Well, here's my first purely Shining Force I fic. Honestly, I'm surprised that for all the SF1 fan fiction out there, no one has yet written this particular story. But that's what I'm here for, I guess. Hope you all enjoy, and please share your reactions of both positive and negative variety.
Special thanks go out to tilinelson2, who did an outstanding job Betaing this for me.
The milieu and characters of this fanfic are property of Sega. This story is set during Chapter 7 of Shining Force: The Legacy of Great Intention.
All We Have
plot - Martin III, in the context of the Shining Force: The Legacy of Great Intention story by Hiroyuki Takahashi
script - Martin III
Beta reader - tilinelson2
Everyone was worried. Darksol had acquired both the key and the manual of the seal, had accomplished his ends at the Tower of the Ancients, and was on his way to resurrect Dark Dragon. For all their efforts, that demon had managed to remain one step ahead of them the whole way, and despite the loss of his trusted enforcers Kane and Mishaela, he seemed on the brink of success. Only the faint hope that a solution was still waiting in Metapha kept despair at bay.
Mae was as worried about these things as anyone, but she was also worried about something else. Something that was in danger of being left behind in their mad race to stop Darksol.
That race had not halted, or even paused. They were resting in their quarters at Prompt Castle, but only to nurse their wounds and wait for the Shining Path to be repaired. Yet this was perhaps the only chance to take care of the problem that everyone seemed to have overlooked. Even Nova... no, especially Nova. The old advisor was always most concerned with practical matters.
And so, though confronting emotional suffering was not the sort of thing Mae considered herself to be at all good at, she left the room she shared with Anri and Tao and walked down the halls of Prompt Castle to a room occupied by one solitary individual. Heart heavy, she knocked on the door.
No answer. "Max?" Still nothing. She raised her voice. "Max, it's me."
From within, she heard a murmured, "Come in." She opened the door.
Max was seated at a desk, the Sword of Light unsheathed and laid out before him.
"I keep thinking the answer is here, somehow," he said, not taking his eyes off the sword. "Mishaela must have been keeping this sword for a reason. A sword of light, just like Kane was wielding a sword of darkness..."
"Max." She struggled for a way to broach the subject on her mind; the subject that she knew had to be on Max's mind. Damn it, I'm no good at this.
Max suddenly looked up. "I'm sorry. I've been a bit distracted." He smiled. "You're looking very nice today."
"Me...?" She lowered her eyes to her torso, to see if she'd missed something.
"You're not wearing your armor." This was true. It wouldn't have been right to talk to him with it on, so before she left her room she had removed it, even though she would likely have to put it back on again before the day was out. She wore only a ratty white shirt, the only piece of "normal" clothing she had with her, though she supposed King Kusuko would have provided fresh clothes had she asked. Better to wear rags than clothes from charity. "It makes you look very... natural. Like Mae the person. I always feel like I can barely see you under that armor."
"...Thank you." It wasn't like Max to be so personal. He was always a warrior first, like her. That's what made this so hard. "Max... I know no one's been talking about it, but Kane..."
"Yeah, he may have been the other piece of the puzzle. The shrine called us the 'two heroes', and him wielding the Sword of Darkness, me wielding the Sword of Light... It fits together, doesn't it?"
"That is not what I meant," she said, tossing her head impatiently. "Kane was your brother."
"Was he?" Max said, too quickly. "You'd think I'd have started to remember my past by now, but I haven't. I could tell Kane was telling the truth, but I don't remember anything of my life when he was a part of it. When I think of him as 'brother', it's just a word. There are no memories behind it."
His voice doesn't have his usual strength of conviction behind it. Even if his head doesn't remember, his heart still feels what was between him and Kane. But what am I supposed to do? Keep pushing him to vent his feelings? I remember how much I hated it when people tried to make me talk about my father's death.
"All right," she said at last. "But if you want to talk about Kane, for any reason at all, then I'm here to listen. Don't you dare think that no one wants to hear about your troubles, Max. Remember, I know that you have pain and sadness just like the rest of us."
"Thanks." That was it, it seemed. Mae was turning to go when he added, "I'm glad you've been with me through all this, Mae. Not just as a warrior, but as a friend."
"A friend?" she said, a bit more harshly than she'd meant. "We've scarcely spoken to each other all these months."
Max nodded. "Maybe that was wrong, but... we haven't really needed to speak, have we? It's been enough for me that you've always understood. None of the others really have, not even Lowe. None of them knows what it's like to have the rock you've always clung to ripped away from you and smashed into pebbles, to have the one light that showed your way extinguished, leaving you in a world that seems like madness when it's dark. Just the two of us. It's been a hard road for me to walk, but at least I've always had you with me."
"Max..." Those words... It feels like I've been waiting for so long to hear words like those. Her throat felt tight.
"Are you angry with me? You think because we haven't talked, that I haven't been there for you? Is that what you're saying?" His voice was suddenly full of self-recrimination, and the thought hit Mae: He's not just sad over what happened to Kane. He feels guilty. "I swear to you, I didn't mean it to be that way, Mae. If you'd wanted to talk to me, I would have listened - I'll listen now -"
"Max!" She reached out to him and laid a firm hand on his shoulder. It felt like the only way she could touch him, even as a tear was brimming in her eyes. "That wasn't what I was saying at all. Maybe there were things that should have been said when King Guardiana and my father were killed, but I wasn't ready to say them. It's like you said... you being there, understanding, was enough..."
And maybe, just maybe, what Max was trying to tell her was that it was enough this time too, that they didn't need to talk about what happened to Kane, that he already knew she understood. And that that was enough.
For a moment, that thought filled her with happiness, a sense of purpose she hadn't felt since losing her father and king. But then she could feel the sag of Max's shoulder beneath her hand, and she knew that, this time, it wasn't quite enough.
Max leapt to his feet and threw his arms around Mae, wrapping her in a tight embrace. The movement was so sudden that she nearly struck him out of defensive instinct, and once she grasped what was happening, it seemed hopelessly awkward. Max was, after all, a human. Nearly a head shorter than she was. But Max let go after only a moment, and stepped back.
"I'm sorry," he said, voice choked. "But I just lost Kane, and I... I'm afraid of losing you, too. All the time we've known each other has been part of this war, so we haven't been friends in any normal way, but -"
"You've been more than a friend, Max." Then she impulsively stepped forward and hugged him back, understanding now why Max had hugged her: Awkward though it was, it was less embarrassing than him seeing her face in that moment. Her eyes had never felt so moist. Filling her voice with as much strength as she could manage, she told him, "You're a part of my life that no one else could fill. You're the... the brother I never had."
To admit what he meant to her, after all the scorn she'd heaped upon him... No words had ever felt so hard to say. Nor as liberating once she'd said them.
Max laughed, but with her, not at her. "I thought Ken was the brother you never had."
"Ken?" It was true, she had once said to Max that she thought of Ken as the brother she never had. But they both knew that her relationship with Max was altogether different from her protective feelings towards Ken. Moreover... "He... he used to be, but lately, I don't know..."
"You two haven't been getting along?"
"No, no, it's nothing bad." She absently released Max from her embrace, and her eyes looked about the room as she struggled for the words to express what she felt. "It's just that lately, he's been more... capable. More dependable. He takes his duty more seriously, and he has more pride in himself. I just can't keep thinking of him as my little brother. He doesn't rely on me anymore. I actually feel that if I never needed to, I could rely on him."
Max nodded slowly. "I won't think any less of you if you tell me that you don't feel as close to him because of that."
"Oh no, we're still close. I think so, at least."
"Good. You know you can talk to me if anything happens between you two, right?" A warm, gently teasing smile broke over his face. "After all, that's what brothers are for."
She smiled back. "Of course."
As good as the talk had been for both him and her, Mae felt relieved to have it over. She was about to leave again, when Max said, "Thanks for the talk, Mae. I know it makes us feel like a couple of ninnies to be hugging and crying like this -"
"I wasn't crying," she protested.
"Well, almost crying. My point is, I know it was a bit embarrassing and we'll have to kill each other if either of us tells anyone what the other one said, but after what happened to Kane, I needed this. So, thanks."
It made her gladder to hear that than she could let show on her face. "You're welcome."
"And Mae, when we go out there again... please, be careful. After all we've been through together, I... I couldn't stand to lose you the way I lost Kane."
"You won't lose me, Max." She spoke with a certainty born of determination. "I swear that you won't."
After his talk with Mae, Max's head felt much clearer. He realized that whatever their next course of action was, he needed to speak with King Kusuko again. If anyone knew where the Sword of Darkness was now, it was him, and he could tell them how to go about entering Runefaust. Unless better news came along, their only hope was to pursue Darksol into the figurative belly of the beast.
There was another knock at the door. "Come in," he sighed, without bothering to ask who it was.
Ken clopped in. "I hate to bother you, Max, but some of the others are getting a little impatient. Vankar, Tao, and Torasu especially."
"You know, the Prompt healer."
"Yes, I know who he is. I just didn't expect him to be a hothead."
"Well, he seems to be unhappy about his having failed to stop Darksol the first time. He wants to redeem himself at all costs. I've tried reasoning with him, explaining that no two people could defeat a demon like Darksol all by themselves, but you know how his kind are."
Max didn't know, but that wasn't a point worth arguing at the moment. "Alright, I'll try shouting some sense into them once again. Let's go."
He got up and strapped the Sword of Light back to his belt. With a nod to Ken, the two of them headed down the hall.
"I couldn't help but notice Mae just came by to see you," Ken remarked.
"Yup. Just a social visit."
The sound of their footfalls filled the long silence. "So...?" Ken prodded.
"Come on, Max! Did she say anything about me?"
Max smirked. "As a matter of fact, she did."
"Well, don't leave me in suspense! What did she say?"
"You really don't think I'd betray Mae's confidence, do you? If you want to know what she said, ask her yourself. It's not like you two aren't speaking to each other."
"Come on, Max, be serious."
"I am," he returned, though he couldn't deny that he was still grinning. "It's about time you showed Mae some guts, instead of sneaking around and prying me for information like a little kid. Grow yourself some chest hair, for crying out loud."
Ken's face colored, but he didn't look away. "At least tell me if it was you or her that brought me up."
Max thought back. "It was me."
Ken sighed and hung his head. "I should just stop expecting her to notice me that way, shouldn't I? You're all probably laughing at me whenever I'm not around."
"No one but you and I know how you feel, Ken. You don't really think I'd betray your confidence when I wouldn't do the same with Mae?"
"It doesn't matter... Even you don't know how I really feel about Mae anymore. Things have changed."
They had arrived at the room where the force tended to gather, so Max didn't have the time to ask him what he meant by that. He spied Gort seated at one table, gripping his axe as though he anticipated an enemy walking through the door at any moment. Torasu stood by another table, twirling the end of his beard around his fingers. Tao was pacing all around the room, arms folded, while Hans, Lowe, and Guntz watched her as one might regard a pot of boiling water teetering at the top of a staircase.
Gods be thanked, they're wonderful. Always ready for a fight. Yet none of them were like Mae. Mae was the closest thing to family that he had left.
"Ken." He kept his voice low. "Whatever your feelings, you'll protect Mae when we're out there, won't you?"
"What makes you ask?"
"Mae is so reckless in battle. I talked to her myself, but I don't trust her to take care of herself out there. I don't want to lose her." He said the words firmly, without passion.
"She's no more reckless than she was when she first joined us. Why are you asking now?"
The others were beginning to take note of Max's presence, and his exchange with Ken, making him feel more than a little embarrassed. "Ken, just... answer the question, will you?"
Ken's face resolved itself, becoming as hard and flinty as Mae's. "You won't lose her, Max. I swear that to you, on my word as a knight."
Max nodded, reassured, and raised his voice to address the rest of the force.