Dart — Inspiration

“I saw Zieg in Dart. But… Dart is Dart. He is not Zieg. No… he is not Zieg.”

Dart is the game’s main character. His journey starts when he sets off to get revenge on the Black Monster, which killed his parents and destroyed his village when he was only a child. Though he puts that quest on hold five years later so as to get involved in a continent-wide intrigue, the search for the creature is always on his mind, and its name comes up multiple times during the journey as he continues to uncover information.

Dart is the one recognized by the Red-Eye Dragoon Spirit, which he has unknowingly carried with him as his father’s memento. Others find themselves attracted to his sense of justice and drive, and thus join the group as allies.

Undefined Attraction

Rose first follows Dart from Seles to Hoax because her own Dragoon Spirit responds to his, which makes her curious as to whether he has what it takes to be a Dragoon. Moreover, it’s the same Dragoon Spirit that acknowledged Zieg, her past love. By the time she formally introduces herself, she has already saved his life twice, triggering his first Dragoon transformation the second time around. Not only does she thus give him new powers, she also seems to nudge him to use that power for what he believes in when the Kingdom of Basil requires help beyond Human capacities:

Do you think a wasted death is honorable or something? But Dragoons can defeat him… Dart. You should understand this. We have a different existence. We are beyond Humans.
Rose, Disc 1: Hoax

What’s more, she offers her own help in the matter even though she’s not personally involved in Serdio’s war, and proceeds to teach Dart how to use his powers as a Dragoon.

A lot about Rose’s attraction to Dart and his group as well as her motives for accompanying them is very vague early on — not just to the group, but also to Rose herself, who is just as surprised at her own actions. She says that the group reminds her of her late friends, and they leave it at that. Dart, above all, seems to have enough on his mind (the Black Monster, the war, his relationship with Shana, Shana’s safety), and must be grateful for any help that they can get — especially with threats like ancient creatures resurfacing. He relies on Rose and follows her guidance, but doesn’t pry into her past or ask her to reveal anything about herself. In fact, he seems to respect the wall she keeps up (going as far as telling Meru to back off), and acknowledges that as a stranger, she’s not as emotionally involved as the rest. To that last part, Rose repeatedly responds with assurance that she’s with them on her own accord:

Dart: I feel sorry for making you accompany us into such a mess.
Rose: I am the one following you. Anyway, Basil will be finished soon if we don’t do something. I am looking forward to watching what you will do in the future.
Disc 1: Seles (Return)

In Search of Answers

To fully grasp Rose as well as Rose and Dart’s relationship, it is crucial to understand Dart, his journey and his growth. This goes doubly so because these are the two characters the game focuses on the most, and their relationship being arguably the most significant bond in the story. Dart initially seeks the Black Monster so as to get his revenge and thus bring closure to the past. For that sake, he left Seles and his childhood friend Shana behind five years ago without confiding in anyone. Even though he postpones the search due to Shana’s kidnapping, Serdio’s war and Lloyd’s mysterious plot, the search for the Black Monster remains the focal point of Dart’s character development throughout the game. The first big step is about setting priorities:

Dart: I have lived only for myself. I believed it was something I had to complete by myself even if I had to leave Shana and the people of the village behind. But, when I came back, look at this. I almost lost my hometown again! Lavitz. I am going to Hoax with you! I don’t want to see anymore senseless bloodshed!
Lavitz: What about the Black Monster?
Dart: We have to end the war first!
Disc 1: Indels Castle at Capital Bale

Similarly, during Shirley’s trial, the ghost of Shirley tests his resolve: When asked what he’s going to do after finding the Black Monster, responding with “I don’t know yet.” is treated as half-heartedly rushing into something without thinking about the consequences or those around him. When responding with “Of course, get revenge!”, on the other hand, she asks him what matters more, the Black Monster or Shana. While Dart must understand what exactly it is that he journeys for, he also has to recognize that there are things out there worth more than revenge.

Later on, his friend Lavitz tries to give Dart’s relationship with Shana a nudge by giving them some alone time. To Lavitz’ disappointment, Dart won’t stop treating Shana as his baby sister, even when Shana obviously doesn’t think that way. Dart’s drive for revenge is what keeps him from fully living in the present, and what stops him from realizing or acting on his feelings for Shana.

Dart: When the war ends, I gotta go on my journey again. Pursuing the Black Monster… and I don’t want her to be involved in that.
Lavitz: Dart. Revenge doesn’t solve anything. […] The person you should be looking for is not in your past. Right? You should pay attention to the present.
Disc 1: Commercial Town of Lohan

Rose first hears about Dart’s quest in Lohan, when he introduces Haschel as someone he met on his pursuit of the Black Monster. She immediately reacts to its name (“[Black… Monster.]”), but doesn’t let it show. It isn’t until much later on, halfway into Disc 2 when the group finally gets to take a break on board of the Queen Fury (a ship that ought to take them to their next destination), that Dart seeks out Rose specifically, hoping that her vast knowledge extends to the Black Monster, for it, too, has been around for a long time. But although Rose knows that it’s a major reason behind his journey, she says she has nothing to tell him. Instead, she asks:

Rose: What are you going to do when you catch the Black Monster, what are you going to do with him? Kill him to avenge your parents? That’ll satisfy your feelings?
Dart: “Revenge does not generate anything.” That’s what I learned from Lavitz. To tell the truth, I don’t know what I am going to do or even what I want to do when I face the Black Monster. I just want to know what he is.
Rose: I see… […]
Dart: It’s okay. When I finish with Lloyd, I’ll go on my journey to pursue the Black Monster. When I face him, I’ll find my own answer to that.

Rose has no intention of revealing her identity and admitting that it was her who took everything from him, but the important thing about this conversation is that it shows Dart no longer seeks revenge alone, if at all. He understands that he does not yet know what exactly it is that he wants, but he also knows that he must face the Black Monster to get closure. Rose, on the other hand, maintains her distance for almost the entirety of the first two discs, and keeps a lid on her past and her mission even as the party faces the ghosts of the Black Monster’s personal victims on the Phantom Ship.

Tender Familiarity

Before, Rose remarked that she considers the current journey a break (from her mission, though the player doesn’t know at that point), but being confronted by all the ghosts and the group’s reactions to the killings must have sparked some memories and thoughts she meant to suppress for a while longer. When the party leaves the Phantom Ship and jumps back to the Queen Fury, Rose and Dart lag behind, slip, and find themselves in danger of falling down into the dark waves. With Rose just having been confronted by her personal deeds and her emotions being in more turmoil than ever, the desperation in her outburst as she reaches for Dart’s hand may have surprised everyone if their full attention wasn’t on the dramatic scene in front of them.

Dart: Rose!! Let go!! You gotta live!!
Rose: [This is the same as back then!!] No!! I won’t let go!! I will never let it happen again!!

Even so, the two of them fall off and are carried away by the waves. The screen turns black, and they are next seen spending the night in a small, fire-lit cave: Dart unconscious, Rose watching over him with surprising tenderness. She looks on quietly for a while, but then, for the first time, she truly speaks about her feelings as she reflects on the chaos within her and reminisces about the past:

Dart and Zieg, they are so much alike. Not only are they Dragoons recognized by the Red-Eyed Dragon, but there is something else, something that attracts me… After 11,000 years of time, I now feel the strength and tenderness of Dart… and even… his frailty. These tame the insanity of the Dragoon for me. Zieg… If my hands could grab him, I wouldn’t have had this bitterness. […]

I saw Zieg in Dart. But… Dart is Dart. He is not Zieg. No… he is not Zieg.

The Dragon Campaign FMV that starts playing finally allows the player to catch a glimpse of Rose’s personal story, even as it raises more questions. To Rose, Dart resembles Zieg. That resemblance has been part of her attraction to Dart all along, and is also the reason she was so desperate to hang on to Dart’s hand when he was about to fall. After all, Zieg’s hand slipping through her fingers is the last that she saw of her past love, a sight etched into her mind by time and regret. Eventually, Rose falls asleep while cradling Dart. I do think that the triggering of her memories through such a dramatic incident was necessary for her to verbalize all these thoughts, even if only to herself. It allows her to calm down significantly, as Haschel and Albert correctly point out; she stops rushing herself and even reaches out to party members afterwards.

The Dart/Zieg parallel is touched upon again later on when the group chases Lloyd, who fires magic at them and knocks Dart and Rose off a ledge.

In the brief span that the two are in the pit, waiting for rescue, Rose is barely conscious, and when Dart speaks to her, she mistakes him for Zieg, and again reaches for him:

Dart: Rose!? Rose! Come on!
Rose: Ah. Ahh…
Dart: Can you tell me who I am!?
Rose: I thought… you were dead.
Dart: …?
Rose: Don’t worry, I am carrying out your will. We took this world back together, I won’t let them ruin it. Virage… embryo. The moon… with black power.
Dart: “Black Power”? Are you talking about the Black Monster!? […] What kind of relationship exists between the Black Monster who destroys all and the Moon Child who blesses the world? (Rose, what do you know about this?)
Disc 3: Mountain of Mortal Dragon

The first thought that comes to her mind in that state is not even romantic love, it’s her mission.

Trust Betrayed

Ironically, it is Zieg who reveals her true identity as the Black Monster to the group in a dramatic scene at the end of Disc 3. Rose has kept it hidden along with her own history and her mission, pretended not to know not just when Dart asked her directly back on the Queen Fury, but also when they were confronted by the ghosts on the Phantom Ship. But when the truth is finally out, she doesn’t deny it:

Dart: Rose is… the Black… Monster?
Dart: Tell me it’s not true!!
Rose: The Moon Child has to be killed. And the people around it too, before they become the servants of the God of Destruction.
Dart: Neet… too!?
Rose: For 11,000 years there have been no exceptions.
Dart: God!!! Why you!! Why do you have to be the Black Monster!?
Disc 3: Capital Vellweb

She doesn’t even try to justify it on a personal, emotional level. What Zieg said was the truth, and as far as Rose is concerned, it’s all that needs to be said. It’s interesting, because part of this surely is a reflection of her unchanged resolve and devotion, and perhaps also because she has had all the time in the world to come to terms with those feelings. But it may not be too wrong to think that this revelation and Dart’s reaction, which she must have been wondering about all along, do touch her personally — not the Rose who has given her whole existence for the mission and the Rose who preserves the wishes of the fallen, but the Rose who has been walking alongside Dart, the Rose who, as the travelled with the group, has regained some of the things believed to be lost.

Rose may not deny or justify her action as the Black Monster, and none of this changes what she believes in. After all, she attacks Shana without hesitation, and with every intention to kill her when Zieg reveals Shana’s identity as the Moon Child just mere moments afterwards. But Rose also turns her head away from Dart (“…”) and faces the ground when he expresses his disbelief in the scene above — surely not an expression of shame, but most likely of hurt. And Dart’s disbelief is personal, because of course this is a kind of betrayal, coming not just from a comrade, but the one person who taught him how to fight as a Dragoon, who pushed him to use his powers to assist Humans, who time and again provided him and the group with crucial and long-lost information. Yet, when Rose confirms what Zieg said, she looks up from the ground and looks straight ahead (not at Dart), because her beliefs, the things she has fought for and her mission are nothing to be ashamed of. That small motion of turning her head away speaks volumes about Rose, a character who hides depths even as she doesn’t put it into words.

Side by Side as Equals

Disc 4 is not just the final part of the journey and the mending of past and present, it’s also where Rose and Dart’s feelings meet and they are able to face each other as equals. Perhaps to the player’s surprise, that last chapter does not start with a confrontation between Rose and Dart. Instead, it shows the group as they traverse the deserts of the Death Frontier. Of note is how Rose falls back into old patterns as she again keeps a physical and emotional distance from the group, a distance even greater than before: She’s at the rear of the group, halting to look back even as the group moves on, and when they rest at an oasis, she walks all the way to the side and faces the wall so as to be as far away from them as possible. She even talks about handling the aftermath of Zieg’s actions by herself while discrediting the group so as to keep them from getting involved. But Dart is not about to part that easily with a comrade:

Dart: We are going with you. If you have the strength to argue, we can go on.
Dart walks over to Rose and puts his hand on her shoulder.
Dart: There is no other way, is there?

That’s the first thing Dart says to Rose on Disc 4, but it’s not the first time that he looks out for her in the final chapter. In several lines, but especially in numerous small gestures, he is shown to pay attention to Rose: When Rose stopped walking earlier on to gaze at the distance they’ve travelled and at the Moon That Never Sets while the group kept walking, Dart, who had been walking right in front of her, was the first to stop, and waited in silence until Rose was ready to continue. He did the same on the very next screen, and when they are about to teleport to Ulara to consult the Winglies, they have the following conversation:

Rose: We can fly over there with this. … Are you afraid?
Dart: … I think you are.
Rose: … Maybe.
Dart: We are standing by you.
Rose shakes her head.
Rose: I know.
Dart: Let’s go.

Dart of all people is the person who looks out for Rose’s mental well-being the most in all these scenes, and it’s weird to the player because Dart is a personal victim of the Black Monster. The Black Monster was what he’d been looking for all along, yet it goes unaddressed at the start of Disc 4, right after the truth was revealed at the end of Disc 3.

But that’s not it, and here’s where something that really surprised and amazed me about The Legend of Dragoon’s storytelling comes in: The beginning of Disc 4 is marked by a decidedly glum mood. On top of the revelations concerning Rose, Shana turned out to be the Moon Child, Shana has been taken away by Zieg, and it’s only a question of time before the world meets its doom. You make your way through an enormous maze of a desert, dodge pitfalls in the sand as you crawl through areas heavily infested by monsters, and then you enter Ulara, the town of the Winglies, to absorb a whole lot of new information, and have one night to prepare yourself for one last mission that is going to decide the future. At the end of that conversation, the group disperses as everyone looks for their own way to spend that night.

Rose is talking to Charle in the background as Dart leaves the building after everyone else. He walks out into the night, looks up to the sky, and thinks of Shana, determined to come to her rescue soon. As he leaves his head hanging and seemingly tries to shake off any doubts, Rose approaches him from behind, and he turns around.

Dart: Rose…
Rose: You really forgive…
Dart: Don’t say anything. It’s already in the past.

Never before has Rose looked as beaten as this, never in her time with the group has her body language been so utterly defeated as she stands in front of Dart, head hanging, facing the ground, hands not resting on the hips, but tightly to the side. And only after the player has come this far into Disc 4, only when they have watched all these scenes does the following flashback scene from the chapter’s starting point play:

Dart: Take your sword…
Dart and Rose cross swords.
Rose: You have become strong. You can… take care of yourself.
Rose sheathes her sword.
Rose: Kill me.
Dart points his sword at her, but then turns his back to her and sheathes it too.
Rose: Why…?
Dart: The Black Monster is dead now. We only have… A companion who is on the same road.
Disc 4: Death Frontier

It’s worth noting that Rose feeling as defeated as in this flashback is very different from her usual relationship with the destruction and suffering she has caused as well as her devotion to her mission. As mentioned above, this must be due to her relationship with Dart: Rose knows Dart and has fought at his side, whereas it can be assumed that she didn’t personally know any of the people she has killed before, let alone that she was close to them. The time Rose has spent with the group was of great comfort to Rose, and it is Dart’s passion that initially attracted her, inspired her and pulled her along. By being with Dart and the group, Rose has been able to regain part of herself and recall some of the memories buried deep down, especially as Dart resembles Zieg. It’s easy to see why having her crimes revealed to the group and Dart specifically has such an impact on her. Even if she had intended to reveal the truth to Dart one day (and I’m not sure she would have), she wouldn’t have wanted him to find out that she was responsible for his village’s destruction and his parents’ death this way.

And if you ask me, it’s quite clever (as in, narratively effective) to include this vital scene that ends with Dart’s forgiveness as a flashback rather than start the final chapter in medias res. By having the characters think about this moment in hindsight, the scene reinforces that whatever conflict there might have been, it is already resolved. Dart having come to terms with Rose’s deeds and “betrayal” comes across convincingly precisely because the player has witnessed Dart interacting with Rose from the start of the disc up to this point.

This scene also perhaps best illustrates Dart and Rose’s growth and the parallel nature of that growth: Before this journey, Dart would not have been able to understand, let alone forgive the Black Monster that has been haunting him for so long. Before this journey, Rose would not have regained her ability to feel to the extent of reacting in such a human way to this situation. And neither would have started this journey without the other. For these reasons, it is quite fitting that when the two have a nighttime conversation in Ulara after this flashback, they talk about how it all began, and how much has changed since, with Rose fully opening up about her past and her motivations.

Rose: I miss the time when you were chased by Feybrand in the forest.
Dart: Me too. And… I didn’t know anything back then. The world is so frail.
Rose: The world is created so that it can perish at any time. The creator Soa can recreate one anytime. But, the people living there can accept it, believing it is “fate” or struggle against it. I struggled in order to protect this world that was taken back by friends who gave up their lives.
Dart: I told you. You are no longer alone, Rose.
Rose: Dart…
Dart: Let’s go see everybody. This is just the beginning.

Dart is the one who inspires Rose, and he is the one who keeps reminding her of what’s important (especially throughout the final chapter), whether it’s with his own drive or by the way he looks out for her and all of his friends.

Love Remembered

Their relationship is undeniably very strong, and due to Rose’s role, receives more narrative and thematic attention than the romantic relationship between Dart and Shana. Some may wonder whether there’s any romantic tension between Dart and Rose, all the more so because Rose saw Zieg in Dart. And whether or not you regard romantic bonds as the strongest bonds of all, it’s a justified question, because a potentially romantic relationship between Dart and Rose is teased on multiple layers. Let’s have a look:

  • There’s tension between Shana and Rose from the moment Rose shows up, and the player, as Dart, is even given a suggestive prompt when introducing Rose to the group. Several other factors also seem to serve the purpose of comparing and contrasting Shana and Rose (refer to the Shana page for a more in-depth look).
  • The “love triangle” is also played up by party members: Haschel repeatedly teases Dart about Rose even as he supports Dart and Shana’s budding romantic feelings. When Dart looks for Rose on board of the Queen Fury, party members keep reacting in a way that suggests Shana would disapprove.
  • The “love triangle” is further played up by other characters: On Disc 2, an NPC continuously teases Rose about her seemingly intimate moment with Dart when they are stranded in a cave. On two separate occasions, this NPC and Meru also talk to Dart while giving the player the optional choice to steer the conversation to a specific party member. If the player chooses to have Dart talk about Rose, the conversation will inevitably concern Shana as well.

All of this is deceptive though, perhaps even meant to be deceptive, as you will see when you realize that the majority of these scenes happen during the first two discs — before the cave scene mentioned above, during which Rose reminisces about the past and verbalizes the similarity between Dart and Zieg. It’s not clear, and it also doesn’t have to be, but it can’t be ruled out that Rose herself may have been confused for a good part of the game due to that similarity and her inexplicable attraction, and that she had to sort out these feelings on her own first. This interpretation is backed up by party members noticing and commenting on the change in Rose’s disposition and demeanor after Dart and her return safely to the group. And the reason Rose so vehemently denies any kind of romantic feelings between her and Dart when teased by said NPC may just be because she doesn’t want to be forced to explain her feelings regarding Zieg — especially as there’s another layer to all those memories aside from lost love (later addressed in conversations with Charle).

What’s easier to miss due to Rose’s sheer presence and all the crucial scenes between her and Dart is that Dart consistently thinks of Shana and denies any romantic feelings for Rose (especially in those optional conversations). Shana is always on his mind and in his heart, and she’s a big part of his character. And those comparisons between Rose and Shana? They turn out to be entirely one-sided, and the tension they create serve to characterize Shana first and foremost, so that the subsequent shift in Rose and Shana’s relationship is all the more noticeable as Rose starts to nudge Dart towards Shana.

In summary, I think that there is no romantic attraction between Dart and Rose, though there may have been a timeframe during which Rose may have been confused and may have even entertained the thought (if you wish to read it that way). Even if there was, it’d be strictly one-sided. Rose calms down after desperately grasping for Dart’s hand when he falls off the ship, a scene that reminds her of the past more than any other as it mirrors the one regret she has held all along. She emerges from that experience with a clear head and separates her image of Dart from her image of Zieg — and that chain of events speaks for itself. Dart and Zieg are both tremendously important to Rose, but the feelings she holds for the two of them aren’t the same.