Sorrows of Parting

Genre: Tragedy/ Romance

Pairing: Hero (VI)/Ashlynn

Description: "It was fun with you all... but now it's time for us to part..."

SPOILERS FOR ENDING. READ AT OWN RISK!

They did it! Alex could barely believe his eyes as the Archfiend disintergrated, the Dark World fading with him. Shooting stars started to fall down. They had a few close calls during the battle, but their friendship had been overpowering in the end.

"He's... He's finally dead! Peace will now return once more!" Milly said.

She had dealt the finishing blow to the monster thanks to her Pearly Gates, though if Ashlynn's Magic Burst hadn't weakened him first, they'd have been dead now; Terry had been heavily damaged while protecting her, Alex had suffered a hard blow to his shoulder, which prevented him from using his sword near the end – and Ashlynn had to recover from the spell.

"You really did it!" a light appeared before them and the Supreme Sage Isaac appeared, along with his brother Benjamin.

"Now that Mortamor's gone, this world will vanish. Hurry through the gate!" the younger brother said.

"Come on, Alex!" Ashlynn smiled and took her boyfriend's hand, "I'll help you..."

She did not tell him the truth of what would happen soon to her. She had known, but never once spoken of it, since they would hold back during the battle. One small sacrifice for the greater good. She remained silent as they walked through the light, leaving Milly and Terry.

The world was growing seriously unstable.

"Terry?" Milly said with a worried tone and turned to her brother.

"I'm fine, don't worry. Let's go after them, before we die here!" the soldier replied and tried to walk, but his body hurt too much.

"You must hurry! The others have already left, and in minutes this world will be gone!" Isaac said.

"I know! You don't need to push me!" Terry scowled and took his sister's hand, the two jumping through the light just in time for the platform they stood on being shattered by a meteorite.

"Farewell... brave souls!" the sage said with a smile on his face. He and his brother had an important job with fixing the world.

...

Alex opened his eyes to find himself in his bed in Somnia. His friends were standing there – all of them; Carver, Milly, Terry, Ashlynn, Amos, Nevan and even Lizzie the Hacksaurus (who probably was there because Terry was. She followed him like a shadow).

"How are you feeling, Alex?" Milly asked. He hadn't paid attention to it, but she had been crying – worried sick about him. Just as they had escaped, Alex had gotten struck down by a meteorite. She feared he'd never wake up again.

"Fine... My head feels like it's got a heart of its own, though..." the purple-haired boy replied, stroking his spiky hair. "We got Mortamor, didn't we?"

Carver nodded, "Aye. Kicked his little butt."

"Then finally peace will be restored. I guess we can finally take it easy for once," Alex replied and stood up. He felt a little shaky, but he knew he'd recover in no time. He'd probably never be able to use a sword, though.

"Don't worry," Milly assured him as if she'd read his thoughts, "Someday, it will heal up," she then turned away, her face red, "I-I'll go get some air. Terry, are you coming with me?"

The swordsman nodded and bowed to Alex, "You know... I was wrong about you when we first met. You're a pretty OK guy."

Then he was gone, Lizzie looked at Alex snapped her tongue a few times in an attempt to smile and then spoke: "Get... well," slurp, "Soon..."

Then she walked off after the two, causing a small tremor throughout the castle.

"Um, we'll leave ya alone fer now, right, Amos?" Carver said and gave the warrior a look that meant that he better do as he said.

"Oh, right. See ya later, old pal!" Amos replied and the two also left.

Now only Alex and Ashlynn were left in the room. The redhead walked up to Alex and kissed him on his forehead, but he noticed something was different this time.

"Are you okay?" he asked her, his voice worried.

She turned to him with her eyes full of tears, "Alex... We will have to part soon. I feel it in my body."

Realization struck Alex like a lightning bolt, "The Dream World... it separated from the physical world!"

She nodded, "At best, I have only a few hours left. I wanna stay, but..."

"Lord Zenith is calling you back, he needs you. Right?" Alex said, unable to comprehend the truth. He wanted to cry, to yell and trash, but what good would it do. Besides, it was as if his body had frozen.

Ashlynn nodded, "I want to spend the last time I have in this world with you, Alex."

They moved their faces closer, their lips meeting just as they so often had during their journey together. But this time, it felt so much more real. Because when you know that something isn't going to last forever, you cherish it all the more.

The heart beats strongest at the moment of parting.

Alex tightened his grip of her, never wanting to let her go – if she was going to disappear, at least he would never forget her. At least they would not have their final hours together in a moment of tragedy.

He opened his eyes and looked into hers. "Ashlynn, you love parties, don't you?"

Their faces moved some inches away from each other, "Yes. I do," she whispered, "What about it."

Alex kissed her again, "Then let's do it. Let's throw a party, so that you can at least have fun the final hours you are in this world – before Lord Zenith takes you back into the Dream World."

She smiled, "Thank you, Alex. Yes, let's do it. Then we won't have to part in tears."

He stroked her forehead tenderly, "But what will we tell the others? I presume they don't know the truth?"

She shook her head, "No. I didn't tell you, 'cause then you'd all hold back when you killed Mortamor. Not even Milly knows, and we were as close as sisters."

What neither of them didn't know was that behind the door, Milly stood, having listened to their conversation. She had been worried about Alex... yes, worried. Just that sisterly feeling – he was like a brother to her, after all. They had all gotten so close during their journey – they were like one big, messy family.

Milly tried to stop herself from breaking down upon hearing of Ashlynn's condition, but despite being an unnaturally strong woman, she couldn't help it this time. Terry found her sitting on the top of the stairs leading up to the throne room, her arms around her legs and suppressing a sob.

"What's wrong?" he asked her.

She jumped up, "Oh... Terry... I'm just tired. I must've lost control for a while, hee hee!" she tried to smile, but ended up with a wet grimace.

Terry sighed, "You know, you never were that much of a liar. I know you love Alex."

Milly's face reddened, "As a brother. But I also love you and Ashlynn and Lizzie and Amos and Carver and Nevan – you are all like brothers and sisters to me."

"After all," she added, closing her eyes, "I was the one who helped Alex and Ashlynn get together. I want them to be happy, so I'm not jealous."

"I never said you were, Milly. You're not the kind of girl to feel such petty emotions. You've got a heart of gold!" Terry declared and stroked her hair, "But I feel you're hiding something."

"You are correct," Milly said, "But as their friend, I will take that secret with me to my grave."

He knew her well enough to know that she would never change her mind, no matter how he tried to persuade her. Perhaps being a big sister made her that way, or the hardships she'd experienced both before and during her adventures.

"Then I guess you shall. Very well, but crying doesn't suit you at all, my sister," Terry commented, "Let's go downstairs, I can hear Alex's voice."

...

The party Alex arranged was spectacular. He got help from his parents, King Somnus and Queen Apnea, to make all the preparations and invited all of the Kingdom to it. Not only that, but at Ashlynn's suggestion, they'd even invited their Slime friends that had aided them.

Everyone, except for the timid Liquid Metal Slime, Mercury, seemed incredibly happy. Everyone sang and danced; Ashlynn with Alex, Milly with Carver (even though he was so big and clumsy, he almost stepped on her foot), and she later moved to Terry who'd been alone and refused to dance with anyone.

Amos was paired with a local girl who'd started to admire him because he'd travelled with the heroes who saved the world (though over half the time, he would cower whenever a monster jumped out of the darkness, but she didn't need to know that, now, did she?)

Nevan refused to dance with anyone, claiming that such a vulgar act would upset the Goddess. He never was a big fan of partying, anyway.

Eventually, night fell and Ashlynn felt weak. "Alex... I must go," she said.

They went inside the throne room, so that everyone would think that she meant go inside. Only Alex and Milly knew the truth.

After five minutes, Milly said she felt dizzy and needed a break. She wore a beautiful white dress that made her look like an angel, a dress conjured by her magic, and a lot of the young men had wanted to ask her to dance.

Once inside, she cast another spell and within an instant, she was back in the clothes she wore when she traveled with Alex. Her heart skipped a few beats as she noticed the door to Alex's room was open. She stepped inside and saw Ashlynn – her body transparent, and holding Alex's hands, while the boy begged her to stay.

Ashlynn shook her head, tears flowing down her cheeks. "I love you, Alex, but Lord Zenith simply doesn't have any power left to hold me here... Take care of Milly and the others."

"What will I tell them?" Alex sobbed. Milly was awestruck to see him in this state – he was always so calm and composed, even when they fought the hardest battles where they could easily die, he never lost his composure for even a moment. That's what made Milly love him, though it was a platonic love, a sisterly feeling that she sacrificed for Ashlynn's happiness.

"Tell them the truth. And never forget me, Alex, as I will never forget you." Ashlynn's body was vanishing for real, and Milly could see the wall through her best friend.

"I love you Ashlynn. I will honor your final wish, I promise!" Alex said with tears flowing down his face.

Ashlynn smiled, "I am not dying, Alex. Maybe one day, we shall meet again. Until then, take care of my beloved friends and yourself. Be happy, and never grieve over me."

Her time was almost up, and all three knew it. "Alex..." she said and kissed him one final time, then looked at Milly, who was crying silently in the corner, hiding herself from Alex, "Take care of him for me."

The more mature girl nodded and gave her a teary smile.

"Now then..." Ashlynn said, "It was fun with you all... but now it's time for us to part..."

With that, she disappeared. Their last act was an embrace, and now Alex sat on the floor, holding his hands up in the air for a moment, before he took them up to his head and collapsed on the floor with a roar of sorrow.

Milly could take no more and she crouched next to him, "Alex... I'm sorry I couldn't help her... Even though I knew..." her eyes were welling up, but she had to be strong, for the sake of her friends.

"Go away!" the prince of Somnia sobbed, "Just leave me alone!"

"Alex... We're here for you..." Milly said and stood up. "I'm here for you..." she whispered just loud enough for herself to hear it.

Then she sat down on the bed and buried her face in her hands. Soon Terry and the others would come, and she wanted to honor Ashlynn's wish and not leave Alex to his depression. She loved him too much for that, she loved them too much for that, and she felt like it was her fault the man she loved was hurt now. No healing spell could heal that wound...

Alex... I'll always be there for you...