Chapter 17: Never Be Afraid

Richard stepped off of the train and looked around.

It was a wet and miserable day, one with seemingly no prospects.

He exhaled as he remembered the events of his morning.

Images of his nightmare flashed before his eyes.

He remembered Charlotte's face as he turned her away.

He hand burned as he remembered how she'd reacted.

'I hope she can forgive me', he thought to himself.

His melancholy was interrupted by Cecilia as she grabbed his arm and pulled herself against him.

"Are you ready?", she asked with a beaming smile.

"It's a little late to back out now", Richard chuckled as he leaned his head on hers, "Besides, I couldn't call myself a gentleman if I were to leave you at the station."

"Quite right, and I would never forgive you", Cecilia replied with a pout.

Richard chuckled once more at her reaction before he looked around.

"So where are we going?"

"Why, to the mall, of course", Cecilia replied sarcastically, "Follow me"

Richard was pulled along the platform as Cecilia took the role of leader.

As they walked, Cecilia remembered the circumstances of their trip.

'I do hope that Richard is okay', she thought as she remembered the stories she'd heard, 'It seems like he and Charlotte really had a terrible fight.'

'Still...', she told herself as the images from Richard's bedroom started occupying her thoughts, 'He's here with me now, and that's what counts'

Suddenly, Cecilia's train of thought was interrupted as she heard Richard asked her a question.

"So what did you need to get from here, anyways, Cecilia?"

"Oh", Cecilia replied as she tried to push the images from her mind, "Umm..."

She thought for a moment before finally remembering.

"I simply needed to buy some more clothes", she said.

Richard looked at her with a slightly confused expression.

"Don't we have to wear our uniforms, though?", he asked.

"Not all the time", Cecilia said, "And I hate to repeat an outfit."

'This girl is from another world', Richard thought to himself.

'That's what early wealth does to people', Angel said, 'They live a different life'.

'I'd always heard that', Richard replied, 'But I never thought it was like this'

As Richard and Cecilia finished descending the stairs from the platform, Cecilia pulled Richard toward the turnstiles.

"The mall is this way", she said.

'She sure is assertive isn't she, Angel', Richard joked with his partner.

'The product of British boarding schools', Angel chuckled.

Richard remembered how his father used to act, and he chuckled as he realized how right Angel was.

Richard and Cecilia looked at the shops as they strolled through the mall.

Richard had never been there before, and he was amazed at the variety and quality of the shops.

'How have I not been here before?', Richard asked Angel.

'Well', Angel started, 'We've had more important things occupying our time'

'True, but still...', Richard's thought was left incomplete as he turned a corner and saw an even more extravagant expanse of shops before him.

There was every type of store he could think of: fashion stores; sweet shops; jewelery stores, and he even noticed some tech and video game stores.

He stood staring for a moment with his mouth open.

'Yeah, we need to come here more', Richard said to his partner.

Cecilia watched Richard standing there in amazement, and playfully nudged him.

Richard snapped out of his trance, and turned to her.

"The store is this way", she said with a smile and a wink as she pulled on his arm.

Richard couldn't help smiling as Cecilia led him in front of a store with a particularly eye-catching storefront.

In the store's displays, there were multiple mannequins, each of them wearing very extravagant and expensive looking clothes. Richard couldn't help noticing how revealing some of the outfits seemed, and he started blushing as he imagined Cecilia wearing them.

"What is it?", Cecilia asked when she noticed him blushing.

Richard noticed that he was staring at the scantily-clad mannequins when she asked, and he averted his eyes and stared at the ground.

"N-Nothing", he said as he stole glances at the outfits on display.

Cecilia followed his eyes and saw the cause of his blushing.

She shot him a devilish grin as she grabbed his hand and led him into the store.

Richard's face turned even more red as he was pulled further into the guts of the store.

Cecilia stopped and let go of his hand.

"I'm going to go pick out some outfits", she said, "Stay close"

She hurried off as Richard turned and took in his surroundings.

There were clothes from wall to wall, and the walls themselves were lined with intricate jewelery.

He started wandering around absentmindedly, occasionally looking at a blouse or dress on a rack.

Eventually, he found himself at one of the walls; staring at a particularly pretty necklace.

It seemed to be a strand of interwoven rubies, sapphires, and emeralds.

'Do you think it's real?', Richard asked Angel.

'I don't know', Angel replied, 'How much does it cost?'

Richard tried to find a price tag on the necklace, but couldn't find one.

After a few more seconds of searching, Richard decided to grab it to get a better look.

Before he could touch it, a hand appeared from nowhere and slapped his outstretched hand away.

"May I help you?", a tall, thin store worker asked.

Richard winced as he rubbed his bandaged hand.

"Thanks a lot, man" he started, "I burned that earlier"

"Oh, I do apologize, sir", the employee said with a clearly disinterested expression on his face.

'Not off to a great start', Richard thought to himself.

As the pain from his hand subsided, Richard asked the employee, "I was just wondering how much this necklace cost."

"This necklace?", the worker asked.


The employee laughed condescendingly.

"What's so funny?", Richard asked as he tried to suppress his building rage.

The worker sized Richard up with a smirk on his face.

"If you have to ask, you can't afford it", the worker finally said.

'I fucking hate when people say that', Richard told Angel.

'I know. Me too', Angel said, 'Wait...'

'What is it?', Richard asked.

'Doesn't the military give us a pension?'

Richard smiled devilishly.

'Yes, Angel, I do believe you're right'

Richard made eye contact with the store employee.

"Well I'll take it"

The worker looked stunned.

His mouth hung open in disbelief.

"Well", Richard said angrily, "Did I stutter? Get me a box for the damn thing"

"Y-Yes, sir", the employee said as he frantically searched for where the boxes where kept.

After finally finding a box, the worker hesitantly picked up the necklace.

He looked at Richard.

"Are you sure you can pay for this, sir", the employee asked.

"Yes", Richard fired back, "Now let me buy the damn thing!"

"Yes, sir", the worker said hastily as he threw the necklace into the box, "This way, please"

The worker led Richard to the check-out counter.

'How much do we have saved up?', Richard asked Angel as he pulled his wallet from his pocket.

'Well we haven't really spent any of it, so probably a fair amount', he replied.

"The total is $2541.23", the employee told Richard, "How will you be paying?"

Richard pulled a card from his wallet and handed it to the worker.


The worker was slow to take the card, and even slower to swipe it.

After a few seconds of impatient waiting, the worker extended a shaky hand towards Richard.

"T-Thank you, sir", he said as he gave Richard back his card, "We appreciate your business"

Richard put his card back in his wallet.

"I wish I could say the appreciation was mutual", he said as he took the box from the counter.

He turned to find Cecilia with her arms full of clothes.

"There you are!", she said with a smile, "Where have you been?"

Richard looked at the box in his hands before coming up with an answer.

"Oh, I was just buying you a gift", he said as he flashed her a smile.

"Oh, how kind of you", Cecilia gushed, "What is it?"

"It's a secret", Richard told her with a teasing smile.

Cecilia jokingly pouted before grabbing Richard's hand.

"The dressing rooms are this way", she told him as she pulled him away.

As Richard was dragged into the back of the store, he cast one final victorious glance at the worker who stood, defeated, behind the counter.

Cecilia guided Richard to a smaller room in the back of the store. There were benches set up opposite small doors, and mirrors lined the walls.

Cecilia scanned for an open fitting room before finally finding one.

She dragged Richard to the bench in front of it and sat him down.

"Sit here", she commanded him as she piled outfits onto his lap, "You are going to be my test subject"

Richard smiled at his new title.

"I see", he said bemusedly, "So what are my duties?"

"You're to sit and enjoy my little fashion show", Cecilia replied with a confident smirk.

Richard smiled.

"This is the easiest job I've ever had", he said with a laugh.

Cecilia giggled before grabbing a few outfits from the pile on Richard's lap and turned towards her dressing room.

"Don't move", she ordered.

"Wouldn't dream of it. Besides," Richard looked at the mountain of clothes resting on his legs, "I'm not sure I could if I wanted to."

Cecilia giggled and grabbed an outfit from the pile before entering her dressing room and closing the door behind her.

Cecilia started unbuttoning her clothes .

She started pondering the day's events as she changed her outfit.

'It's still hard to believe that I managed to lure him here.'

She took off her blouse and started slipping into the dress she had brought into the room with her.

'But while I have him here, I might as well try my best to impress him'

Richard sat on his bench as he waited for Cecilia to re-emerge. He entertained himself with the memories of his most recent victory over the store clerk. He subconsciously palmed the box that held the necklace.

'So this is a gift now?', Angel suddenly asked.

'Yeah', Richard said, 'I guess it is.'

'Since when?', his partner asked.

'Since she asked about it', Richard admitted, 'You have to admit that she could use it more than us. I mean, I've already got you for a necklace, and I only bought it to piss that guy off.'

Angel stayed silent for a few seconds before finally admitting, 'Yes, I guess you're right'.

That ended their conversation.

Richard could sense that Angel was still upset about what he had done to Charlotte.

As he ruminated more and more on the events of that morning, Richard felt himself slipping into a dark mood.

'I shouldn't have done that to her', he told himself, 'But it was for her safety. If I distance myself, they won't go after her. I just need to get stronger.'

He clenched his teeth and pounded his leg with his fist.

'I just need to get a little stronger'

Suddenly, Cecilia burst out of her changing room wearing an extravagant dress.

"How do I look?", she asked as she did a pirouette.

Richard stared at her in awe.

The dress she was wearing was a dark blue sequined cocktail dress.

It shimmered as the light hit it at a seemingly perfect angle, and Richard couldn't help noticing how well it showed off Cecilia's figure.

After a few seconds, he realized that his mouth was hanging open and Cecilia was looking at him with a knowing smirk on her face.

He closed his eyes and cleared his throat as he tried to hide his blushing.

"You look fantastic as usual", he finally said with a smile.

"Thank you", Cecilia replied as he smile grew even wider, "You don't think it's too tight?"

Richard scratched his head and averted his eyes.

"Um, w-well", he half-whispered, "I-I don't really mind"

Cecilia laughed and winked at him, causing his face to turn an even deeper shade of red.

She did one last pirouette and then returned to her dressing room.

After she closed the door, Richard released a deep breath.

'I must be a terrible person if I have these feelings', he thought to himself, 'This is not the time to be having these thoughts about Cecilia. Not after what I did to Charlotte'

As he closed his eyes, images started flashing through his mind again.

Charlotte and the kids being taken.

Their screams.

The Machine's eyes as its lasers bore down on him.

Charlotte's worried face when he first saw her.

The look of betrayal on her face as he lied to her about his feelings.

But then,

Cecilia's cute face waiting outside his door.

The smile she gave him when he let her into his room.

The look of his body in the mirror.

Her face as she handed him his underwear.

The mannequins in front of the store,

And the dress she was just wearing.

He felt his body reacting to each image, and started to suppress the urges

'Come on, Richard', he told himself, 'You're better than that. Don't forget about Charlotte'

Suddenly, Cecilia emerged once more from her dressing room wearing a light yellow blouse with short, white Daisy Dukes.

"How do I look?", she asked as she again performed a majestic pirouette.

Richard looked at her with his mouth agape once more.

'This is gonna take a lot of self-control', he thought...

Cecilia happily took her bags of clothes from the store employees.

"Have a nice day", the employee grunted as he lifted the bags.

Richard, meanwhile, was wiping his forehead of the sweat that had been accumulating.

'I have no idea how I got through that', he thought.

He felt his cheeks getting red as he remembered what he had just seen.

He felt a tapping on his shoulder, and turned to see Cecilia with her arms extended.

He looked down to see her hands were filled with several bags, all of which were stuffed full of clothes.

"These bags are quite heavy", she started, "Would you-"

"Be a gentleman and carry them? Yes.", he said as he took the bags from her hands.

'How heavy could they be?', he thought.

He got his answer when his arms were instantly pulled to the ground.

He was shocked at how suddenly his arms had failed him.

He tried to lift his arms, but found that he had little success.

'What the fuck? What the hell is in these?', he wondered as he examined the bags to make sure they carried clothes.

He looked at Cecilia who was calmly smiling at him.

'What kind of freakish strength does SHE possess?'

'Big things come in small in packages', Angel said, breaking his silence to laugh at his partner's struggles.

'Really?', Richard asked his partner, 'THIS is what you finally choose to talk about?'

"Is there a problem?", Cecilia asked.

"No", Richard said with a fake smile, "Just give me a second"

Taking a deep breath and summoning all of his strength, he managed to lift the bags into the air.

'I AM A MAN!', Richard proclaimed to himself as he grunted under the weight of the bags.

'A very noisy one', Angel remarked.

'Fuck off. I'm not in the mood', Richard shot back.

"Splendid", Cecilia, "Now off we go to the other stores."

"Other stores?", Richard asked.

"Oh yes", Cecilia giggled, "There are at least three other stores we must visit"

"Oh", Richard replied, "Well then we better be on our way".

"Right you are", Cecilia said with a smile, "Follow me".



'Fucking kill me...'

"Two, please", Cecilia told the hostess.

After a long day of shopping, she had decided to relax over a nice meal, and took Richard to her favorite restaurant.

She also wanted to use it as an opportunity to get closer to him.

"Table or booth?", the hostess asked.

"Booth", Cecilia quickly answered.

'This is my chance to sidle up to him, and steal his heart', she thought to herself.

"This way please", the hostess said as she walked further into the restaurant.

"This way, Richard", Cecilia beckoned as she followed the hostess.

Richard groaned as he picked up the various shopping bags and tried to follow his companion.

After the two were shown to their booth, a number of employees came and started taking the bags away.

"Ship them to the Academy, if you would", Cecilia instructed them.

"Wow", Richard said as he watched the workers leave, "This place must be used to accommodating people that buy in bulk"

"Well it is my favorite restaurant here", Cecilia said as she snuggled up to Richard's side.

'Well that explains it', Richard said to himself.

He took a moment to look around and try to figure out what kind of restaurant they were in.

It had dimmed lights, cozy seating, and a bar with a few televisions.

'We're in a pub', he realized, 'I didn't even know they had pubs in Japan'

'You learn something new everyday', Angel remarked.

'That's the goal', Richard said as he finally let himself revert back to his normal self.

A waiter arrived and asked them for their drinks.

"I shall take a sparkling water", Cecilia told the waiter.

"I'll just take a regular water, please", Richard said.

"Okay", the waiter replied, "Do you two know what you would like to eat?"

"I will have a house salad", Cecilia answered.

"Can I get some fish and chips?", Richard asked.

"Certainly", the waiter replied with a smile, "I'll have those out to you as soon as possible"

"Thank you", Richard said as the waiter walked off.

After he was sure the waiter had left, Richard let out a deep breath.

'Man,', Richard thought, 'This has been a really rough day'

'Which part?', Angel asked.

'Just... All of it...', Richard replied, 'The dream...This trip...Charlotte...'.

He felt himself once again slipping into a slump, but he was suddenly jolted by Cecilia.

"YES!", she cheered, "Goal Chelsea!"

Richard looked around for an explanation of her sudden outburst

Finally, finding a TV, he realized what had happened. There was a soccer game being shown. It was an English Premier League between Chelsea and Manchester United, and Chelsea had just gone up 1-0.

"Ew", Richard said.

"Is there a problem?", Cecilia asked.

"Yes", Richard replied with a smile, "You're a Chelsea fan, haha"

Cecilia smirked.

"Oh, I see", she said, "And I suppose that means you aren't?"

"Go Red Devils", Richard replied with an evil smile.

"It doesn't look very good for you right now", Cecilia remarked.

"Yes, but there are 90 minutes in a game", he reminded her, "And I don't think that Chelsea can keep up for the rest of the game".

'This is my chance', Cecilia thought to herself.

"Well then", she said as a devilish grin made its way across her face, "Perhaps we should have a friendly wager."

Richard looked at her, and smirked.

"What kind of wager did you have in mind?", he asked.

"If Chelsea wins...", Cecilia started, "You have to take me out on a date!"

Richard chuckled.

'How did I know?'

"Okay", he said with an amused smile, "And what, pray tell, would happen if Manchester United wins?"

"I will leave that up to you", Cecilia said, "But, if you ask me, it doesn't really matter."

"We'll see about that", Richard said.

As the words left his mouth, Cecilia started to cheer again.

There were 5 minutes left in the first half, and Chelsea had scored again to go up 2-0.

'Well fuck'

As the final minutes of the game ticked off of the clock, Richard started to celebrate.

Cecilia, meanwhile, was silently fuming.

After being down 0-2 at halftime, the Red Devils had scored three straight to win the game.

'How on earth do they give up 3 points in one half?!', she asked herself.

She started to dread her missed opportunity, but was shaken from her stupor by a playful nudge.

"Hey", Richard said with a smile, "It was a fantastic game."

Despite her best efforts, Cecilia couldn't stay sad staring at Richard's goofy smile.

'He's just so... infuriatingly cute', she thought as a smile reluctantly crept across her face.

"So...", she said, "It seems you have won our little bet."

"Yes", Richard said, "It seems that I have."

"So have you thought (Wasn't spaced apart) of a suitable consequence?", Cecilia asked.

"Not really", Richard said with a laugh, "I was too busy watching the game to think of anything, but how about we say that you owe me a favor down the road?"

"What kind of favor?", Cecilia said with a mischievous smile.

"Whatever kind of favor I see fit", Richard teased, "For now, though, let's head back to the Academy."

"Why?", Cecilia asked.

"It's been a busy day, and I need to get some rest", Richard said.

"I...", he trailed off as his eyes lost focus, "I didn't get much sleep last night..."

Suddenly, the waiter arrived with their check, and Richard snapped out of his stupor.

"Here you go", he said with a smile, "Pay whenever you'd like."

"Thank you", Cecilia said as she took the check and pulled out a billfold.

"You don't have to pay", Richard told her as he reached for his wallet.

"I insist", Cecilia said as she pulled out some money and placed it in the waiter's hand, "Keep the change."
"Thank you, Ms. Alcott", the waiter said, "Please come back any time."

'Well I guess that's that, then', Richard thought to himself.

'I told you', Angel said, 'She comes from a different world, one where she has always been the dominant force'

'I guess with the invention of the IS, that mentality was only reinforced', Richard added.

'Exactly', Angel concluded as Richard and Cecilia left the pub.

As the two walked through the mall arm-in-arm, Richard looked around at the stores.

It was the waning hours of the day, and many of the stores were starting to close. The once-large crowds had dispersed, and there remained only a few small pockets of people slowly making their ways to the exits.

"It's weird how quiet it is", he remarked as they strolled towards the exit.

"Hmm?", Cecilia asked as she lifted her head from his shoulder.

"The mall", Richard explained, "Just a few hours ago, this place was so alive. Now, there's almost no one here. It's sort of like we're getting a behind-the-scenes look at what goes on here"

"I guess you're right", Cecilia said.

She didn't really understand what he was talking about.

She was tired and busy enjoying the moment.

She just smiled and nodded, hoping that it was a sufficient response.

It seemed to work, as Richard smiled and rested his head on hers as they stepped out of the mall and into the darkness.

After walking around the city, it became very apparent to Richard that they were lost.

"Do you know where we are?", he asked as he looked around for landmarks.

"What?", Cecilia said as she lifted up her head.

She hadn't been paying attention to what was happening, and had happily let Richard guide her around the city.

"Where are we?", she asked.

"That's what I just asked you", Richard replied.

The two started desperately scanning the darkness for familiar sights.

"I think the station is this way", Richard said as he led them down a street.

"Are you sure?", Cecilia asked.

"I think so", Richard said.

Suddenly, Richard felt Cecilia being ripped from his side.

He turned in time to see her get slammed up against a wall by a man that Richard hadn't seen.

"Hey, what are you doi-"

Before he could finish his sentence, he was tackled from behind by two more men.

He tried to pick himself up, but the weight of his two assailants kept him pinned down.

"Now, now", one of the men said as Richard squirmed under them, "Be a good boy and keep still."

"Fuck you", Richard said through gritted teeth.

One of the men hit Richard in the back of the head, and caused his head to bounce off of the concrete.

"What was that?", the man taunted.

Richard didn't hear him.

There was a ringing in his ears, and an unbearable pain in his head.

The world was getting dark around him, and he felt himself fading into it...

Richard opened up his eyes, and waited for his eyes to focus.

'Where am I?', he wondered.

After a while, his eyes started discerning colors and shapes from the ether.

He could see two blue earrings lying in front of him.

'How pretty', he thought, 'But why are they in front of me?'

After a few second of intense thought, he figured out that he must be lying on the ground.

'Hey', he slowly thought, 'Aren't those Cecilia's?'

After looking around a little more, he found Cecilia pressed up against a wall.

She was staring at him with fear in his eyes.

'She's scared', he thought, 'Why?'

'Because she's in danger', a voice said.

"Who said that?", Richard mumbled.

He tried to look around, but felt something stopping him.

'Don't overexert yourself', the voice said, 'It's me, Angel'

'Angel?', Richard thought, 'Angel...'

After a few seconds, Richard suddenly remembered the name.

"ANGEL!", he said as he tried to squirm around.

'Stop moving', Angel told him.

Richard obeyed his command.

'Do you know where we are?', Angel asked.

'No', Richard answered.

'OK, well let me fill you in', Angel said, 'You and Cecilia went to the mall.'

'That's right', Richard said.

'You guys got lost on the way back', Angel continued, 'And you got jumped on the way back'

'That's right!', Richard said, 'I remember now!'

'Good', Angel said, 'Now you're up to speed. Those earrings are Cecilia's IS, and because they're on the floor, she can't use them. There are two men on top of you, and one holding Cecilia against a wall. What do you want to do...?'

"Hey, Boss, I think I knocked him out", one of The Henchmen bragged.

"Shut up", the man holding Cecilia said, "I'm admiring our prize"

He ran a hand along her face, causing her to squirm at his touch.

"Unhand me", she demanded.

"I'm afraid I can't do that", The Boss replied, "You see, the three of us are a bit down on our luck, and we could really use some money."

"I don't carry cash", Cecilia told them.

"Oh", The Boss said as an evil grin crept across his face, "Well that's okay."

He start looking her up and down.

"I'm sure we can work out some other kind of payment"

He started kissing Cecilia's neck as his hands moved down her body.

"NO!" she screamed as she tried to break free of his grip, "LET GO OF ME!"

Images rushed through her mind as fear took control.

She stared at Richard's limp body lying on the ground.

'PLEASE DO SOMETHING', she begged telepathically.

Suddenly, Richard materialized his hand cannons and fired them both.

The Boss' two Henchmen were thrown off of him and came to rest several yards away from Richard.

Before The Boss could react, Richard materialized his helmet and ran towards him.

Richard clenched his fist and punched The Boss's face with all the force he could muster, separating him from Cecilia.

The Boss's nose shattered, and blood started pouring down his face.

Richard fell to the ground as his body followed through the punch.


Richard struggled to get up, but managed to turn to a terrified Cecilia.

Richard's visor lit up with a message.

It simply said: CALL THE POLICE

Richard then had to turn and run to avoid The Boss as he ran towards him.

Cecilia ran into a nearby alley and did as instructed, leaving Richard to deal with the thugs...

'Okay', Richard said to Angel, 'Now that that's done, we just have to buy some time'

He felt himself sway to one side as he almost blacked out again.

'Angel', Richard said as he corrected himself, 'Are you sure you can keep my standing until the police arrive?'

An alert flashed on his visor telling him that things would be okay.

'Okay', he said, 'Let's do this'.

He turned and scanned for The Boss and his thugs.

Angel helped focus Richard's eyes, and let him see clearly for the first time.

The Boss was running at him full-speed.

Blood was still pouring out of his nose, and Richard could tell that he was struggling to deal with the pain.

Behind The Boss, Richard could see his two Henchmen picking themselves off the ground.

'Just like the old days', Richard thought as he waited for The Boss to descend on him.

After a few more seconds of waiting, The Boss arrived and swung wildly at Richard.

Richard ducked under his arm, and swung his arm under The Boss' arm to grab his wrist.

As the Boss moved forward, Richard brought his knee up to meet The Boss' stomach, knocking the air out of him and stopping him in his tracks.

As The Boss tried to take in air, Richard brought his elbow down on The Boss' outstretched arm.

There was a snapping sound and The Boss' elbow bent in an unnatural way, transforming his arm from a solid to a liquid.

And before The Boss could blink, Richard did the same to his leg, pinning his foot and kicking his knee.

The Boss tried to scream, but couldn't find the oxygen to do it.

All he could manage to do was collapse on the ground.

'What the fuck is with this kid?', The Boss wondered as he lie there, 'There's no way I can get beaten by some random little punk'

He tried to get up, but collapsed once more.

'The entire right side of my body is out of commission', he thought, 'Goddammit. This is not good. The cops will be here soon'.

He tried to crawl away, but before he could get far, Richard kicked him onto his back.

"Now, now,", Richard said, "Stay still and be a good boy".

Richard then turned to The Henchmen, only to find that they were fleeing the scene.

'Oh no you don't', he thought to himself.

In the blink of an eye, he materialized the rest of his suit, and boosted to The Henchmen's position.

"Hello", he said as he raised his hands.

All that The Henchmen could do was emit a short scream before they were both hit by energy blasts that knocked them out...

After being interviewed by the police, Richard and Cecilia finally made their way back to the Academy. They walked through the corridors in silence, neither of them sure how to start a conversation.

Finally, Richard couldn't take it any longer.

"Are... Are you okay?", he asked.

Cecilia was still a little shaken, but was far too proud to let it show.

"Y-Yes", she said.

She wasn't fooling him.

"Listen", Richard said as he stopped and turned to face her, "You don't have to act tough around me. I want to help you, but I can't do that if you're not honest with me."

Cecilia looked into his eyes, and felt herself losing control of her emotions.

'No, Cecilia, a strong woman does not let her emotions show', she told herself as she tried to suppress her tears.

She stared into his eyes, and noticed how scared he looked.

'Strong women don't...'

His eyes were so blue.

'They don't...'

Finally, she couldn't hold herself back anymore.

She flung herself at him, and buried her face in his chest.

"I was so scared," she confessed to him, "If you hadn't been there..."

She couldn't complete the sentence as she sobbed uncontrollably.

"I know, I know", Richard said as he rubbed Cecilia's back, "Get it all out. It's not healthy to bottle up your emotions."

He smelled her hair.

It smelled of strawberries, he noticed.

He hugged her as tightly as he could, and let her cry into his chest.

"It's okay", he kept whispering into her ear, "It's okay"

After a few minutes of crying, Cecilia and Richard stood there in the hallway, leaning on each other for support.

They stood like that for a while, before Richard decided to walk Cecilia to her room.

They walked hand in hand all the way to her door.

"Are you sure you're going to be okay tonight?", Richard asked.

"I think so", Cecilia replied.

"You have my number if you need me", Richard told her.

"Yes", Cecilia said, "I know."

They stood there for a while, each waiting for the other to make a move.

Richard put his hands in his pockets as he waited for Cecilia to enter her room, and when he did, he felt something.

"OH!", he exclaimed as he withdrew a box from his pocket, "I totally forgot about your present."

He held the box out to Cecilia, and offered a timid smile.

Cecilia smiled warmly as she took the box from his hands.

"What is it?", she asked.

"Open it", Richard told her.

She looked at the little black box in her hands, and slowly opened it to find a beautiful necklace.

"My goodness", she exclaimed, "It's beautiful".

Richard took it from it's box, and started affixing around Cecilia's neck.

"Think of this as a reminder", he said.

"A reminder of what?", Cecilia asked.

"A reminder that whenever you need me, I'll be there", Richard said as he finished securing her necklace.

Before he retreated back into his own space, Richard leaned in, and kissed Cecilia on the cheek.

"There's no reason you should ever be afraid", he said with a smile.

Cecilia was at a loss for words for the first time in her life.

She had never had someone be so genuinely caring about her.

She stared into his big, blue eyes.

'He's just so...'

She leaned in closer to him.


She could feel his breath on her lips.


Their lips touched as their shared an emotional kiss.

They hung there for a few moments before bidding each other good night, and retreating to their respective rooms.

As Richard entered his room, he found Ichika sitting up on his bed.

"Hey", he said, "Are you okay? I heard that you and Cecilia had some trouble today."

"Yeah, we're both fine", Richard assured him.

"What happened?", Ichika asked.

"I don't really want to talk about it", Richard said, "I'm sure you'll hear a lot about it tomorrow anyways"

"Okay", Ichika said, "Well I'm going to bed."

"So am I", Richard told him.

Ichika lied down on his bed, and turned his light off.

Richard began undressing.

'Are you okay?', Angel asked.

Richard stayed silent while he undressed.


'Yeah', Richard finally said, 'I think I need to sleep in tomorrow, but I'm okay for now'

Richard took off his necklace and placed it on the bedside table.

He crawled into bed, and lay there, thinking about what had happened that day.

He thought about his dream.

He thought about the mall.

He thought about the dressing room, and he thought about the mugging.

As he felt his eyelids getting heavy, he thought about Cecilia.

And then he thought about Charlotte.

The last thing that crossed his mind, was 'I'm a terrible person...'