Here's chapter forty - two.

Chapter Forty - Two: Forgiveness

Ashe shifted uncomfortably under the armor that had been placed on her body. The Dragon Slayers had insisted that she and Pam wear some sort of protection, though she'd been unsure about it. The metal was heavy and difficult to move around in, making her feel slightly agitated. Pam, nearby, was openly voicing her frustration. "I don't want to wear this!" she protested. "It's horrid! And too heavy!"

"Just shut up, Pam," Ashe growled, not even bothering to look at the girl.

Pam snorted. "Whatever…" she murmured half - heartedly.

For a few moments, there was silence. Then footsteps broke it. Ashe lifted her head slightly to see the Commander walking their way. "I see you two have put on your armor."

"Yeah," Ashe muttered, narrowing her eyes at him.

The Commander offered her a half - smile that she didn't return. "Here," he said, handing her a knife. "You'll need something to protect you, since you don't know how to sword fight."

Ashe glanced from the weapon back to the man holding it. "Thanks," she muttered after a few moments, taking it and slipping it through the belt on her waist.

She heard the Commander give a quiet snort of laughter. "It's ironic, isn't it? That after we've been enemies for so long, we'd become allies to face the menace of the Time Thief." The Commander clapped a hand on her shoulder before walking over to Pam.

The words came out of Ashe's mouth of their own accord. "He's not a menace."

She could feel the Commander's surprised, inquisitive stare on her back. "Oh? Well, I suppose he did have you fooled for a long time. But trust me, young one, he's only interested in his own selfish needs."

As the Commander left, Ashe couldn't help but add silently, And so are you.

Chi's wings beat out a steady rhythm as he soared towards the Dragon Slayer's base, his keen blue eyes scanning the ground. This is it. I'm finally going to be rid of them. So why did his heart feel so heavy? Stupid thing, he thought, clenching one clawed appendage over the area where the organ rested. It's not like…I have a choice. I'll never be able to escape them again.

Finally, he saw the shapes of his enemies on the ground, near the Dragon Slayer's burned hide out. He let out a challenging roar on instinct, folding his wings and swooping down. Ashe…I'm sorry…

Then he spread his wings again, allowing the air to catch in them, and spit out a stream of fire.

"It's the Time Thief! I see him!" At almost that same instant, a roar tore through the air, deafening all those close enough to hear it. Ashe jumped to her feet, eyes narrowed as she looked up to the sky. There, among the clouds, a gray shape was shooting towards them. Chi.

Then the dragon pulled up abruptly and issued a stream of flame from his mouth. "Get to cover!" the Commander shouted. None of those nearby needed to hear the order to obey; they were already diving to the ground in the hopes of avoiding the flames. Ashe launched herself towards a large rock, curling up behind it to shield herself from the onslaught of fire.

Pam, nearby, was sobbing, her arms wrapped around her legs. "What the hell are you doing?" Ashe snapped at her.

The girl shook her head, her words hardly distinguishable. "I…I don't want to…"

Frustrated, Ashe launched herself towards the hysterical girl. "Damn it, Pam! Get to cover!" she snapped, grabbing onto the girl and dragging her behind the rock.

Ashe lifted her green eyes. Chi had stopped breathing fire and was sweeping down towards the battle field. Swallowing back her fear, she turned back to Pam. "Stay here, idiot." Then she jumped to her feet and ran towards where the Time Thief was attacking.

Chi dive-bombed a group of Dragon Slayers, dropping on top of them and swinging out his claws and tail instantaneously. The Dragon Slayers went flying form the force. His long, snake - like neck lashed out, his teeth closing around the body of one Dragon Slayer. There was a crack as armor and bones as crushed between his powerful jaws. He threw the body towards the Dragon Slayers who were trying to swarm him, then released another jet of flame to force them back.

The move did as intended, keeping the Dragon Slayers at bay. Then he lunged through his own wall of flames, landing on the humans and crushing them with his greater weight.

He reached for a Dragon Slayer, grabbing them with a claw and jumping into the sky. The man fell back to the ground, nothing more than a skeleton in armor, while Chi's wounds were completely healed.

Ashe observed all of this in horror, still trying to move quickly under the weight of her armor. Chi, she said silently, narrowing her eyes, why…do you have to do this? She turned her gaze to the Dragon Slayers, watching as they attempted to fight their flying enemy, and suddenly drew herself up short. And what am I doing, she wondered, aligning myself with people who've hurt just as many as the Time Thief has? She'd been furious at the Time Thief - Chi - for what he'd done…but the Dragon Slayers had caused just as much trouble. Those weeks of being hunted like an animal…had proved that to her.

Chi may not be perfect…but the Dragon Slayers had no right to act the way they did.

He resolve made, she headed deeper into the fray, hoping to find the man she was searching for quickly.

Pam sat curled up behind her rock, shaking and listening to the sounds of battle behind her. She was terrified…all she wanted to do was go home; return to her normal life. Unfortunately, a part of her realized that would never happen. A choked sob shook her body. Why? Why did I ever have to get involved in this?

She heard the sound of screams, and she lifted her hands to her ears, trying to block them out. Go away…just make everything go away!

Then a more familiar scream reached her ears and her eyes snapped wide open. Jared! She lifted her head above her rocky hiding place briefly. She couldn't see him…was he just another body, lying there on the ground? She shrank away from the death and bloodshed, feeling sick. She wanted to curl back up, but something kept her from doing so: guilt. She couldn't help remembering Waine, who died…trying to protect her. She stifled a sob at the memory. It was my fault…he died.

It was the guilt of that moment that forced her out of her hiding place. She slowly edged her way out into the battle, hands gripping tightly onto her arms. She looked around her, hazel eyes searching for any sign of the boy. "Jared?" she called hoarsely.

Flame suddenly burst beside her, and she yelped, jumping sideways and falling to the ground. She stayed there for a few moments, too scared to keep going. Then she remembered Waine, and forced herself back to her feet.

She almost stepped on the general in the process of searching for him. "Pam?"

She gasped and fell backwards at the voice almost beneath her foot. "Jared," she breathed, looking at his bloody and burned form. She looked at him, horror causing her to stay still.

His skull helmet had been cracked, revealing one eye. "Why…are you…out here…"

The shock finally wore off, and the rich girl broke down, crying. "I couldn't…Waine died for me, and I…"

"Stop crying," Jared said hoarsely.

Pam nodded, biting her lip. "I won't let you die," she promised. Then, swallowing back her disgust and fear, she began to try and stop the flow of blood from his wounds.

Ashe found she kept glancing towards Chi, no matter where they were on their battlefield. The brown haired girl felt oddly calm, despite the rage that went on around her. Chi… She tore her gaze away momentarily. She needed to focus.

"Ashe."

The girl skidded to a stop. Exactly the person she'd been looking for. "Commander," she said, her voice sarcastic as she turned around.

The Commander looked at her curiously, soot staining his armor as he held his sword to his side. Questions filled his eyes. "What are you doing here? Are you going to help fight the Time Thief?"

"No," Ashe responded, drawing the knife out from the belt. "I'm here to stop you."

The Commander gave her an incredulous look for a few moments before bursting into laughter. "You're going to stop me? Ignoring how ridiculous it sounds that you believe you could defeat me, why would you want to stop someone who's trying to kill the Time Thief? He was, after all, the one who caused you so much trouble for the last few months."

"No," Ashe snapped, anger flaring through her as her grip on the knife tightened. "You're the one who's been doing that. You've been taking people captive, torturing them, hunting them down, killing them, just on the chance that they might be the Time Thief. How the hell is it fair that Chi dies when the other half of the problem lives?"

"I don't understand, Asheley," the Commander commented, narrowing his eyes and looking at her curiously. "How are we the problem?"

Ashe gritted her teeth. "I'm done talking to you." She lunged towards the man, knife ready to stab.

The Commander easily blocked her strike with the flat of his blade, then kicked her away. "Do you honestly believe you'll be able to defeat a trained warrior?" he mocked, and then gestured to his armor, indicating that it would be difficult for her to pierce the metal with her small knife.

She glanced briefly to her side; Chi was still in the middle of a group of Dragon Slayers, warding them off. She turned her gaze back to the Commander. He shook his head at her. "Go back home, Ashe; we shall take care of things here."

"Don't just walk away!" Ashe snapped, aiming for his turned back.

He whipped around quickly and hit her with a fist, sending her sprawling across the ground. The air was forced out of her as she landed. Above her, she could hear the Commander saying, "If you're going to get in the way…then I'll have no choice but to end you."

She blinked open her eyes and saw a sword coming down towards her. She rolled away on instinct, allowing the weapon to harmlessly pierce the ground beside her. She returned to her feet, eyes scanning over the Commander. Shit…where can I hit him? The Dragon Slayer jerked his sword out of the ground, swinging it powerfully towards her. Ashe backed up as he continued to swing his sword, mind whirling. His face? Could she manage to stab it through his eye into his brain?

She dropped into a roll to one side, allowing the Commander's sword to pass harmlessly over her. He was faster than she expected however, and was able to whip around and kick her as she returned to her feet. She rolled over herself and balanced on her toes, watching. The Commander brought his weapon high above his head, dragging it down towards her. She jumped to the side, but he swiped his weapon out at the last second. She dropped quickly to the ground, but the cold metal still cut through some of the flesh on her arm.

Ashe gritted her teeth. His throat? The very front's unexposed. But how would she get to either of those areas without getting killed?

The more she worked to dodge the man's sword, the more the answer became clear: she wasn't.

Her hand tightened around the hilt of the knife and her body shook with fear. I'm not good enough at fighting to keep going for long, she thought, and I can't…let this man live to hurt more people.

She swallowed back her fear and sadness. She saw the Commander pull back his sword with both hands on the hilt, intending to stab it forward. God have mercy. She lunged up to her feet, her body moving forward. She saw the Commander's eyes widen.

Then the sword pierced her chest.

She gasped with pain as the freezing steel ran through her, just below her heart. She could hardly breath…could hardly think… Just need…to stay focused…a little longer… Gasping for air, she brought the knife up and moved it towards the Commander's exposed throat. The man, momentarily stunned from her actions, moved to block the blow too late. The knife sank into his throat, tearing cleanly through it. The Commander gasped, the sound coming of as more of a gurgle. Blood spurted from the wound as he stared at the girl before him with wide eyes. He stumbled backwards, pulling his sword out of Ashe's chest with a squelching sound and causing Ashe to gasp in pain. He seemed to try to say something, but the action only caused more blood to come from his wounded throat.

Then he fell to the ground.

Ashe stood there a few moments, staring absently at the Commander's dead body. She found she couldn't feel anything as she looked at it…in fact, the feeling in all her limbs seemed to be leaving. Unable to support herself any longer, she fell to the ground.

She thought she heard something - a roar, maybe? - but it was hard to tell; her hearing seemed muted. She was having trouble breathing…it seemed it'd be easier just to stop. Black spots flickered before her vision. She blinked her eyes several times, but the damn spots wouldn't go away…

Chi lifted his head above the Dragon Slayers, a roar tearing its way out of his mouth. He whipped around, a stream of fire blazing from his mouth to incinerate those closest to him. He narrowed his blue eyes and jumped up, away from the smoke and the intense flames. He allowed his gaze to wander across the battle field, wondering where to strike next.

Then he felt his body grow cold. Ashe…? He watched, frozen, as she lunged forward, impaling herself on the Commander's sword before bringing a knife up to cut his throat. He watched as the Commander stumbled and fell, dead.

Then he watched as Ashe followed him.

Something inside him broke. No! He roared, swooping down towards her. He landed ungracefully, not bothering to open his wings to slow his descent. He stumbled slightly, but quickly regained his footing, hurrying over to where Ashe lay.

He bent over the limp body of the girl, eyes growing wide at the sight of the hole in her chest. The rise and fall of her chest was hardly visible, and her eyes were half closed, staring off at nothing. "Ashe…no…" he muttered. Why? Why did you do it…?

Inside of him, there was a small part that realized something…something he'd forgotten about. He felt a sense of fear grip his heart at the thought. No…not that… But if he didn't do anything, Ashe would die…

He inhaled deeply. All these years, fighting to stay alive…and it's all gone, in a single instant. He touched the tip of one claw just below the wound on Ashe's chest. The Time Thief can give time as well as take it…

Then he unleashed his powers, and let all the time he had flow into her.

Ashe felt something odd run through her. It was warm and comforting, like sunlight. Then she gasped, her breathing suddenly coming easier. Her hearing returned, and the black spots disappeared from her vision.

That's when she saw the dragon that hovered over her, his body faintly glowing. "Chi!" she gasped, wondering what he was doing. She sat up abruptly, feeling for the hole in her chest. Aside from ripped clothing and metal, it was gone. Her eyes widened. The Time Thief can give time…as well as take it… "But-" She looked at him with wide eyes.

Chi gave her what looked to be a smile. For a few moments, instead of a dragon, she saw a black haired boy. "Ashe." Then his body started to crumbled. Ashe gasped, lunging upwards. However, her body passed straight through his, his form falling apart into dust. For a few moments, she thought she could hear him whispering the words "I'm sorry."

But it might have just been a trick of her mind.

Ashe fell to her knees in the dust that had once been the body of her friend, stunned for several moments. Then the full impact of what had happened hit her, and her arms fell to her sides, tears streaming down her face. Chi…you gave up your life…to save mine… Unwanted sobs freed themselves from her throat, and she didn't bother to check them. In the end, you weren't so bad, after all.

It seemed an eternity before a hand landed on her shoulder and a voice called her name. "Ashe."

The girl looked up, seeing a Dragon Slayer with a helmet in the shape of a bird's head looking down at her. "The Time Thief is dead; it's time for us to go." He sounded stunned, and almost…sympathetic. Ashe, unable to do anything else, nodded and slowly stood.

She'd only made it a few paces when she heard a quiet sound. Startled she looked back behind her. Something was moving in the dust. Curious and confused, she walked over to the moving patch and bent down, brushing the dirt off it.

A little gray dragon looked up at her, blue eyes shining as it let out a quiet trill. Ashe felt her heart clench and her eyes film with more tears. "Oh, Chi," she whispered, picking up the dragonling and hugging him close to her. She felt his scaled head press against hers.

"I think you've been forgiven."


And there you have it. The end of Time Thief. Thank you to everyone who read the story!