IMPORTANT NOTE: This is a fic my friend wrote because he wanted there to be more at the end of ZG, tying up all the loose ends. Xposted here from elsewhere. So this is me doing a favor, not coming back from the dead lol
Return To Mirodo: A ZoidsGenesis Epilogue
by uhh, Mushroom Scribe?
"Yohh HA! Yohh HA! Yohh HA!"
Sweat rolled down Ruuji Familon's back as he and his team pumped the paddles with their legs, driving the mechanism that would inflate the airbags and haul up the new Zoid they had uncovered at the bottom of the sea, half-buried and derelict. It was quite a long way out this time, almost farther than they were willing to explore. However, he was excited; this was the first time in many months they'd found anything bigger than a Baratz! It was going to be well worth their effort.
Of course, it had been Ruuji who spotted it underwater to begin with. His lung capacity was still greater than anyone in Mirodo - although, his brother Faaji was beginning to catch up to him. Little upstart. Ruuji grinned at the thought as they were finally able bring it up and tie it to the boat.
Ruuji left in the skiff to teach his midday history lesson to the younger children as the rest of the team went about hacking away at the rocks and barnacles that had fused to its hull. He loved filling them with a sense of wonder as he told of the vast lands outside their humble village, of the amazing city that had hung in the heavens before Digald brought it down. He made sure to press home the point at the end of every lesson that if everyone didn't work hard to coexist, the mistakes of the Jiin and his hunger for power could easily repeat themselves. Fellowship was essential - but these children didn't understand. They just wanted to hear about the shiny Zoids that had flown up to the city in the clouds, and how the nasty old BioTyranno had been destroyed by the good guys. Ruuji didn't begrudge them one bit, but he still strove to instil other knowledge he'd gained. They were the future.
When he returned to the sea after a quick meal, his eyes grew round, heart thundering in his chest when he began closing in on the boat.
But it was not Soul Tiger - although he couldn't deny the resemblance. This one had green and aquamarine markings, not white and red. He chuckled to himself, wondering if he should head straight back to the emergency communications tower and contact Ra-Kan to tell him Seijuurou might have a new mount after all...
"Come now, Ruuji!" his father bade him, panting from the effort he'd been exerting. "Try and pilot this one!"
Everyone began clapping, laughing and carrying on. He rolled his eyes - it was useless and they all knew it. But out of respect for what he'd done for the people of Zi, they always let him have the first crack.
It did not respond to him; he knew it wouldn't. It responded to none of the villagers. To his astonishment, Faaji had managed to get its lights to flicker on for the briefest second... but no further attempts brought about change. Oh well; a transport vessel could be dispatched to Mirodo from NeoKira or Zuuri, and hopefully one of their Peace Enforcement Squad would be compatible.
When they reached the shore, much effort was needed to move their find from the boat; when they were lucky, they could pilot it and simply walk it onto land. Otherwise, pulleys and cables were needed, and all the might of the smaller Zoids they owned.
"Would you like to contact Ra-Kan-sama?" Faaji asked breathlessly.
He weighed this idea. "Nah. It's... I don't think I'll need to. You go ahead, just let them know what we found."
Faaji frowned as he wiped his brow on his sleeve. "Onii-chan... you never talk to them anymore. Are you sure?"
"The past is past, Faaji." Sighing, he dusted his hands off on his legs. "So much violence and death... I know you remember, I know. But I was on the front lines. Let me live my life of peace here at home, for now."
Faaji nodded, sighing. While the entire village over was grateful to him and sang his praises, he knew it was only his family who truly perceived and understood what he'd been through on the road to bringing down the Digald army. And it bothered them.
"Still," he added for his brother's benefit, "perhaps in a year or two, I'll take a journey... see all of them again."
"Really? Can... would you mind if I came with you?"
Ruuji laughed. "Two brothers, seeing the world! It sounds like fun."
The silly grin on Faaji's face was worth another laugh. "I'll let them know about the Tiger-type Zoid!"
And off he went, running through town like a man on fire. Oh, what a life. He wouldn't trade it for the world.
Morning broke. Today was the day they would send a Gustav to claim their burden of a nonfunctioning Zoid. Ruuji couldn't quite remember the last time a representative from the monarchy had come to Mirodo. It had been Garaga - they'd spent all night reminiscing, laughing, slapping each other on the back and swapping stories. But most likely none of the old crowd would be coming along; they all had important meetings to attend, territories to explore - or else ruins to excavate and sift through. There still remained widespread scars on the face of Zi left by the hand of Jiin and his menacing vision.
Crashing in the distance. He quelled his instincts to run for Murasame's cockpit; doing so would only put strain on their Generator and weaken this year's crop. He'd like to be safer rather than sorry, but he knew the odds of a new threat sprouting anew for no reason were slim. He had to learn to suppress those reflexes.
He crossed to his window to catch a glimpse of the Zoid causing the disturbance. Was that...? But the kingdom had many, many Lanstags. He couldn't be sure. Thirty or so minutes later, he had washed up, dressed and changed, and was waiting outside. When the Zoid halted, he noticed the Gustav that had been following along behind. Theirs was not a perfect world; there were small bands of thieves who tried to pawn Zoids for money. Hence more powerful escorts were necessary. But he'd take bandits over fools calling themselves "God" any day.
The head of the Lanstag lowered, the cockpit hissed, the hatch opened. A comely young woman rose, sliding down the exterior and landing deftly on the ground. Of course he had been wrong, the odds were astronomical to begin with. She was running in his direction. Why the hurry?
And his heart caught in his throat, choking him. "M-MII?"
The laughter floating on the wind sealed it, exactly as she was sailing into his arms; it was Rei-Mii! That's twice she had fooled him into not recognizing her! How could she have changed so much in such a short time? But, as Ruuji reminded himself, it hadn't been that short a time at all. Three years... that was how long it had taken him to rebuild his beloved home. And in those three years, Mii had grown out of being a child.
"Ohh, Ruuji!" She sobbed while laughing, digging her hands into his back. Still startled, he let his own fall against her, amazed that he was holding someone he hadn't spoken to since they had all been part of the Suppression Army... "I've missed you so much, I can't believe it's been so long!"
"IDIOT!" she shouted, stomping on his foot with crushing force as she stepped back - even in sandals, it was like an Elephunder's trample. "Why don't you ever call, or write? We're all beginning to wonder if you forgot how!"
"Sorry," he said bashfully, scratching the back of his head as he flexed his poor, swollen foot. "You know, so busy-"
"Stupid," she spat. THERE she was. But she couldn't keep the grin out of her eyes; they gave her away. "You're just as bad as you were then."
"Am I?" When she only put her hands on her hips, he grinned. "Same to you."
Laughing, they locked arms and almost skipped all the way to the water's edge, still filled with the heady feeling of reunion that made conversation temporarily unnecessary. Then they were at the beach, and she saw the Tiger-type.
"Seijuurou will be glad to see this," she said, a satisfied glow creeping into her features. "He's been piloting a BioMegaraptor, he hates it."
"It still might not respond to him."
"But you know how stricken he was when SoulTiger gave out after the final battle," she said softly. "Any chance at all..."
Ruuji found himself watching the way her hair trailed on the light breeze, how the sun glinted off the water and into her dun-colored eyes, illuminating them. She wasn't really that much taller, was she? No, she was - and he was taller, as well. That's what time does. The rest of her had changed, too, but he forced himself not to notice. She was Mii, his friend and compatriot. That she had somehow transformed into an elegant vision of loveliness since they'd last spoken was of no consequence. Faced with her sudden presence, he found that all he wanted to do was catch up with her, find out how she'd been keeping. Ask about Ra-Kan, and Kotona, and Ron.
And they both giggled, staring down and way from each other. "After you," he bade her.
"I... can't stay long," she said softly. "There's a faction of machine-soldier-piloted BioRaptors that have been spotted up north, attacking villagers. We think last month's earthquake must have activated some dormant fleet..."
His jaw set. "Really? Do you n-"
"NO," she told him sternly. "You keep Murasame hooked up to that Generator for now. If the world's about to end, we'll call."
"Oh," he said modestly. "I... okay, I understand."
"Oji-sama..." She took a deep breath. "Lord Ra-Kan asked me to re-issue his offer to be his first in command."
Ruuji let out a heavy, burdened sigh. "Mii..."
"Not that he expects you to come around," she said grumpily, folding her arms across her chest. "Personally, I don't see why he should care; you're too dunderheaded to lead the entire Peace Enforcement Squad."
Her nose crinkled at the bridge. "Pah. Of course you are - you lead an entire army once! But we all know you won't take us up on it; it's just a formal offer, in case you ever get tired of the rural life."
"Thank you," he said, bowing slightly. She giggled, flicking him in the forehead. "Ow!"
And now, when he looked up at her, he saw she was breathing faster, grinning. Something was off, suddenly - or it had been since she arrived, although she'd been putting it off, covering it up with more pressing matters and formalities and greetings.
"Mii... what's wrong? What is it?"
More deep breaths. She turned her back on him, gazing out over the forest. "None of your business."
"B-but-" He took a few steps forward, closing the distance between them. "But you can tell me. Aren't we friends?"
"I don't know, are we?"
That caused him to blink. "What do you m-"
"Ruuji, why did you have to run off on us?" she snapped, still refusing to look at him. "I understand that your village needed its Generator to rebuild itself - and capable hands to fix everything, make repairs. But... couldn't you have left them to it, handed over Murasame to your people and helped us usher in this new era? Another Zoid - maybe a BioRapt-"
"I couldn't have piloted it," he sighed deeply, hands curling into fists. This again; everyone, always harping on him for his failure to be a true Zoid pilot. Intelligently, he knew that wasn't the case at all, but it sure felt like it to him every time someone brought it up. "You know that. I can't pilot anything besides the Liger. Never could, and haven't been able to since."
"Then you could have helped my father! Tize-san is a great strategist, but we all know from experience that your natural gift is so much greater!"
"Mii, please. You know what my mission was."
Minutes passed in silence. Ruuji watched the hem of her skirt undulate on the wind, watched her arms slowly drop from their crossed position to hang loosely at her sides. "I know. And we beat the Digald, and you left."
"You left Kotona, Seijuurou, Ron, Oji-sama... that big ape. You left me."
His brow furrowed. "Wh... but you understood. At the time, when I told you I was going, you wished me a safe trip, and-"
"Gin has asked me to marry him."
That was quite a blow; Ruuji didn't know what he'd been expecting. Mii was to be married? "I- c-congratulations, Rei-Mii! That's wonderful!"
"If... I accept his proposal... the wedding will be in two months. You are invited, of course."
Ruuji nodded. "I'll... I will come, I can take a trip for such an occasion." Then he blinked. "Wait, 'if'? What do you mean, why... is there a reason you haven't-"
"You big idiot!"
Her arms were around him, grappling, pressing his chest to hers, holding on for dear life. Thunderstruck, he merely placed a hand atop her head, caressed her back, felt her tremble. "Why don't you do something about it, Ruuji? Why don't you ever look twice? You hardheaded fool!"
"Wh-what do- this- I-"
"Don't let him take my hand without a fight!" she goaded. "Step up, be a man! Try it for once!"
He drew back to look down at her, but she kept her face buried in his chest, avoiding his gaze. Could he be hearing this right? "Wait, Mii, what are you trying to ask of me?"
"Do you REALLY not know, or are you just playing dumb so you don't have to- to bear responsibility?"
"Responsibility? F-for what?"
"For US!" Only now did she look up at him, tears streaming down her cheeks like waterfalls, teeth bared as she tried to let her anger blot out the pain. "Don't you remember? The night... the day before the final strike... Oji-sama was... and that night, you were there for me, you held me, you told me everything was alright, that you'd be there for me - that he'd come back!"
"I did," he said solemnly. "And I was right, he returned!"
"But you haven't kept your other promise!" she shouted, incensed. "You left! You left me behind! To wander around aimlessly, to- nothing has felt right with you gone! I'm such a wreck inside, like ev- like everything's broken, and I'm hollow, like a part of me has been ripped out and sent to this disgusting seaside landfill! What am I supposed to do without Ruuji?"
His hand was at her smooth cheek, wiping away a tear with his thumb. "Mii, you're so- please, don't cry, I'm sorry if-"
"No," she said forcefully, drawing back, swiping at her eyes. "No. I... Ruuji, I'm sorry, I d-didn't come here to whine. We... if you give us a few hours, we'll h-have this Zoid out of your hair. The government will reward the people of Mirodo handsomely, as you well know. Let's... I, uh, have to go check on my Lanstag, its gait felt off the last few miles..."
As he watched her begin to trek through the sand, wobbling from how unused to its dunes she was, it clicked into place within his mind; she had just tried to get him to propose to her, to challenge Gin's offer. But that would mean... no!
Did Mii really think of him as more than he realized?
Brain racing at breakneck speed, he thought back on the final battle - on her glorious sacrifice of her own prized Lanstag, the most powerful of its model, battle-worn and dependable. He remembered it being ripped into pieces, the cockpit nearly crushed in BioTyranno's jaws before they were able to save her. And she had done it before then, too, sustaining heavy injuries to her entire body; it had taken her weeks to fully recover. All to protect him. Because she was his good friend... or was there another reason?
Such wide, deep eyes that flashed so dangerously when she was angered, or shone with joy when she was at ease. Her laugh, her insatiable zest for life - even her barbecue that the whole team had grown so weary of. That stew she had prepared for him, and only him, only once. Sniping at the both of them every time Kotona was harmlessly flirting with him. Crying into his shoulder... now, just as she had three years ago...
"Let go," she breathed when his hand wrapped around her wrist, at the point where the grass began to overtake the sand. In fact, her determination dragged both of them another yard or two before Ruuji dug his heels in and she gave up. "There's- we need to get back to the Gustav, begin moving this Tiger-type onto its-"
"Leave it alone!" she growled. "What right would you have to me, anyway? Some stupid hick from the middle of nowhere who- who can't even stick by his compatriots once the big fight's over, can't be bothered! I'm a PRINCESS! You're lucky I'm even talking to you!"
"Mii, I'm sorry! I'm sorry I left, I... but you knew what I had to do!"
"I know!" Her voice dropped after this outburst as she fought to master herself. "I know. And, maybe... in your position, I would have done the same. But come on, Ruuji... it was awfully cold."
"I'll accept Ra-Kan's invitation!"
To that, her eyes fluttered, mouth agape. "Wha..? B-but- wait, why? All of a sudden? Ruuji-"
"Then, I can... I can be near Rei-Mii-san," he told her formally. "Too long have I neglected my friends and countrymen. You and your uncle need me, more than Mirodo."
"No, Ruuji," she laughed weakly, not daring to believe this sudden turn-around. "I can't- I won't allow that. Not for my feelings."
"But then I would be in a better position to challenge Gin-san's proposal. And... and you can have freedom to choose. If that's what y-you want."
An impatient sigh as she stared evenly at him, hands on hips. "But what do YOU want, Ruuji Familon? What is it in the world you want to seek out? Life here? Life there? Tell me, honestly, because lies won't help me at all."
Only a moment was needed for him to take in her slender form, her smooth skin and bright, fiery expression. "You."
A shocked intake of breath followed this declaration. "St- what? Ruuji, don't be a jerk!"
"That's not even funny," she snapped, even while she began to shake visibly. Ruuji stood his ground, despite growing fear for her well-being. "Against my better judgment, I go out on a limb and- and t-tell you how I feel, and you take pot shots at me, start lying and- why would you? Never in a million years would you REALLY leave this town, it's too-"
"But I would, for you," he told her with true certainty. "Not for anyone but you, but... Mii, you're worth anything. To me."
Her knees buckled, and he rushed forward to keep her from falling forward onto her face; he was only scarcely able to do so, but they still ended up kneeling in the sand as she shuddered. "God, I- I'm not ready for th-this, I said it, I didn't mean to and I said it, and you- Ruuji, you better take that back! And I'll call you an idiot, and I'll slap you, and you can apologize, and then I'll storm off and I'll be gone!"
"But it's all I can handle," she sniffled, breathing shallow and head shaking from side to side. She was going to pass out soon from hyperventillating. "If that's not what happens... if y-you- you really-"
"Marry you?" Ruuji grinned at her in what he sincerely hoped was a reassuring way. "I'd do that."
Her lip quivered. Her hands clutched at his biceps as she swayed, and being very careful, he lowered her to her back, where she lay trembling all over, staring over his shoulder. The movements were too jerky, too random; it was a seizure, Ruuji guessed. She clearly wasn't handling this well. Ruuji stood to fetch the village medic, but her hand clamped on his wrist. "DON'T LEAVE M-ME! I- ahh! Hnhh... help me, Ruuji, help me!"
Ruuji sat outside the hut that was home to what passed for a hospital in their hamlet by the sea, drawing odd shapes in the dirt with a stick. He was quite worried, yes, but he knew that more likely than not the doctor could figure out what was wrong with her. Already word had been sent to Ra-Kan and the kingdom, and the Lord himself was on his way. From all of these persons, Ruuji had kept the details of their conversation.
"Alright, son," the doctor said as he exited his clinic. "She's fine; just a little dehydrated, and low on magnesium. Gave her a dose. Needs to get plenty of fluids. She should also try to get more fish in her diet, maybe some nuts or spinach."
Ruuji laughed, he was so relieved. "That's what happens when all you eat is barbecue."
"Nothing. Can I... go in and see her?"
"Sure. Just don't ask her to run any marathons for the rest of the day."
Mii was lying on the doctor's table, chugging down water like someone wanted to steal it from her. When she heard his footsteps, her head whipped around, and then she tried to sit up, but he rushed to her side and pushed her back down with gentle hands. "Please, rest, Mii. I don't want you to-"
"But we have to get going," she whispered. "The Zoid-"
"No, you don't," Ruuji told her firmly as he disposed of her empty glass. Telling her the Ra-Kan had nominated himself to come to Mirodo would only make her feel worse. "They're sending someone else from the capital to take care of everything. Rest is most important right now."
Her eyes were staring into a corner of the ceiling. "Ruuji... I don't want to be some kind of- of invalid who can't handle a simple job like this. What must Oji-sama think?"
"According to Faaji, he thinks you haven't been paying enough attention to your own health lately. That's what the doctor said, too."
There came a long pause as they thought. Ruuji brought his hand to her head and felt for a fever, and Mii held her breath the entire time, trembling - but only from nerves. At last, she whispered. "You know... I... I have a little brother, now."
Ruuji's jaw flew open. "You WHAT?"
A light chuckle. "We really should print you a newsletter. Yes... Oji-sama, he and- hell, it took us all a bit by surprise, but he took Haara-san for his bride. They were in no way expecting to be able to conceive, not at their age, b-but- well, four months later and everyone began to notice, and not long after that, well... baby Rei-In was born. Named after my father. So he's not technically my brother, but my cousin..."
"Ah," Ruuji said, smiling. That was nice to hear; Ra-Kan had suffered so much throughout his life, had borne the burden of thinking Digald's spread was his own doing. Anything to bring him happiness in these years was a long time coming. "I'm glad."
"S-so-" She swallowed thickly. "So Ruuji... I am no longer needed there, to be next in line for his throne. If... you would rather stay here... I could st- I could-"
"What is it?"
Tears were welling up in again, threatening to fall. "I could stay with you, if you wanted. Not that you do."
He felt his hand clutch hers tightly, and she allowed her eyes to squeeze shut now, waiting for the anvil to drop. "Mii..."
"Think about it for a while. I'll... be returning to base with the Tiger-type, once they've given me some decent food. Honestly, don't you guys know how to make a good barbecue in this backwater?"
"You're welcome to stay here with me," he chuckled. "But please, don't do this to run away from Gin's proposal. Th-that is, even if that were the reason, I'd be happy to have you around for a while! It's just... it's not fair to him, is it?"
His own cheeks were burning. What they were talking about were things that were far over his head. But he still wanted to talk about them, to consider the bright possibility of having Mii around, eating meals with her, working alongside to build up the village. He couldn't truly imagine her enjoying such menial tasks, but if she didn't mind...
"I'll move here," she whispered softly, fearfully. "If you'll... if you'll propose to me, and do it the right way. I'll consider it. B-but if I change my mind about this village, you have to move back to Zuuri with me, no arguments." She hesitated. "You know, nevermind the whole idea! We have nothing in common anyway, what was I thinking? Stupid plan in the first- EH?"
Smiling, Ruuji knelt by her bedside, and she pushed up on her elbow, agape, breathing speeding up. When he grasped one of her hands between his, a tiny squeak emitted from deep in her tonsils somewhere. This was probably bad for her condition, but to wait would be far worse agony. "Rei-Mii, I am in love with you."
"So would you do me the honor-"
"Crap crap crap crap crap-"
"-of being my bride?"
She was chewing on her fingernails now, shaking her head from side to side frantically, hyperventillating again. Automatically, he grabbed the water pitcher from the nearby table and shoved it toward her, and she drained it in one gulp, scarcely noticing she'd done so. He returned the pitcher to the table, trying not to let out a chuckle and spoil the moment. Then she whispered, "No way..."
"Wait a minute - what?"
"No, that felt all wrong," she snapped, pouting at him. "I think it would have been better if I'd proposed to you. Yes, that's it - I'll go get a ring made, and I'll propose to you, and you can have the honor of being MY bride. Brilliant! So that's a plan, we'll-"
"Mii!" he laughed, grabbing both her hands up and squeezing them. "Forget rings, forget that stuff! What do you think?"
"I think I'm scared now," she giggled madly, still trying not to look at him even though this was becoming harder and harder, sliding her thumbs along the sides of his hands. "We- our relationship has always been so rocky, with us bickering and- and- and everybody kept dropping hints that they thought we'd make a good couple, even Da-Jin-sama! But now when I think about- and that 'L' word you threw out at- and you and I would- and THEN we'd have t-to-"
The deep shade of scarlet was relfected in both of their features, and they turned away from each other. "Forget that, too, for now," he told her softly. "One step at a time - we haven't even kissed yet or anyth-"
And then they had. Neither of them were ready for it to happen, but when she slid from the bed and pinned him to the floor, lips exploring his, hands winding into his coarse, sea-salty hair, it was like the most dangerous kind of magic, powerful and wonderful and terrifying all at the same time. Then she released from him and sat back, slapping him across the face. "YOU PERVERT!"
"I'm sorry!" she gasped out, laughing and crying. "I- that was just a reflex, I didn't really mean to slap you!"
Ruuji was already laughing though, hard, right from the gut. "Mii, you are one hundred percent crazy!"
"I must be to have fallen in love with a dope like YOU!" she shot back, dropping down onto him, laying her head on his chest. "Ruuji... my God, I just kissed Ruuji, how is that even possible?"
"I think the kiss you left on the side of my face stung a little!"
"How can I want to be with you so much, need your touch like this - when I'm completely scared of what it means? What's going to happen to us?"
"Good things, Mii." His hands were on her shoulders, and she snuggled into him, a sigh that signified something close to contentment floating out of her. "All good things."
"Now, don't you go cheating on me while I'm away," she ordered, those deep brown eyes narrowed threateningly. "You're a big boy; no temporary insanity pleas." Ruuji shook his head, laughing as she climbed her way into the Lanstag's cockpit. Once in there, she called down, "And don't look up my dress like that!"
"Who says I was?"
"Right. But, um... you're going to have to at least be tempted, if you want to be my fiancee!"
"Oh, tempted, sure! But I would never do something that uncouth!"
The haughty frown that she shot him told him it was the right answer; anything else would have initiated a screaming match. "Very well. I shall return once I have prepared all the arrangements for our grand ceremony. Oh, and informed poor Gin-chan of these pending nuptials. To be honest, I think he only offered to marry me because he wants to take care of me, repay me for helping him find his way again; or maybe he is in love with me, I don't know. But I'm sure he'll understand."
"Fine, fine. Just make sure you don't forget MY family is invited, too!"
"Right," she admonished herself, blushing. "Ahem. Anyway, we must be going to meet the party heading our way. So long, Familon-san."
But she could not seem to close the cockpit hatch, nor do anything else but stare down at him. Finally, the head descended right to the ground, a few inches from him. "Ruuji, come here for a moment, I forgot."
He wandered over, curious. "Hmm? What's the pro-MMPH!"
The way her hand clamped down on the back of his neck sent a thrill down his spine as she stole a violent kiss from him; the tip of her tongue even brushed his lips! At the very moment he began to respond, moaning into her mouth, marvelling at how incredible she felt to him, he heard the hiss of the hatch being lowered, and leapt back just in time for it to slam shut between them.
"Be well, my betrothed," she told him in a voice drenched with passion. She had closed the door so he couldn't actually witness the bashful expression she must have sported while saying it. Ruuji grinned as she began to guide her Zoid out of Mirodo.
"I'll be waiting... Mii."
THE END (please review!)