars and magic users are tired, it would be suicide to move on ahead if we run into unpleasant company" Luke argued, coming over.
"Arthur has magic" Gort argued, a stern look on his old face.
"I may know a few spells, but I'm no mage" Arthur said.
Mae looked over "Enough Gort, the best way to take our duty seriously is to rest when we need to- that's what Max would want"
Tao sat down and so did Anri.
"Fine, we'll play it your way Mae, but be warned, I have a feeling we are being watched" Gort said.
"Well Gort, if you are so bothered then you can keep watch" Anri said tiredly and shut her eyes.
"Yeah, wake us up if any monsters show up, okay?" Tao added tiredly. She leaned back, closed her eyes and fell asleep. Everyone took the opportunity to sit down and relax and most fell asleep. Gort however, was determined to keep watch. Little did he know he was right about one thing: the group was being watched. They were in Aquos Aegis and none other than the old farmer Gaddy had been watching them.
Gaddy watched the group, knowing the old dwarf, Gort seemed to sense him. He hoped to wait him out and he sat in his hiding spot in wait. It wasn't terribly long before the old dwarf fell asleep and Gaddy slipped out of his hiding spot and began making his way back to the other side of the village. Perhaps these were the old friends Max never talked about, he didn't know and there would be only one way to get Max to admit it: he'd have to be crafty. Gaddy made his way back to the other side of the village and put his hands on his knees to catch his breath a moment. He then jogged into Max's house "Max! There are intruders in the other side of town! They look like they could be dangerous, they could probably destroy all we worked so hard for because they won't stop until they find what they're looking for!" he exclaimed.
Max bolted up, he owed a lot to Gaddy and hesitantly he picked up a sword "Who are they Gaddy, I'll help you get rid of them" Max said.
"One of 'em was named.. Err.. Gort, one was called um.. Arthur, an' one of 'em was called errr.. Mae I believe" Gaddy said.
Max froze and let his sword clatter to the ground. His facial expression one of absolute shock. The Shining Force was in Aquos Aegis? How was that even possible? He reasoned not to be too disappointed if it wasn't them, but still.
"You al'ight, Max?" Gaddy asked, staring at him.
"Yes" Max said. He picked up the sword, sheathed it, and tied it on his belt and glanced at Adam "Come along, old friend" he said and turned back to Gaddy "Lead the way"
"Just a momen' lad, I need at catch my breath" Gaddy said, leaning on a chair.
"Would you like me to fetch you some water?" Max asked.
"Yes, lad, that'd be 'elpful" Gaddy said.
Max nodded and went over to a bucket of water on the far side of his house and scooped some water into a cup for Gaddy. He brought the water back to the old farmer and Gaddy drank it down "Thank ya, lad. We can leave now" he said and began leading max and Adam towards the other side of the village where the Shining Force was resting. The walk took a while, following someone old like Gaddy. However, before too long the Shining Force was in clear sight and Max felt his heart pound. It was them! It was really them!
" This is where those intruders are-" Gaddy said, stopping as he watched Max making his way towards the Shining Force with an almost excited look on his face. The old farmer smirked and looked at Adam "Those his friends?"
"It would appear so, my master hasn't been this happy in a while" he said and followed Max down to the others. Gaddy hung back to watch.
Max nimbly approached the Shining Force, but did not go unnoticed by Domingo's finely attuned senses. Domingo bolted up off Mae's back "Max is here! What did I tell you! He's here!" he exclaimed and floated over to Max, wrapping his tentacles around him "Papa!' he said brightly.
Max chuckled slightly as the Shining Force members roused one by one.
"Max.. is it really you?" Lowe asked, looking at his best friend.
"In the flesh" Max said, smiling "Oh, I've missed you guys"
"We've missed you too" Anri said.
"All of us" Tao added.
Mae went over to Max "What happened to you? We thought you sunk with the castle and-"
Max put a finger to her lips to quiet her "All of you come back to my place with me and I'll explain everything. It's a loooong story"
Arthur looked at Anri "Allow me to give you a ride, M'lady" he said and knelt down.
"But Arthur, you are not a simple steed, you are a centaur" Anri said.
"You are still tired from using magic and it doesn't help with how long we've all been up, please, I insist" Arthur said.
Anri saw there was no point in arguing with him and she smiled lightly as she got on Arthur's back. He rose and began to follow Max and Adam back to Max's place.
Hans walked by Tao in case she might start wavering and Zylo walked behind Alef for similar reasons.
Luke and Nova walked behind the healers to keep an eye out for them as Balbaroy and Bleu flew over their heads. Domingo rode on Mae's back while Gort trudged along at the back of the group.
When the group arrived at Max's house the healers sat at Max's table and the wizardesses sat on his bed while everyone else stood around Max, waiting for an explanation.
" Okay, let's see, where to start" Max muttered to himself and then got an idea and looked at those gathered" As you all know, after I jabbed the chaos breaker through Dark Dragon's central head I was bound to the sword."
Everyone nodded and waited for more.
Max continued " Because I could not get free, I cast Egress to get all of you to safety and the castle began to sink with me inside. As the castle sank deeper and deeper it began to fill up with salt water. The reaction of the salt water on the handle of the chaos breaker broke my bond to it and allowed me to swim free as the chaos breaker and Dark dragon sank to the depths of the sea. I was pretty far down and knew I didn't have enough air to reach the surface, I began looking around and my eyes fell on the bubble like shield encasing Aquos Aegis. With practically no air I swam to the shield and pounded on it desperately. I somehow hit a weak point and oozed in through the shield, it sealing behind me. I fell in some soft soil and laid there a bit, I felt too tired to move. Slowly I came to realize a shadow standing over me and I glanced up to see an old farmer named Gaddy. He offered me a place to stay as long as I helped work the fields here. I agreed and he asked for my name. Shortly after I told him I passed out from exhaustion and slept several days. When I finally woke up I realized Adam had somehow followed me here and was watching over me as I had been resting. As soon as I was strong enough for it I was put to work in the fields and that's where I've been since then" Max said.
" So all this time we thought you were dead and you were playing farm-hand?!" Gort asked, sounding a bit ticked off.
" Maybe he got tired of War" Balbaroy suggested.
Max nodded " I did, but I never stopped thinking about all of you. All of you have been like a big family to me and I hope you know that" he said.
" Of course Max, like Hans said once, we all grew to know each other as dear friends" Tao said.
" But Max, if you missed us all so much why didn't you try to get back?" Anri asked.
" She has a point, you say you missed us, so what stopped you?" Alef prompted.
" Speak youngster" Torasu added.
" I'm sure he had a perfectly good reason for not coming back" Mae said.
Max nodded " I never would have had enough air to reach the surface. I wanted to, but I couldn't and so I stayed in this town entirely based on agriculture"
" Why is it called Aquos Aegis then?" Bleu asked.
" It translates something to the effect of 'Water Shield' " Nova put in.
" This village was once one by the sea, but a terrible flood caused it to sink underwater. The villagers called upon a great vicar whom watched over them to protect them, but it was too late. The vicar was sad and he sacrificed himself to make a shield for the city and it was renamed Aquos Aegis" Max said.
" Well if you couldn't come back before, why not come back with us?" Arthur said.
" I can't. I owe Gaddy a lot, he's helped me so much and I can't just abandon him." Max said looking down.
Gaddy had come in unnoticed " Now you listen to me youngster" he said and all eyes turned to him "All the time you've been here you've seemed in pieces, you've missed these people who are like your family a lot and I'm not about to let you give up the opportunity to go back with 'em" Gaddy said.
" But-" max began.
" No buts, you and your friends get a good night's sleep tonight and all of you can go back home tomorrow" Gaddy said.
" Gaddy, thanks" Max said, this meant a lot to him.
" Yeah, yeah, now don't get all sappy on me" Gaddy said and left.
Everyone stayed at Max's house that night, cramped into the small house, but comfortable none the less. When morning came the group began their hike back towards the other end of town to leave as they'd come. Mae and max lagged behind the group.
" Something wrong, Max?" Mae asked softly.
" No" Max said and fell silent.
" Oh" Mae said.
Max paused in walking " Mae?"
She paused and turned to him " Yes?"
" There's something I've got to tell you" Max said.
" I've got something to tell you too" she confessed.
" Oh, well, you first" Max said.
" No, leaders first, I insist" Mae said in response.
" Um okay. Mae, I don't know how else to say this so it's going to be very frank" max said.
" Alright" Mae said, hanging on his every word.
" I love you, I have for a long time" Max confessed, turning a bit red in the cheeks.
Mae's face turned pink " I love you too, Max" she said.
His eyes went wide " Really?"
" Yes!" she said and laughed.
Everyone glanced behind them and smiled. Hans draped his arm around Tao's shoulders " Those two are so meant to be" he said as they kept on walking.
" She finally told him" Anri smiled.
Arthur walked up alongside her " Not to mention he finally told her" he said and they both shared a smile.
The group finally got to the other end of town and Kris pulled out her Holy staff and glanced at Lowe " When we get back, does your offer for Bustoke Steak still stand?" she asked.
" You bet" Lowe said, pulling out his own holy staff.
Torasu pulled out his and all three vicars used their best healing powers to form a bubble around the entire Shining Force and they lifted into the air.
Adam glanced at the view outside the bubble " My word, look at it all" he said.
" It is a sight to behold. Goodbye, Aquos Aegis" Max said.
Zylo looked at Alef as she and the other spell casters stepped toward the front of the protective bubble " Be careful not to wear yourself out" he said calmly.
Alef smiled and along with Tao and Anri grabbed out her guardian staff and cast her most powerful elemental spell, Domingo casting freeze 4 along with them. The protective bubble slipped through the hole and floated upward through the sea until it rose into the air outside it and set everyone down on the ship.
The vicars and spell casters went below deck to rest, leaving the rest of the group on deck.
Nova set course for Guardiana as the others talked.
Balbaroy glanced at Max and Mae and then at Bleu and nodded towards below deck. Bleu got the message.
" I have to go examine my wings, travel does a number on them" Bleu said and slipped below deck.
A few moments later Balbaroy landed on deck " I think my talons need trimmed, if you'll excuse me" he said and went below deck.
Adam caught on " I'm going to go recharge my circuits, if you'll pardon me, master' Adam said to Max and followed the others lead below deck.
" I want to go practice my fighting, come on Gort, I need an opponent" Luke said and pulled Gort down the stairs.
" I'm going to make sure Tao rests like she's supposed to" Hans said, following the lead of the others and went below deck.
" I'll do the same, only for Alef" Zylo said calmly, following Hans down the stairs.
" Me too, only for Queen Anri, she needs to be right as rain to rule her kingdom" Arthur said, being the last one to go down the stairs.
" How convenient" Mae commented, noticing she was alone with Max.
" You think they planned that?" he asked.
She laughed " Who knows?" she pressed her lips to Max's and his eyes grew wide, but slowly his eyelids drooped and he kissed her back. For how long had he wanted to kiss her? he couldn't remember. He wrapped his arms around her, kissing her warmly until they broke off.
" You have no idea for how long I've wanted to do that" Mae said to him.
" Actually, I think I do" Max said and Mae smiled.
Eventually, Anri's ship docked in Guardiana and the Shining Force filed out in a fashionable order. Mae and max walked arm and arm behind Anri and Arthur on the way back to the palace.
Behind them walked Tao and Hans followed By Alef and Zylo. Behind them walked Kris and Lowe and directly behind them were Balbaroy and Bleu. And so on. When they arrive at the palace gates ken and Earnest were looking at max, dumbfounded "You aren't dead?!" Ken asked in shock.
" I don't think so" Max said, smiling.
Earnest rubbed his eyes and blinked " Well I don't think this is a dream" he said.
" No, it's not" Max said with a grin.
Slowly the other shining force members gathered outside, Diane the last to come out " What's all the commotion?" she inquired and then scream " Oh my gosh! Max you're alive!"
" Yep" Max said.
" This is so wonderful! We've got our heroic leader back" she said.
" And now that you are all gathered, I have an important announcement to make" Max said. Everyone watched him.
He turned to Mae and got down on one knee and pulled something off his finger " When I first washed up here in Guardiana, I had this ring on my finger, it's all I know of from my past, it's a symbol of who I am. I know it's not much, but special rings are hard to come by. Mae, I love you and if I have learned one thing- living without you is miserable and so, would you marry me?" Max asked, holding out the ring.
Everyone watched, awaiting Mae's response.
A look of shock crossed Mae's face" Max- this is so sudden.. I don't know what to say.. No, I know what to say. Yes Max, Yes, I'll marry you!" the shocked look was replaced by one of joy.
Max smiled and slipped the ring onto her finger and the entire shining force clapped.
" I can help with your wedding preparations, you can have it right at the palace' Anri said, but found her words falling on deaf ears as Mae and Max were staring into each other's eyes.
Arthur chuckled and slipped an arm around Anri's shoulders " What can you say?"
" They're in love" Anri said.
Arthur nodded " And truer words were never spoken"
And so it came to pass that Mae and Max married, moving into a house just outside Anri's palace. As for Anri and Arthur? They're wedding came the following Spring and Arthur permanently settled into Guardiana palace. Tao and Hans married that Fall and can still often be seen sitting outside the palace, telling stories of the Shining Force to any young knight who will listen. Zylo and Alef got married in the Winter and settled in Bustoke. And Kris and Lowe? They began dating, though Kris will hardly admit it. Everyone made sure to gather at least twice a year and they all put aside their differences, well, save for Guntz and Kokichi. Their arguments will never end.