“I was wondering: will you marry me?” asked Flame. While he said this, he knelt down before Serene on one knee, bowed his head, and showed the young Gardevoir a gold ring with their names inscribed on it. Serene was stunned, but soon, she managed to regain her composure. She smiled at the young Gallade and held out her right hand.
“…Yes…I will,” said Serene with happiness. Flame held Serene’s hand and tenderly put the ring on her finger. She marveled at the sparkling ring.
“It’s beautiful,” said Serene with amazement. Dozens of small sapphires and diamonds made the ring sparkle brightly, even as the sun continued to set.
“It’s beautiful, just like you. That’s why I got this ring, only for you,” said Flame tenderly.
“Thank you Flame,” said Serene with a blissful smile. Flame stood back up: he hugged and passionately kissed Serene. Serene followed Flame in doing this: their kiss was long, romantic, and inseparable and seemed to last for an eternity.
“I’m so glad we will be married now,” said Flame as he continued to blush.
“I know, I was wondering when you were going to ask me,” said Serene with a sweet voice, “I was hoping you would want to be my mate…” Flame released his bride to be from his tight embrace.
“Serene, there is something I need to tell you,” said Flame.
“Oh? What is it?” asked Serene.
“This necklace I wear: it has a demon in it,” said Flame.
“…What kind of demon?” asked Serene with fear.
“I’ll let you talk to him. He’s been waiting a long time to meet you. Don’t worry about me: even if he controls me, nothing will happen to me, okay?” explained Flame.
“Sure…” Serene said, a little worried about what was going to happen to Flame: the young Gardevoir hoped she was ready for anything to happen. Flame’s body started glowing black with a thick, dark aura surrounding him. Soon, his eyes started to glow with a dark red light.
“Greetings, Serene” said the demon through Flame.
“What do you want with Flame?” asked Serene as she quickly got herself ready to fight.
“All I really want is to help Flame. You need not fear me, for I won’t hurt you,” replied the demon. Serene settled down a little bit and said, “If you want to help him, then why do you hurt him?”
“I don’t hurt him: I just call it…an exchange. I am a demon that takes anyone’s soul in exchange for my power. If I ever take control of the user of this necklace, nothing bad will happen to them. Flame said that before I took over his body,” answered the evil essence.
“You’re a demon from Flame’s necklace: does that mean there is one in my necklace…as well?” asked Serene with some fear in her voice.
“Yes, you have one as well. It will come out only when necessary, or when you want it to. I, however, will take control of Flame when he is about to die, or when I need to. The demon in your necklace will come out in the same manner as I do for Flame,” explained the demon.
“I have one last question for you,” said Serene.
“Very well: what is it?” asked the demon.
“How can we stop Tim’s nightmare?” asked Serene.
“Ah, yes, Tim…he will only recover if your demon is willing to help you. The demon in your necklace is meant to heal anything or anyone. Also, it is meant to defend those who are extremely close to you. While I am meant for destruction and to only save a certain few people,” said the demon. Serene nodded.
“My time is running out. Do tell Flame about our conversation we had, okay?” said the demon, “He will need to know what has been said here.” With that, Flame’s body started returning to its original state. He was unconscious and fell to the ground as his colors reverted to normal. Serene reflexively caught him with telekinesis before he hit the ground. Flame was startled awake.
“Where am I? What happened?” asked Flame as Serene carefully set his feet on the ground.
“I will tell you later. We must leave now,” said Serene.
“Sure, but what’s the hurry?” asked Flame. Before he could utter another word, Serene suddenly teleported away from the seaside cliff with Flame.
Flame and Serene arrived back at the hospital: Tim was still struggling with his nightmare. All of the Elders were watching over him closely.
“Hello, Elders,” said Serene with respect.
“Welcome back, Protectors,” said Aero, “Hopefully; you can help us solve this puzzle.”
“Indeed. His condition has remained unchanged,” said Elegon, “We fear he has worsened over the last hour.”
“We haven’t found a cure yet, but we are still trying to find one,” said Blizz.
“Elders: I think I may have found a cure,” said Serene. Elegon lifted his head as Serene spoke.
“Really? What’s the cure?” asked Elegon.
“I don’t know exactly, but I will need to activate the demon inside my necklace. It should know what to do,” explained Serene.
“There is a demon inside your necklace too, Serene?” asked Aero with shock.
“I’m not sure, but Flame has one inside his necklace,” answered Serene. Flame looked away as she said this.
“Flame, how long did you plan on hiding this from us?” asked Blizz. Flame did not answer the question.
“Flame, take off the necklace,” commanded Elegon. Flame didn’t move. Elegon started walking towards Flame.
“I will not ask again. Flame, please take off the necklace!” ordered Elegon. Flame glared at Elegon as he reached forward to try and take off the necklace. Flame angrily grabbed Elegon’s hand.
“Why should I take off the necklace?” demanded Flame.
“It will corrupt your soul if you don’t. Please, Flame,” said Elegon, trying to be reasonable.
“I don’t need to take off the necklace. It isn’t going to corrupt my soul. Do you think this demon is going to corrupt me?” Flame asked.
“Yes, I do think it will corrupt you,” said Elegon, “Or worse, you may lose your soul to the demon. I won’t ever allow a Protector to meet such a fate.” Flame let go of Elegon’s hand.
“The demon won’t corrupt me. If I can’t use this necklace correctly, I will corrupt myself. My only duty is to protect Serene and anyone else. My well-being doesn’t matter,” said Flame.
“Yes, your well-being does matter,” said Serene.
“That’s why we are trying to save you,” said Aero.
“I suppose, but I don’t need saving. Tim does,” said Flame as he pointed to Tim: he continued to squirm around in his bed in a tormented sleep.
“Serene, I think I have an idea on how to make the demon come out,” said Flame.
“What would that be?” asked Serene.
“Put your necklace near the dark aura about Tim: I have a feeling the demon will come out then,” suggested Flame. Serene nodded and walked closer to Tim, after a few moments, a bright white light appeared about Serene.
“Serene!” yelled Flame as he covered his eyes. Everyone in the room just standing there, stunned, watching Serene change in front of their eyes. Serene started to glow with a white aura surrounding her. Serene’s eyes also changed to a glowing blue color.
“Serene?” asked Flame. Serene didn’t answer: she put her right hand on Tim’s forehead. Tim glowed with a bright white and his dark aura was soon dissolving and eventually, vanished.
“He will be fine now. He will wake up in a few hours,” said a demon gently through Serene.
“Thank you,” said the Elders.
“Not a problem. He needed my help. I will leave now, but I will surely see you all again. Until that time, I bid you all farewell,” said the demon. Serene’s bright aura was slowly going away, and her eyes were returning to normal. Before long, Serene was herself once again.
“I hope Tim is going to be okay,” said Serene.
“He should be fine now,” said Aero with a nod. Elegon soon noticed a sparkling band on Serene’s right, middle finger.
“Ah! Where did you get that new ring, Serene?” asked Elegon with curiosity.
“Oh, that. Flame asked me to marry him,” answered Serene with great joy. Flame started to blush. Serene just smiled at her mate to be, walked up and kissed Flame on his cheek.
“When did this happen?” asked Blizz with a smile.
“Not too long ago, before we came here” Serene explained.
“What was your answer?” asked Elegon eagerly.
“Of course, I said yes!” said Serene with excitement.
“Splendid! When do you plan on having the wedding and reception?” asked Aero.
“Soon, I hope,” said Flame as he kissed Serene once again.
“You two look so good together,” said Blizz with joy: Flame and Serene were blushing.
“Thank you,” said Flame with a smile as he stared deep into Serene’s eyes.
“Thanks for the compliment,” said Serene with a blissful sigh. Aero smiled at the young couple.
“You know, I think we could have everything ready for your wedding in a few weeks,” said Aero. Flame and Serene quickly turned their gaze to the old Gallade.
“You mean it?” asked a surprised Flame.
“Certainly: that is, if we start preparations now. Would you both like a simple wedding or…” said Aero with a grin as he approached Flame and Serene, “Shall we pull out all the stops and really make it a day you two will never forget for the rest of your lives?” Flame faced Serene and the look in her eyes said it all.
“We’ll have a big wedding,” said Flame as Serene blushed and smiled, “Can we invite everyone in the city?”
“Of course,” said Aero with a chuckle, “Hopefully, the palace cathedral will be able to hold everyone.”
“I imagine so;” said Elegon happily, “Flame, Serene: it is getting late and you should both return to your homes.”
“Indeed,” said Blizz with a bright smile, “It is tradition that the bride and groom not see each other again during the last weeks leading up to their wedding day.” Flame and Serene held each other one last time.
“Goodbye, Serene,” said Flame tenderly as he held her close.
“See you in a few weeks,” said Serene sweetly and softly. They held onto each other for quite some time…for the last time as a single Gallade and Gardevoir.
The next few days passed uneventfully. Flame had asked Sage to pay him a visit. It was late in the afternoon and Sage was dumbfounded as he spoke with Flame in the living room of his house.
“What?” asked Sage with surprise, “You mean it?”
“Yes!” said Flame with a nod, “I would like you to be the best man at my wedding.”
“I would be honored!” said Sage, “Thank you!”
“You’re very welcome, Sage,” said Flame, but before he could say another word, Elegon walked into the living room.
“Am I intruding?” asked Elegon.
“No, of course not,” replied Flame, “What brings you here?”
“Well, the other Elders and I are all working together on your wedding preparations. In fact, Serene has asked Blizz to be her maid of honor. Now that I think about it, Serene wanted me to ask you if you would accept being married by Aero,” said Elegon.
“Certainly,” said Flame with a nod, “Please tell Serene that I think it’s a great idea.”
“Very well,” said Elegon, “Now, we should get going.”
“We?” asked Flame, “Where are we going?”
“Well, we need to pick out your wedding clothes, of course!” laughed Elegon, “We have much to do in the next week and a half and very little time. After all, Serene has already been fitted for her wedding dress and jewelry. We’d better get going. We’re going to want as much time as possible for this.”
“Oh! What will Serene wear?” asked Flame eagerly.
“Ha!” laughed Elegon, “You will just have to wait until your wedding day when she walks down the aisle. All I can say is that no matter what, you’ll think you’re in the middle of a dream when you see her.”
“Well, you better get going,” said Sage.
“Yes, time is precious,” said Elegon, “As for you, Sage, you should start planning the banquet for the reception.”
“Will do, sir!” said Sage with a polite bow as he left the room. Elegon glanced at Flame.
“Are you ready to go, Protector?” asked Elegon. Flame gulped, not sure what to expect.
“I’m ready,” said Flame, “Let’s go.”
“Then let’s be off,” said Elegon, “They’ll be expecting us.” Before long, Flame was outside his home and walking down the street with Elegon at his side. They continued to walk for quite a while until they eventually came to the right place.
“This is the place,” said Elegon as he entered the shop, “Please follow me.” Flame was less enthusiastic, for they had stopped outside what appeared to be a dress shop. Several ornate, white and shimmering wedding dresses lined the front windows.
“Why are we at a bridal shop?” asked Flame in a nervous tone of voice.
“Why would I take you to a bridal shop?” asked Elegon, “That place is on the other side of the city. This is where we will get you fitted for your own wedding dress.” Elegon turned about to face Flame: he was very reluctant to enter.
“Are you sure?” asked Flame with fear.
“You’ve never been to a Gardevoir city, have you?” asked Elegon. Flame nodded.
“Well, then, I’ll be happy to explain everything,” said Elegon as he walked up to Flame, “You see, Gardevoirs have been on earth far longer than Gallades. As you know, both male and female Gardevoirs wear a white gown of sorts with white and sometimes green pants underneath.”
“I know that,” said Flame.
“Well, that being the case, it was decided ages ago that both female and male Gardevoirs would wear ornate, white dresses on their wedding, during their honeymoon and to celebrate various holidays. Now, the bride is always the most decorated of the bride and groom. Most importantly, they would wear their wedding attire on the day of their wedding anniversary. To this day, married couples always wear their wedding dresses and jewelry as a sign of celebration,” explained Elegon, “For Gallades, due to your arm blades, your kind wear short-sleeved wedding dresses.”
“Okay,” said Flame with reluctance, “But are you sure this is the only way?”
“That is the tradition that all Gardevoirs and Gallades have kept for millennia,” said Elegon, “Besides, you can bet that Serene will really like seeing you in your wedding splendor on your wedding day and on all those special days afterwards.” Flame had never heard of these traditions before, but he gathered his courage.
“Alright,” said Flame with determination, “I’ll do this. Just for Serene.” Flame clenched his fists as he entered the shop with Elegon right behind him. The store had several dozen white wedding dresses on display on racks throughout the small shop. They all had very full skirts with petticoats underneath for lift. Some of the dresses sparkled, some shimmered, many of them had long sleeves and a few of them were short-sleeved: obviously meant for a Gallade. Flame was not thrilled by this sight and he only became all the more nervous.
“What have I gotten myself into?” thought Flame with fear. He heard either a Gallade or a male Gardevoir calling from behind a closed door at the back of the store.
“Just a minute, please. I’ll be right there,” said the voice.
“Very well,” said Elegon.
“Wait…I know that voice,” said the unidentified tailor as the back door burst open, revealing a male Gardevoir with glasses and a measuring tape, resting on his shoulders, “Elegon! Why, I haven’t seen you for months now! How have you been?”
“I’ve been well,” said Elegon as he faced Flame, “Flame, this is my good friend, Richard. He’s the finest tailor in the city. He’s been living in this city for well over a century now.”
“Nice to meet you, Richard,” said Flame as he held out his right hand. Richard latched onto his hand with a friendly handshake.
“Nice to meet you Flame!” said Richard with excitement, “I was hoping I would get to meet you sooner or later, especially since you’re one of the Protectors. So, what brings you here? Care for some coffee?”
“Actually, my friend, Flame is here to purchase his wedding dress. He is going to be married within the next ten days,” said Elegon.
“You’re kidding…” said Richard with disbelief, “There’s never been a Protector who wasn’t married when he took up his duties.”
“That’s exactly why I brought him to you,” said Elegon, “I want only the best for him.” Richard glanced at Flame: he was nervously running his right hand down the soft skirt of a nearby dress.
“Well, if you want the best, then that one will never do,” said Richard.
“Pardon?” asked Flame as he faced the seasoned tailor. Richard was carefully looking him over.
“Hmmm…” said Richard to himself, “…Something…grand and fabulous for the young Protector…”
“Have you heard what Blizz requested for Serene?” asked Elegon. Richard nodded.
“Yes, I do remember hearing something that…” said Richard, deep in thought.
“I want something just as grand for Flame,” said Elegon. Richard flashed the Gardevoir elder a fiendish grin.
“When you put it that way,” said Richard as he pulled the measuring tape off his neck with one quick motion, “Then I know just what to do.”
“We need it to be flashy and extravagant: the perfect thing for a young Protector on his wedding day,” said Elegon. Richard said nothing as he darted about Flame, crouching, ducking and running about the young Gallade, quickly taking his measurements.
“Spare no expense, my friend,” said Elegon.
“You know I will!” said Richard as he wrapped the measuring tape around Flame’s waist and then quickly removed it almost in an instant, remembering the last measurement. Flame had a worried look on his face.
“Um…Elegon?” asked Flame.
“What is it, Flame?” asked Elegon.
“Is Richard…always like this?” asked Flame.
“I beg your pardon!” said Richard with a scowl.
“Don’t mind his manner;” said Elegon, “Richard is just very passionate about his work, especially when he really gets to put his talent to use.”
“You’re telling me. Time and time again, the Gardevoir grooms always go for something simple,” said Richard as he handed Flame one of the nearby dresses, “How about you try this one on for size?” Flame glanced nervously at Elegon. The old Gardevoir just nodded his head.
“Go ahead, Flame,” said Elegon. Flame took the dress off Richard’s hands and proceeded to the back of the shop towards the dressing rooms. Richard glanced at Elegon as Flame closed the door.
“He sure seems nervous about getting his wedding dress,” remarked Richard.
“That’s an understatement,” said Elegon, “Flame has never been to Gardevoir city. He knows nothing of many of our traditions.” Richard nodded.
“So it seems,” said Richard as he straightened his glasses, “I think he’ll get used to it. Just watch, all his worries and cares will just disappear when he gets a look at his bride.”
“Especially if she looks even half as good as the seamstresses were boasting,” chuckled Elegon.
“Um…excuse me?” asked Flame.
“Yes?” said Elegon.
“Do you need some assistance?” asked Richard.
“Yeah…” said Flame with embarrassment, “How…do I put this on?” Richard tried to stifle his laughter: as did Elegon.
“It’s very simple,” said Richard, “Just take off your tunic and your pants. Then, just put on the dress and zip it up.”
“Okay,” said Flame with hesitation. A few minutes passed before the door of the dressing room opened. Flame stepped forward: the short-sleeved white dress he wore with its full skirt just didn’t seem right to the young Gallade. The soft petticoats under the skirt felt equally foreign.
“That’s pretty good,” said Elegon with an appreciative nod. Richard stepped forward and again, methodically looked Flame over.
“Hmmm…” said Richard, “It fits you perfectly. For any normal groom, this would be perfect, but you are hardly an average groom, are you, Protector?” Flame said nothing.
“What do you have in mind?” asked Elegon.
“That will be a surprise. Since this dress fits him perfectly, the measurements I took were perfectly accurate, as usual. This will be easy,” said Richard, “When do you want the dress by?”
“We’ll need it in nine days. Will that work for you?” asked Elegon.
“You need the dress in nine days?!” shouted Richard, “I thought you had a challenge for me!”
“What were you expecting?” asked Elegon with impatience. Richard laughed warmly.
“You know I’m only kidding. The dress will be ready by then. I think you’ll be very pleased with it, Flame,” said Richard, “Protector, you may take off the dress now and get back into your clothing.” Flame let out a sigh of relief as he stepped back into the dressing room and locked the door.
“He thinks he’s nervous now? Just wait until his wedding day,” said Richard, “One way or another, that day will be one Flame will remember for the rest of his life.”
“And hopefully, it won’t be about how embarrassed he was wearing traditional wedding attire,” said Elegon. Richard laughed again: this only made Flame feel even more worried about the days ahead.