[04.08.00] » by Mintbaby
Author’s Note: Terra Branford is one of my favorite characters in Final
Fantasy III/VI, but what do you expect? She is the main character, after all. If
the others hadn’t met her, how would they have gotten into so much danger and
adventure? Anyway, I was really looking forward to a developing relationship
between her and one of the characters. (Call me a romantic) When Locke came on
the scene I thought, ‘Hey, this looks promising,’ and then I was let down in a
big way when Celes caught his eye and his heart.
Don’t get me wrong! I’m happy for both of them
because they deserve each other, but what about Terra? What about this sweet,
shy young woman who helped these people out of dangerous situations at the risk
of her own life? Goodness! She even sacrificed who she was (an Esper creature
and thereby a ‘magic’ creature) by helping them destroy ‘magic’. I’d say she
deserves something more than what she was given. True, the love of children is a
blessing because I have had many an experience with it myself, but come on! Why
can’t she have a ‘someone special’ to let her know that just because she’s lost
a major part of herself, doesn’t mean she’s less of a woman or
So here it is. It’s my first fanfic, and I
hope it isn’t my last. I’ve had fun writing it and learned a lot about what my
perceptions of each character actually were. If you have any comments or
irritations, don’t hesitate to let me know what they are. After all, criticism
Terra Branford stared out at the fading sun with an unseeing gaze before she
closed her eyes, the breeze ruffling the light green waves of her hair. Deep
down, where she seldom let her mind travel, she could still feel the thrill of
freedom as she let her memories drift to the days when she had been free to
soar. The days before the end of magic. The days before who she was had been
redefined in a mere moment. A tear slid down her pale cheek and she lowered her
“Mamma!” A young girl screamed as she ran into the room, her blonde ponytails
sopping wet. “Mamma, Robby dumped his water on me,” she sobbed.
Terra managed a small smile as she turned to scoop the weeping six-year-old
into her arms. The little girl snuggled into them and cried into her shoulder,
haltingly weaving a more detailed and exaggerated story relating the horrible
action of her ‘brother’.
“It’s all right,” Terra said in a soft voice. “It’s only water. You’ll be
fine in a moment.”
The quiet, soothing tone that represented Terra’s inner uncertainty quieted
the girl until she was merely sniffling as she clung to Terra’s neck. It seemed
only yesterday that Terra had looked at the small group of children in fear and
doubt, not truly knowing how to care for herself let alone so many young
children. Saving the world from Kefka’s insanity had seemed so much easier on
that day. Little had she known that a type of instinct would have helped her. An
instinct that she hoped she had received from her mother.
Terra pushed the thoughts away and turned from the window. “Come on, Cera.
Let’s get you dried off and go find Robby.”
Cera sniffed a few more times and looked at Terra with a puzzled gaze.
“Little boys love picking on little girls until they see that those same
little girls can take care of themselves. Then... Then, well...” Terra hesitated
and she touched Cera on the nose with a slender finger. “I’ll tell you when
you’re older. Right now, let’s go dump water on him and see how he likes
“Oh goody!” Cera was still confused, but the prospect of giving Robby the
same treatment made her eyes twinkle with delight.
The little girl wriggled down from Terra’s grasp and squealed with glee
before streaking from the room to leave a trail of water drips along the way.
Terra shook her head before she sent another longing glance over her shoulder at
the pink and lavender sky. With a sigh, Terra turned and followed the trail. It
had been months since the long series of battles at the Tower of Kefka where her
friends had defeated the tormented soul of its namesake. Those months since
magic had ceased to exist had left her feeling strangely hollow with only the
love of ‘her’ children keeping the emptiness at bay.
The visits of some of her friends had helped.
Locke and Celes came to visit whenever their busy schedule permitted, but
they were so involved with each other that being in the same room with them
often made Terra depressed and withdrawn. Terra knew that Locke suspected
something was wrong, but how could she say that seeing the two of them so happy
made her miserable? How could she tell him that their happiness made her wonder
if that type of love would ever find her? Locke would have felt guilty and then
taken it upon himself to try and help her, although she knew that he wouldn’t
have had any idea how, and then Celes would have misunderstood and called off
the entire wedding. More than likely, anyway.
Terra sighed. Even Shadow occasionally materialized in his ever-mysterious
ninja fashion. She had no idea what to say to him when he did, but he always
appeared content in his silence as he watched her and the children. Even
Interceptor seemed to amuse him as the massive black and brown beast played and
roughhoused with the kids. Then Shadow would stay for dinner, tell the children
a brief story before bed - Terra never knew whether the stories were imagined or
painfully real - and then he would disappear into the night without another
word. Thank-you or otherwise. She tried so hard to understand him, but it grew
harder with each visit. Especially when Terra realized that she must have
appeared to be as much a recluse and loner as Shadow.
With a shake of her head, Terra took hold of some thick towels she had made
herself and proceeded to help Cera dry herself off and change into dry clothes.
Doing so made her think of Gau. ‘Such a sweet boy. Strong and resourceful, yet
helpless and in need of attention just like Cera. If only we could have
persuaded his father to accept him.’ It had been an impossible dream. The old
man’s mind had completely rotted away due to the loss of both his wife and
newborn son. His wife to childbirth and his son to that dangerous stretch of
barren wilderness called The Veldt.
Surprisingly, when Gau had been rejected yet a second time, he had forgiven
his father in his own unique way and continued to love a man who didn’t want
him. Gau was proof that inner beauty often came in strange and irritating
packages, and that a person’s heart was often larger than they were. Terra shook
her head with a sigh and again focused on Cera.
Cera was dried and dressed, Robby was tracked down and drenched, and the duo
left Terra on the back porch of the house with a greater respect for the other.
Terra watched them leave arm in arm and then turned to sit on a grassy patch of
ground. She lay on her stomach and picked a strange white flower, staring down
at it as the wind whistled in her ears and through her hair. The world was
slowly recovering from Kefka’s evil influence, but she knew it would take time
before it was the same grassy paradise that she had come to know and love in the
presence of her friends. It would take time and patience.
‘Time,’ she sighed. ‘That’s what everything needs, I guess.’ Someone had once
told her that she should give herself time to love. True, they had been right,
but the deep and self-sacrificing love she felt for the children hadn’t been
what she’d been expecting. She had wanted to love like Locke and Celes loved
each other. Or like Cyan had loved his wife Elayne. Or even how Setzer had loved
both Darryl and Maria.
‘But when? And how? I’m always here with the children, so how will I meet a
man? This place has been deserted for so long that I don’t think anyone but my
friends realize it’s even still here.’ Nobody ever really came to visit her
other than a couple of her friends, but they never thought to bring anyone new
and never asked her if she ever wanted to visit them. Although, Edgar had
occasionally sent her a flower along with an invitation to a ball or some other
type of party. She never went because she couldn’t leave the kids, but it had
always brought a smile to her face to know that he still thought of her.
Still, she wished he would visit as Sabin did. After all, Sabin had to travel
almost as far as his brother and yet he managed to stop by her house more than
once a month. When he did appear, he played games with the young kids, taught
the older ones some of his easier Blitz moves, and impressed Terra with his
compassion and understanding when talking to her about life in general.
It made her miss Edgar even more.
Terra understood that his kingdom of Figaro couldn’t take care of itself, but
almost everyone else had found the time to stop and visit with her. Even Setzer,
the original irresponsible rogue, would drop in and offer to take her and the
kids for a ride in his newly remodeled airship. Edgar was the only one who had
never visited and it sometimes hurt her feelings. After all, he had been the one
to help her in so many ways when she had first escaped from a life controlled by
Kefka and his Slave Crown. Terra knew that Locke had saved her life as well, but
Edgar had risked his kingdom when he’d refused to surrender her to the Empire.
In a way, he had risked his life to help Locke get her to the hideout of the
Returners. What was so difficult in visiting her now? She understood that Figaro
Castle was a long journey, but he was king! Couldn’t he have found a way?
Terra tossed the flower aside with a breath and rolled over onto her back to
gaze up into a handsome face with a full smile and twinkling blue eyes. She sat
He bowed deep, his typical lopsided grin heightening his blonde good looks as
he made a flourish with his ever-present cape. “At your service, my lady,” he
said with laughter in his voice. “Your wish is my command.”
Edgar offered her his hand and she accepted it hesitantly. For some reason,
she didn’t know whether to be annoyed that he had waited so long to visit, or
happy that he had come at all. Terra finally let herself be happy. She had
“What are you doing here? And alone? Don’t you usually have a bodyguard with
you,” she asked with a slight smile. Not that she really cared, or that it was
even really needed. After all, he was one of the foremost minds when it came to
mechanical battle weapons and could certainly hold his own against the most
sinister foe. She had witnessed it many times herself and had counted it a
blessing to have him fighting by her side.
“I have come to see you,” he said as he helped her to her feet. “I had
no wish to view my entourage guard us guarding every word we say to one
Terra could only focus on one phrase. “You came to see... me?”
He smiled and bowed again. “You, my lady, are the light of my heart. How
could I stay away from that?”
Terra saw the unmistakable mischievous glint in his eyes and laughed, but an
odd heaviness settling in her stomach made the laugh sound forced. “Edgar, you
always were a tease, weren’t you,” she said as she released his hand.
He paused for a very long time, so long that Terra’s smile wavered.
Edgar finally smiled. “I’ve forgotten that you knew me when. I’m sorry,
Terra. Running a kingdom smoothly depends on smooth talk and I am the king,
“In more ways than one,” Terra countered.
He bowed again. “Your servant.”
She passed by him and sat at the bench a few of the older boys had
painstakingly built on the side of the house. She offered Edgar the space beside
her. “Seriously, Edgar,” she told him. “What brings you here? I was just
thinking about how you never visit.”
“Ah. Such must have been the reason for the scowl,” he observed.
He sat with a flourish of his deep purple cape and leaned back, his brilliant
blue eyes focusing on the horizon. Edgar seemed to transform the dilapidated
bench into a velvet lounge simply by his aura.
“I’m not angry, if that’s what you mean,” she assured him with a hint of a
smile. “Do you know how impossible it is for me to get upset with you, Edgar?
You’re the only one who gets me to laugh at myself.”
Edgar’s cheeks dimpled with his smile and he sent her a quick glance before
refocusing his gaze on the horizon. “I have been a cad, though,” he admitted
freely. “Sabin has made it the point of his existence to remind me of that fact
each time he sees my smug face.”
“You don’t have a smug face,” she protested.
“This is what I have always thought.” And the smile in his voice was crystal
clear. “However, Sabin is sure that I have done you a great wrong and I was
determined to set it right.”
Terra watched him with a smile as he lay out the reason for his visit and
barely kept herself from shaking her head at him as her thoughts drifted. Edgar
was the only person who could bring a smile to her face that was genuine and not
forced. Whether it was his boyish charm or his innocent belief that he was a
‘ladies man’ she simply didn’t know. All she remembered were the many times
together when he had found some way to make her laugh and forget the power that
lay dormant beneath her shy surface. He had been the only one to ease her mind
when it had strayed to the possibility of her life ceasing once magic was
eradicated from the planet. Edgar had only needed to ‘ooze’ charm and witticisms
and she had laughed despite herself.
Edgar had never let her stay miserable.
“...So, as you can see, I have a problem.”
Terra flushed. “I’m sorry. What can I do to help?”
Edgar looked over at her reddened cheeks and chuckled. “You weren’t paying
attention, dear lady. Here I was lying my heart at your feet and you didn’t hear
a word I said.” He shook his head and brought a hand up to cover his heart. “My
heart is broken.”
She flushed even darker and stood from the bench to stare at the sunset. “I
said I was sorry,” she told him in a frustrated voice. Terra didn’t remember
feeling that before. “Besides, it’s me who should be saying that, Edgar. After
all, I thought you were my friend and Shadow has come to visit me more than you
Terra wrapped her arms around herself and chewed her lower lip to keep back
the tears that burned at her eyes and tightened her throat. She never let her
fears or tears show, especially not in front of her friends. She didn’t want to
change how they thought of her. Strong to the last moment. Never quick to judge
and always fair to everyone. ‘So, how fair am I being now?’
Edgar came to stand beside her and the breeze ruffled his cape so that it
gently caressed her leg. Terra rubbed at her forehead and took in a deep breath
as she sent him a sidelong glance. His face was unreadable as he stared out at
the distant mountains and that made Terra’s stomach knot up. She had never seen
him that way before. Aloof. Deep in thought somewhere inside where she would
never reach. Where she didn’t know how to reach.
“Edgar.” She turned to face him. “Edgar, I’m sorry. I didn’t mean to get so
angry. I guess it’s been a long day.”
“So it has.”
His voice sounded strange and Terra didn’t know what to say. “Um... Did you
want to stay for dinner? I’m sure everyone---” When Edgar looked down at her,
she broke off at the dark look in his eyes. She didn’t know what it was.
He smiled. “Unfortunately, I cannot stay. I promised the Chancellor that I
would be back to our camp before the sun set and as you can see, I have passed
my allotted curfew. Not only that, we’re leaving for Figaro Castle quite early
in the morning and I should get some rest or I shall be an absolute bear.”
“Will you come by before you leave?” Terra knew that she asked the question
almost too quickly, but she wanted to find any reason to have him stay. Any
reason that would make him discuss the old times when all of them had been
together battling a common enemy. To stay and make her laugh like she once had
when they had all been together. “I-I’d love it if you would,” she added. Terra
found herself hoping that fact would make him decide.
One side of his lips tilted in a smile and he bowed, tossing his cape over
his shoulders with a flourish as he turned to leave. “Again, I do apologize, but
I must away. Take care.”
Terra watched his tall frame as it disappeared around the house and then
turned with a deep breath. At that particular moment, she wished with all her
might that she could have morphed and flown off into the night, far away from
all her problems.
King Edgar of Figaro clenched his hands behind his back as he stood on the
top most battlement of Figaro castle. The slight breeze teased his tightly
combed blonde hair. ‘I should have said good-bye,’ he told himself sternly. But
knowing how she felt hurt at his infrequent visits had made him uncomfortable.
He had already felt guilty because of a similar, slightly more heated discussion
with Sabin. ‘Why don’t you ever visit her, brother?’ Sabin would hurl the
question at him as if it were one of his infamous Blitz attacks and then expect
an honest and just as rapid reply. How could Edgar admit to Sabin that the
reason he had never visited Terra was because he hadn’t known how to talk to
her? Sabin would have found it uproariously amusing and never let him forget it
a day of his life.
He reputed to be the original ladies man.
Edgar turned from the tower wall and made his way downstairs, frowning at the
less than picturesque way the two friends had parted. ‘I should have stayed for
dinner. I should have invited her to the campsite. I should have... I should
have what? Terra has been through so much in the time I have known her that I am
understandably unsure how to talk with her.’ Edgar grimaced. ‘Because of the
loss of her use of magic?’ Denying it wasn’t so easy. ‘How does one talk about
something like that? Before, when she had seemed frightened of the future on our
many adventures, I had deftly diverted her mind from it and caused her to laugh.
Why am I unable to do so now?’
Of course, he had been arrogant and full of pride then. Sure of his own
importance and blinded by his wealth, good looks, and natural charm. Terra’s
innocent oblivion to all of these had reminded him of his own simplicity and the
fact that he was, above all, a human being.
The Chancellor rushed up on Edgar waving contracts and building plans. Edgar
brushed him aside and strode past to lock himself in his bedchamber. To blame
the Chancellor for Terra and his strained parting the previous week would have
been too convenient, especially when Edgar knew that he himself was to blame. So
many times when Locke and Celes had come to visit him they had mentioned how
Terra seemed more withdrawn. Even Setzer had commented on it. Instead of
following his common sense and visiting her to offer his help, Edgar had pushed
his concern aside with the easy excuse that he couldn’t leave his kingdom for
such a long journey. Edgar had allowed his kingdom to come between a friend. He
had never done that before, not even with Locke.
Again and again the others had voiced their concern for her and told him that
she seemed to get worse with each of their visits instead of better. Each time
he had assured them that she was simply longing for her lost powers. ‘Why did I
not visit? Was I truly convinced that she would laugh in my face and scoff at my
well intentioned concern? Did I believe she would despise me for not visiting
her as I had once promised I would?’ Edgar shook his head and threw himself into
a chair to prop his foot up on the table. Either way, Terra Branford had been
anything but fine and it hadn’t been because of the loss of her powers.
“Lost powers,” Edgar muttered. “She’s a woman and is in need of a man.”
He wanted to be the man she needed.
Edgar glowered at his finely crafted, leather boots and heard his brother’s
voice ring through his memory yet again. ‘You’re crazy about her, brother. Why
don’t you admit it to yourself? She doesn’t believe a single, smooth-talking
phrase from your over-active mouth and you still call her friend. Normally,
you’d have lost interest long ago, but you and I know there is something about
her that you can’t forget. You respect her silent strength and determination so
much that it’s obvious to ‘naive’ little Relm, so how can you think it’s
The door opened and Edgar didn’t bother turning. “Locke, I wish you wouldn’t
do such things.”
“If you don’t want me to pick them, don’t lock them. You know it presents a
challenge that no treasure hunter can pass up.”
“I needed some privacy. You have heard of that, I assume?”
“Of course, but now’s not the time for that.” Locke leaned against the table
and crossed his arms as his steel-gray eyes pierced Edgar clean through. “So
“What are you talking about,” he mumbled.
“I know that you went to visit Terra.” Locke sounded annoyed. “What happened?
Is she coming to the pre-wedding party or not?”
“She is not.”
Locke pulled a dagger from somewhere on his person and ran his finger along
the blade with a deep breath. “Edgar, what’s the matter with you? I thought you
were a ‘smooth talker’?”
“I told you before that Terra doesn’t believe a word of it. She never did,”
Edgar mumbled in his defense.
Locke smiled. “Hmm. She’s got more sense than I thought.” Edgar made a gruff
sound and strode to the fireplace where he stared into the flames. Locke watched
him a moment and then continued playing with the dagger. “What did you say that
made her mad?”
“More of that ‘smooth talk’, I bet.”
“I said never mind.”
“Okay, okay. I’ll drop it.” Silence fell over the two men and Locke sheathed
the dagger. “Did you come out and tell her why you wanted her to come? Or did
you not even get to the point?” Edgar didn’t say a word. “I don’t get it,” Locke
admitted finally. “You guys were as close as anything during that whole fiasco
with Kefka. Why do you think I warned Terra about you before I went off to South
Figaro that time? I was sure she would fall head over heels for your charm
because she was so... inexperienced, I guess. I didn’t want the kid getting
“Apparently, I hurt her without trying, Cole.” Edgar sent a glance over his
shoulder. “Just drop it.”
“Well this is news.” Locke came to stand by Edgar and leaned against the
mantle. “How do you figure that?”
Locke seemed surprised. “She told you that?”
“Not in so many words---”
“Excuse me, Your Highness,” the Chancellor interrupted outside the door.
“There’s a young woman here to meet with you. She seems a trifle frantic.”
Locke and Edgar exchanged a glance and then he straightened with a deep
breath. “Very well. I shall be there momentarily.” The Chancellor’s footsteps
were heard leaving the area and Edgar turned. “Forget it, Locke. I appreciate
what you are trying to do, but it would never work. Terra and I are from two
different worlds. Literally. I was born to be a bachelor and she was born...
Well, she was born Terra. Pair her with Setzer or Sabin. They seem taken with
“Only you love her.”
Edgar clenched his jaw and straightened his royal cape. “Locke.”
“Okay. I’ll drop it, but only for a little while. Celes wants a double
wedding and I’m determined to give her what she wants.”
“Fine, then marry Shadow off. He’s in need of a good woman to change his
Locke chuckled and followed Edgar out of his bedchamber. “Yeah. Like I’d be
able to even bribe someone to marry that walking freak show.”
“Stranger things have happened.”
“Then maybe you’ll marry Terra.”
Edgar sent Locke a dark look, but he ignored it as he stared down the hall
with a smirk on his face. “Locke Cole,” Edgar growled, “you smug old scratch.
You always believe you know everything.”
Locke chuckled. “Who says I don’t?”
“Celes,” Edgar snapped.
Locke threw back his head and laughed.
Terra gripped her hands together, clenching them again and again until her
fingers were sore. ‘What could be taking him so long?’ There was a sound behind
her and the Chancellor came back into the throne room. Terra hurried up to him
and waited for his answer.
“His highness shall be here presently.”
Terra nodded with a sigh of relief and shook her hands out in front of her
before beginning to wring them again, desperately waiting for Edgar to appear.
‘He’s the only one who can help,’ she thought frantically. ‘I just hope I’m not
too late!’ She fought the tears and paced back and forth in front of the empty
throne where she had first seen him. The pleasant memories weren’t enough to
calm her. ‘How could this have happened? I was so careful!’
She looked up sharply, her throat tightening with the tears of relief as
Edgar and Locke filed into the throne room. “They’re gone,” she cried in a
choked voice. Terra squeezed her hands together tighter and cleared her throat.
The tears were still there when she attempted to speak again. “They’re all gone.
All my kids are gone...”
Her voice cracked and she covered her face with her hands, completely
unprepared for the strong arms that engulfed her. That firm and gentle grip made
the tears come more easily as she hid her face in the soft, scented fabric of
Edgar’s royal clothes.
“What happened,” he asked in a soothing voice.
“I don’t know,” she forced out. “I was out gathering food from our little
garden and heard a shriek. I think it was Cera. When I got there... When I got
there... Edgar, when I got there they were gone,” and her voice faded into
“Could Setzer have ‘abducted’ them in his airship,” Locke asked gently. “You
know how they love that.”
“I-I already asked him before I came here. He’s waiting out by the airship,”
she choked out. “Setzer thinks that they’ve been kidnapped by a slaver.”
Locke cringed and glanced over at Edgar. “We better take off as soon as
possible. I’ll send a message to Celes in Kohlingen and have her get the others
together to start looking in their area, but I’m going with you.”
“Very well, Locke.” Locke strode from the room and Edgar continued to comfort
Terra. Her sobs quieted as he tenderly stroked her hair. “All will be well,
Terra. I promise. We shall get our gear together, I’m sure I still have it in
storage, and set off in search of them. I’m sure they’re fine.” She pulled back
and gazed up into his kind blue eyes. Edgar smiled down at her and absently
brushed a strand of hair from her face. “There now. Tears were never meant to be
in those eyes.”
“‘Tis nothing to apologize for. Now, I’ll show you to a room where you may
get ready for the journey and then I’ll hunt down Locke. He’s more than likely
speaking with Setzer about details.” He wrapped her arm around his and led her
from the throne room. “Leave the details to me. You make yourself ready.”
She nodded slowly, her mind and heart strangely calm as she stared at the
flagstones that moved beneath her feet.
“Here you are. I shan’t be a moment.”
With that, he kissed her hand and departed with a twirl of his cape. Terra
watched him leave before she turned away, the new and raw emotion of terror for
her children’s safety hitting her brain with numbing precision. She groaned and
desperately tried to concentrate on getting the appropriate armor and weapon
from the storage room that would somewhat compensate for her reduced powers and
abilities. ‘If only I hadn’t left them they would be fine.’ She’d done it so
many times in the three years that she had raised them. What would have made
this one time so different in her mind? In anyone’s? Mobliz was a deserted town
that no one thought of as a home to anyone...
Terra’s hand wrapped around a familiar feel and she raised a sword from it’s
resting place. She felt the memory of the age-old power rush through her arms as
she recalled the many times she had wielded it in defense and attack against
enemies a normal woman would have turned from with horror. It’s magic may have
been gone, but the edge was yet sharp. Rage filled Terra’s heart and soul and
she sheathed the Ragnarok with a harsh motion. She would get her kids back.
Edgar and Locke met her just outside the storage room.
“Terra,” Locke said carefully, “Setzer thinks he knows who’s
Terra pressed her lips together and began slipping into her armor and
strapping her scabbard and sword around her slim waist. “How can he be
“Because he was in a card game with him recently.”
Terra looked up sharply and paused slipping on her gloves. “A card game?”
“A card game. In Zozo. It figures, really,” Locke said. “Personally, that
place gave me nightmares. I don’t know what Setzer was doing there.”
“Making money, I dare say,” Edgar said with a grim look.
Terra strode out into the dim morning sunlight. “Come on. Let’s get going.
Chances are he won’t have taken them to a place like Zozo because of the danger
to his own life.”
“Meaning: he wouldn’t want to get killed by someone wanting to squeeze their
way into his sudden claim to fortune,” Locke said in a quiet voice.
Terra cringed and nodded. “Exactly.”
“What do you suggest,” Edgar asked with a strange look in his eyes. He
adjusted his grip on a spear.
Terra struggled to keep the feelings of helplessness out of her voice. “I
don’t know. Not yet. Let’s go to Jidoor and see if anyone there has any
“If they do not?” Edgar’s question, again, was soft.
Terra gripped the handle of her sword and she surrendered to the feeling of
power she remembered from days gone by. She turned at the entrance of the
airship and locked gazes with Edgar. “Then we keep searching.”
Locke stepped between them and gave Terra a nod. “You’ve got it, Terra. We’re
with you all the way.”
Terra’s eyes strayed to Edgar’s again and then she turned and entered the
Setzer pulled out a chair and gave Edgar and Locke a shielded glance. “I
haven’t seen her like this since Phumbaba attacked her and the kids. Man, was
she pissed that day!”
“As I recall, she beat him soundly,” Edgar reminded quietly. “What do you
suppose she’ll do to... What was his name?”
“Ledo. Ledo Grikea.”
Locke flung a dagger to the opposite side of the ship with a scowl. “I don’t
really care what she does to this guy. She can flay him alive for all I
Edgar raised his eyes. “Locke, that isn’t right and you know this. There are
laws to follow. If we don’t abide by them, we are no better than the criminals
for which we search.”
Locke wielded another dagger and sent Edgar a hard look. “That’s a crock,
Edgar, and you know it. Stealing kids? That’s about as low as anyone can
get, in my opinion.”
“I agree,” Setzer admitted as he calmly shuffled a deck of cards.
“This slaver needs to be taught a lesson and I think Terra is just the person
to do it.” Locke finished the comment with another dagger tossed across the
“You gentleman do not seem to understand!” Edgar stood sharply, his blue eyes
angry and annoyed. “If Terra does this she’ll go mad just as she had before.
Remember the episode with the Esper in Narshe? She screamed off onto the horizon
and destroyed many things because of her inability to control her power. It
won’t be exactly the same, I grant you, but close enough in any regard. She will
be forever changed if she surrenders to the rage. She will become unable to
control her anger. Come, Locke! Don’t you remember how it was when your friend
was captured by the Empire?”
Locke leaped from his chair with clenched fists. “That was different!”
“Was it? Was it really? Terra may go too far and it’s up to us to make sure
that doesn’t happen!” Edgar insisted.
Locke and Setzer dropped their gazes to the table and Edgar paused a moment
more before turning sharply and slamming from the room. Locke and Setzer stared
“You don’t think he may be right?” Setzer nonchalantly dealt a game of cards
without glancing up. “After all, he’s known her longer than I have.”
“Yeah? Well I’ve known her longer than he has,” Locke countered. “Deal,
The gambler smirked and dealt the cards.
Edgar strode to the top deck and gripped the railing. ‘Why won’t they listen?
Don’t they see that who she is shall be forever changed if she does this? Don’t
they realize that she will no longer be the quiet and compassionate woman of
strength that we’ve come to love?’ Edgar was surprised that Locke was so
oblivious to the problem. He had always seemed to be over-protective of her.
Like he saw her as a sister he had never had.
‘Why then is he being so blasted pig-headed!’
Edgar let out a quick breath and turned from the railing to stride toward the
bow of the airship, his eyes automatically searching for Terra’s full head of
light green hair. She stood behind the wheel with a grim look of determination
on her face as she steered their course. There was something in her eyes,
though, that spoke clearly of the inner terror that one of her children was
He came to stand beside her and gently placed a hand on her shoulder. “Are
you all right?” Her grip tightened on the wheel and she nodded. “Did you need a
“I’m okay, Edgar. I’ve been through tougher times than this.” Her voice
“No. No, you haven’t, Terra. You never had to go through anything like this
alone. Not even with that incident with Kefka at the entrance to the Esper
world. We were there, too.”
She was quiet for a while and let her head drop after a moment’s pause. “And
here you are again. It’s been a long time.”
Terra raised her head and sent him a glance. “Do you ever miss it?”
“The battles? Hardly,” he said with a smile. He clenched his hands behind his
back. “Kefka? Definitely not. But the constant companionship? The laughter? The
good times? Yes, I miss that beyond a shadow of a doubt.”
“Being a king is hard work, I guess.”
“At times. Actually, most of the time, but the people of Figaro are in my
blood, Terra,” Edgar said fondly. “They’re my reason for existing on some days.
They get me through the darkest times.”
Terra made a slight alteration to the course before speaking. “Your father
would be proud of you, Edgar. Of both of you. You are helping put the world
Edgar was silent, a little uncomfortable with the praise. Thoughts of his
father were never far from his mind. Neither was the uncertainty as to how his
father would have reacted to his son’s different decisions regarding Figaro and
it’s short-lived treaty with the late Empire. So many of his friends were sure
that his father would have been proud, but Edgar was never so confident. Perhaps
that was what made him strive so hard to be fair in all he did. That was why he
couldn’t bear to see Terra make a mistake such as he feared she would. To his
father, a friend had been the most important thing beside his family. Edgar
wanted to think that, in this one thing, they were alike.
“I know why you’re here, Edgar,” Terra said quietly.
Edgar watched her profile with a smile. “Do you?”
“You want to drive.”
He chuckled and shook his head. “No, no. I came to be a friend, Terra. I
haven’t been a very able one and I’m attempting to change that.” She turned her
head to look at him and a strange emotion flickered in her eyes. An emotion
Edgar didn’t remember seeing before.
“Thank you,” she said softly.
He placed a hand on her shoulder. “You’re quite welcome.”
Terra leaned against his hand for a moment before turning her head back to
the view ahead of them. Edgar forced himself to release her shoulder and
breathed in slow to calm himself. She seemed so lost. So alone. So afraid to
face what she was feeling. ‘How do I help her open up? As she once had?’
“What if I don’t find them, Edgar?”
The strain in her voice was as clear as it could be as he watched her
delicate profile. “We will, Terra. We will. There is no ‘I’ when
you’re among friends. There is only ‘us’ and ‘we’ and ‘together’.”
Terra sighed with a slow nod. “I know, but... They’re just so young. The
oldest is only ten. What will this do to them?”
“Everything in life makes us stronger. You know that. Look at your own life.
You used to be fearful and unsure of everyone around you. You were even troubled
by who you were. Now look at you.”
Edgar rubbed her back before he could stop himself and his fingers burned at
the warmth of her skin. Again, she seemed to lean against his touch and Edgar
decided to indulge himself. ‘I haven’t seen her for months,’ he reasoned. ‘I’m
entitled to something, aren’t I?’
“I don’t feel I’ve changed,” she was saying. “What if I do something that
gets them hurt? Or... or killed?”
“Terra, during the pursuits, intrigues, and conspiracies of Kefka you were
the consummate soldier. The reliable ally. The trustworthy leader. Don’t doubt
yourself now. Not when you need those skills most. You will be fine, as you
“But, Edgar...” She turned her head toward him. “Edgar, I’m not the same
soldier I was before. I can’t use magic and I’m not as strong as I was then.
What if that’s enough to change everything?”
Tears glistened in Terra’s unique eyes and Edgar’s throat tightened around
all the assurances he wanted to give her. He choked on all the promises he
wanted to make good on. ‘Why can’t I lie to her as I did before? Why can’t I
offer her the easy answers I know so well?’ All he could do was smile down at
her in his most charismatic manner and lightly touch her nose with a finger.
“Your beauty and charm are magic enough, my lady. The ruffians will have no
chance of resistance.” Terra smiled, albeit a little reluctantly, and hesitantly
placed a hand on Edgar’s cheek. His face flamed at her touch. ‘Terra, be
careful,’ he silently warned her. ‘These waters rage deep...’
“I have missed you, Edgar,” she whispered. “I have missed you so much.”
“And I you.”
Edgar couldn’t resist. He took her hand from his cheek and pressed the palm
against his lips for a long moment, his eyes still holding hers. Her eyes
registered something, but Edgar wasn’t sure what it was. The emotion seemed to
be as unique as Terra herself. ‘Don’t hope for too much,’ he told himself. ‘You
are her friend and that is all she believes to be true. Do not begin to hope
that she feels more for she doesn’t understand any love other than the love she
feels for her children. Be her friend,’ he told himself firmly. But the hope was
so easy when she looked at him...
“Don’t stay away so long next time,” she pleaded in a strangely soft
Edgar lowered her hand, but continued to hold it. “This I swear, my lady.
This I swear.”
When the four arrived at Jidoor, Edgar could tell that Terra was hard-pressed
to keep herself under control. A type of quiet hysteria seemed to radiate from
her that even had the normally ‘laid back’ Setzer champing at the bit. Edgar
tried his best to be stable and controlled for her, even going so far as to
remain as close to her side as possible without causing comment from Setzer and
Locke. Setzer and Locke were too busy arguing about the best place to start to
“Gentlemen, calm yourselves,” Edgar told them in his most authoritative
voice. The two men looked at him with dark glares. “This constant contention is
not assisting anyone and it will only serve to make it more difficult for us to
work together when the time comes to face this---” Edgar glanced at Terra and
repressed the curse. “This ‘gentleman’, and believe me when I say I use the term
“They’re not here.” Terra’s sudden statement was so certain that all three of
them stared at her in quiet stupefaction. “He hasn’t been here,” she said again
with narrowed eyes. “Something just doesn’t feel right about the place. It’s
too... I don’t know. It’s too relaxed. Too normal.”
“That doesn’t necessarily mean he’s---”
“He’s not here, Locke.” Terra sent Locke a glare. “He’s not going to come
here, either. Slavers aren’t welcome in Jidoor. They never have been. Not even
the upper class use slaves. Why would he come here when he knows he couldn’t
make a sale?”
Locke looked around a moment. “Fine. It makes sense. I’m still going to go
ask some questions.”
Locke took off with a grumble and Edgar hesitantly decided to follow. “I’ll
assist Locke. Terra, remain with Setzer until we return.” She turned away
without a word and Edgar raised an eyebrow before sending Setzer a ‘don’t leave
her for a moment’ look. Locke was waiting by the entrance to the auctioneer’s
house when Edgar caught up with him.
“I’ve never seen her like this before, Edgar,” Locke said in an angry
“I know, Locke. Neither have I.”
“Maybe you were right.”
Edgar knew that statement meant a lot coming from Locke Cole because the
treasure-hunter never had conceded to being wrong before. Not in all the years
Edgar had known him. Then Locke had met Celes and begun a slow, quiet
transformation into the man he was now. Confident still, yet able to admit a
mistake more easily than before.
“Locke, you must attempt to understand her position. She believes that she
has let these kids down. Terra blames herself for their abduction because she
wasn’t there constantly. Until she is able to leave the guilt behind her, she
shall be a bear to work with.”
“I kind of guessed that.” Locke sighed and ran a hand through his blonde
hair. “So, how are we going to do this? With her snapping our heads off we won’t
be able to work together without killing each other. Or her, at least.” Edgar
glanced away and Locke raised an eyebrow. “You’ve got an idea, don’t you?”
“I don’t believe I could do that to her. Not now. She’s so lost. So
confused... I can’t, but I feel I must.”
“What? Do what?”
Locke stared at his long-time friend with a slack-jawed gaze. When he had
gathered his wits enough to speak, his voice was hard. “Edgar, you better
explain yourself or you’re liable to find a dagger in your gut. Heck, you might
find one there even after you explain. It better be good.”
Edgar let out a deep breath and dug at the ground with his spear. “When I was
on deck with Terra on our way here, I noticed the change in her. She was calmer.
More controlled. She talked about how and why she felt the way she did. She
seemed to be more... more like the old Terra we knew before.”
“So where does the ‘seduce’ part come in,” Locke prompted suspiciously.
“It’s the only way I know to keep her mind from the rage and lust for
revenge. I’ve wooed and pursued ladies my entire life, Locke. I know just what
to say to keep her off balance.”
“Edgar, buddy, I hate to break this to you, but you’ve never been a very good
wooer. Ladies never believed a single word of your sweet-talking Choco-crap.
What makes you think Terra will now? You know she never did in the past.” Locke
clenched his jaw and ran a hand through his hair in aggravation before he
continued. “This is easily the worst, most unethical idea you have ever had!
Trying to encourage a feeling that isn’t there just to distract her from what
you think she will do? I knew you were an arrogant old scratch, but this beats
Edgar leaned against the spear and finally caught Locke’s eyes. “I believe
Terra feels something for me that she didn’t before.”
“You’re going to use that?” Locke made a disgusted sound. “That’s low, Edgar,
even for you.”
Edgar glared. “Why? If it prevents her from going insane when we find this
blaggard, I shall do whatever it takes.”
“But are you going to follow through when this fiasco is over? You said so
yourself, Edgar, that you were born to be a bachelor and you’ve certainly lived
up to the standard. One problem. With Terra it’s always been different. You’ve
never walked over that line that she drew when she first met you. You’ve never
done anything to jeopardize how she looked up to you. Are you going to do that
now? Are you really going to be able to walk away when her kids are found? Are
you going to say to her face that it was all a plan to keep her under control?”
Locke crossed his arms and his steel-gray eyes sparked. “That’s a bald-faced lie
and you know it. You want to know what I think? I think you want her so bad that
you’re willing to risk your future with her just to score a couple easy
Edgar clenched his jaw and straightened. “I thought you knew me better than
that, Cole. Terra, first and foremost, is a friend and I would never do anything
to hurt her.”
“A friend?” Locke’s question was disbelieving. “You’d treat a friend like
this, Edgar? You’d screw with a friend’s mind like this? You’d lie to them like
“For the greater good, yes.” Edgar paused and took in a slow breath to
control his anger. “I told you before that I doubted whether or not I could go
through with this. Do you wish to know why?” Locke crossed his arms and Edgar
continued. “My greatest fear is that she would not want me. Do you have any idea
what that is like? Of course not,” he said through clenched teeth. “You and
Celes have been mad for each other since you rescued her from the Empire in
South Figaro. You’ve never known the self-doubt that comes with the knowledge
the woman you care about may want nothing to do with you.”
Locke didn’t respond.
“Terra Branford believes I’m nothing but a flirt. A rake. She truly believes
that whenever I say something gallant I’m simply being a tease. Do you know what
it’s like to be haunted with that, Cole? Do you know how it hurts to have her
smile at me and say ‘you always were a tease, weren’t you’ and not have the
faintest idea I was sincere?”
“So then why would you even consider it, Edgar? If you’re so sure she won’t
buy it, why are you going to do it? Admit it! I’m right. You think this is the
only chance you’ll have of getting her in the sack!” Locke threw his arms in the
air. “It’s nothing but a game. Another conquest and you know it!”
Edgar barely restrained himself. “You are wrong.”
Locke glared at the young king with narrowed eyes. “Tell me, Edgar. Are you
willing to marry Terra after this is all over? Are you ready to give up your
bachelorhood if this plan of yours works? Will you throw away all your little
black books and secret lists of female ‘friends’ for her? I can tell you for
certain that if you do this, if you really follow through with this crazy plan,
Terra will fall in love with you. I’m warning you now, if she’s truly your
friend and you were telling the truth when you said you didn’t want to hurt her,
you’ll marry her when this is finished.”
Edgar was quiet for a long time. “Cole, you were right before when you said I
love her. What if this is the only chance I have to show her that? What if this
accursed kidnapping is the only opportunity I’ll ever have of telling her that I
truly care? That I do honestly believe she’s the ‘light of my heart’ and
whatever other nonsense I’ve confessed to upon occasion. Would you be able to
ignore the opportunity? Truthfully, Cole. Would you?”
“Whether you pass the opportunity or not isn’t the point. Will you follow
through with what you started?”
“I can only ask you to trust me.”
Locke grudgingly conceded. “I still don’t like it, Edgar. She’s just a
“Have you truly seen Terra? Besides being stunningly beautiful, she’s one of
the most mature and responsible people I know. How else were we able to defeat
that blasted lunatic Kefka? Her skills have saved our backsides plenty of times,
and you well know it.”
Locke jabbed Edgar in the chest with the end of his dagger hilt. “She’s still
a kid, Edgar, and I don’t like it. You just watch yourself. Carefully.”
It was Edgar’s turn at the wheel, but because of a prior incident with a
previous airship Setzer wasn’t too comfortable with the idea of letting him have
that turn. So, Terra was left alone with Edgar for their entire trip to Zozo
while Locke and Setzer went above to pilot the ship. Terra had to be truthful
with herself when she admitted she didn’t know whether the short trip to Zozo
with him would be too short or too long. There had been something in Edgar’s
manner when he and Locke had returned from Jidoor that had made her wary. Then,
when Locke had suggested he and Setzer take a turn at the wheel and conveniently
leave the two alone, Terra hadn’t known whether to be eager at the prospect of
more time with him, or terrified because of how eager she was.
“Are you sure traveling to Zozo is wise?” Edgar came to sit beside her. “You
mentioned before that he wouldn’t set camp there for fear of losing his
“I know,” she sighed as she rubbed her face and neck, “but I’ve had a chance
to think.” Terra looked over at Edgar to catch him watching her. It was a little
disconcerting. “Doesn’t it make sense that someone there would be willing to
give us information about his operation if we offered enough money? Surely if
Setzer was able to discover a name we could do even better.”
Edgar stood with a smile and came to stand behind her, his hands gently
massaging her shoulders. “That’s why we always made you leader, Terra. Not only
are you beautiful, but you’re bright.”
Terra waved his comments aside and looked down at the map of the newly formed
world. “I just don’t know,” she said in an exasperated voice. “It’s been too
long, Edgar. I don’t remember how to plan anything.” His touch began to irritate
her and she stood sharply, pulling away from him to stand by a window.
“Terra,” Edgar said as he came to stand behind her. “Terra, you mustn’t be so
hard on yourself.” Edgar placed his hands on her shoulders again, but she
shrugged them off and moved away. “You’re pushing yourself too hard.”
“If I don’t push myself, who will? I can’t just breeze through this and
expect none of them to get hurt. I have to think everything through and get it
“Terra.” He turned her around to face him, but she kept her head lowered.
“We’re a team. No one expects you to solve this alone. All of us are with you in
“You don’t understand.”
“Then make me understand. I wish to help, Terra.
Whatever it is. Whatever you’re going through.”
Terra turned away. “It’s my fault,” she said in a choked voice. “If I had
just taken them with me this wouldn’t have happened.”
“There was no way you could know that. You might have only been taken along
“There had to have been a way, Edgar. A way to stop this! A way to know! I
left them alone so that I could have some time by myself.” Terra’s voice was
laced with guilt and pain. “Don’t you understand? I... I left them.” Edgar was
silent, his eyes dark as he watched her. “It was my job to watch them. They
looked up to me for protection and I let them down. I walked away and let them
The control broke and the sobs ran free as Edgar stepped forward to wrap her
up in his arms. “Terra, you’re not to blame. Not by any means. You deserve time
alone as much as any of us do. Besides, you trust the older ones to watch the
younger because of the responsibility that they have learned from you. There was
nothing wrong with trusting them further.” Edgar pushed her back and held her
face in his hands, his thumbs caressing her tear-stained cheeks. “The fault was
“It is my fault,” she insisted harshly. She pushed his hands from her
face. “All I had to do was watch them because they had no one else and I
couldn’t even do that! How can you stand there and say it isn’t my fault? You
don’t know what you’re talking about, Edgar! You... y-you don’t know...” She hid
her face with her hands and felt his arms surround her again. Terra clung to him
“I know more than you think, Terra,” Edgar said. “I understand that you’re
afraid you’ll lose the only people you’ve ever loved. I know that you’re
terrified the anger you feel building inside will take control.”
Terra wanted to believe him, but something held her back. Something dark.
Something lurking in the back part of her mind. Something that scared her.
“Shh,” he whispered as he stroked her hair. “Shh. It’s all right. It’s all
right to be scared. After all, I was terrified that you wouldn’t wish to see my
face again after I had acted such a fool. Then there you were on my doorstep
asking for help. I was thanking my lucky stars that day.”
Terra looked up at him and reluctantly smiled, her eyes still glistening with
tears as her chin quivered. “Oh Edgar, you and that silver tongue of yours,” she
said as she wiped at her face. “Can’t you be serious about anything?”
He smirked and helped her dry her face with a silk kerchief he pulled from
his pocket. “When I’m holding a lovely creature in my arms such as yourself?
Don’t be cruel.” She shook her head with a reluctant laugh. “That’s better. We
cannot be having tears in a lady’s eyes on an adventure such as this.” He kissed
the kerchief while her eyes watched in surprise, and then tucked it carefully
back into his satin vest pocket. “Now, give me your hand and let’s have a laugh
or two before tackling the problem again.”
She slipped her hand into his and he brought it to his lips for a long moment
before smiling down at her with a strange expression in his eyes.
Terra turned her eyes away and let him lead her back to the table.
Locke looked over at Setzer with a shake of his head. “I don’t like it,” he
grumbled for the countless time. “I don’t like it at all.”
Setzer smirked and did some fancy shuffling of his cards. “Leave them alone,
Cole. Life is a lonely mistress. Those two deserve what they’re getting.”
“She doesn’t know Edgar like I do. The last thing she needs is him putting
the moves on her and kissing her so she can barely think straight. She’s just a
kid,” he insisted as his hands gripped the wheel.
“Terra is a woman and Edgar is a man.”
Locke rolled his eyes. “Don’t remind me.”
Setzer laughed. “I thought you wanted them to be married, Cole.”
“He hasn’t exactly put a ring on her finger, has he? I don’t like putting the
cart before the chocobo, okay?”
“Do you truly doubt he will? Edgar is a man of honor, Cole. Don’t trifle with
that or you’re liable to get your head cleaved in two. Besides,” Setzer paused
and palmed the Queen of Hearts. “Besides, I don’t believe anything but a few
passionate embraces are being shared. He respects her too much to rush her into
more than that.”
“You don’t know Edgar.”
Setzer seemed to get annoyed at that point. “Only Edgar knows Edgar,” he said
as he stood. “Trust your friends and leave it at that. I’m going below.”
“If you come back a little pink around the ears, I’ll know you were wrong,”
Setzer chuckled despite himself. “It’s nothing I haven’t experienced myself,”
he tossed over his shoulder. “A little amusement would be just what I need right
Locke glared after him.
When Setzer made his way below, Edgar and Terra were sharing anything but a
tender embrace. The two were gathered around the table examining maps and
talking in low tones while pointing at different areas. Setzer smirked with a
shake of his head. Terra didn’t appear the least bit disheveled. ‘Pity,’ he
thought to himself. ‘She’s in need of some good lovemaking to make her a woman.’
He’d do it himself if it wasn’t for the fact that he was sure Locke would object
with the sharp end of his dagger.
Edgar looked up and greeted Setzer with an easy smile. “I do believe we have
solved the mystery.”
Setzer raised an eyebrow. “Oh really? You two certainly have been busy.”
Terra didn’t even flush a slight color of red and Setzer raised an eyebrow. Such
a reaction was unusual given her usual response to his innuendos.
“Before this world of ruin there was a trade route from Nikeah to about
here.” She traced a line on the map, then pointed to a section where there was
only polluted water. “The Imperial base was there, but as you can see it doesn’t
exist in this world.”
Setzer leaned over the map with a nod. “Right. Shall we all observe a moment
of silence for the loss?”
“Hardly,” Edgar scoffed. “But Terra and I recalled the fact that the Empire
once used slave labor in order to...” He grimaced. “Save money. Harvesting prime
candidates for this less than glorious profession had become quite a problem in
years gone by. Before Kefka turned our little world upside down, that is. People
of all ages would disappear from their homes in the middle of the night and
never be heard from again. Whole schools would disappear without a trace.”
Setzer noticed something strange about Terra’s face, but pushed it aside.
“So, are you saying that our Empire friends have found a way to resume their
charming way of life?”
“Maybe not the Empire directly, but perhaps some of the leftover scum who
would know no better,” Edgar said.
Terra changed her gaze from Edgar to Setzer with a nod. “We’re not sure of
anything yet, but it’s possible. Do you know anything about this Ledo character?
Do you know if he’s had anything to do with the Empire in the past?”
Setzer sat in a chair across from her and leaned back to prop his feet up on
the table. “Your typical Zozo slime. Arrogant. Ugly. Anything but charming, to
say the least. A real piece of work. Money and power are that character’s only
real loves.” Setzer hesitated and a frown twisted the scar over his left
“Do you remember something?” Edgar asked.
“It seems to me that he was throwing a lot of money into that game without
flinching. Throwing it and losing it.”
Terra and Edgar exchanged a glance. “What does that mean to you, Setzer?”
“It means that he had just been paid a lot of money. Not only that, he was
expecting to be paid more. Soon.”
Terra took in a slow breath and stared down at the map. “I don’t suppose he
mentioned anything about it?”
Setzer shook his head. “No.”
“Blast,” Edgar said.
Locke chose that moment to come in to the room. “You’ve got that right.”
“Zozo?” Edgar asked.
“Zozo,” Locke said with a cringe. “I hate this place. Not only does it stink
to the heavens, but the population are the worst possible thieves.”
“I’m sure you could give them lessons,” Setzer chuckled.
Locke sent him a glare. “Ha, ha, ha, very funny.”
“I suppose we should go,” Terra said as she rolled up the map. She set it
aside and then slipped into her sword and scabbard. “We’ve wasted enough
Setzer stood and collected his razor edged cards. “I’d like to think that
we’ve invested time, Terra. ‘Wasted’ is such a harsh word.”
Terra sent him a small smile, which he returned. ‘Ah. The Terra we all know
and love seems to have returned. Bravo, Edgar. Bravo. Why didn’t I think of
doing it before? Terra would have presented an interesting challenge.’ Setzer
thought a moment and then decided against it. Challenges were well and good, but
Terra was anything but his type. ‘Now Celes...’ He didn’t waste the time to
finish. Locke would have gutted him had he even suspected what the gambler was
thinking about his soon-to-be wife and he had too many things yet to do. ‘Ah
well. Such is the toss of a coin.’
Terra’s grip on her sword hilt tightened as the group of four entered the
dark town of Zozo. It was raining and Terra grimaced at the stench of rotting
corpses. The last time had been so different. Transformed by the Esper Tritoch,
she had been drawn to the top of one of the buildings by Ramuh’s power. She had
been so afraid of herself and the power that had seemed limitless. So terrified
that she would hurt someone without meaning to. It had been here that Locke,
Edgar, Sabin, and Celes had found her. Here where all her friends had discovered
her terrible secret.
Her father was Maduin, an Esper.
Terra led the group further into the city now and pressed her lips together
as she saw a group of residents edging closer. “Keep your eyes open,” she warned
in a voice only her friends could hear. “It looks like we’re going to have
“Bring ‘em on,” Locke grumbled. “It’ll give me a chance to work out some
frustrations. Believe me, I have a lot of frustrations.”
Setzer chuckled. “You always do when you’re away from Celes for any longer
than a day.”
Edgar gripped Locke’s arm to keep him from hurling a dagger and sent Setzer a
hard look. “Gentlemen, this is neither the place nor the time. Our goal is to
locate Terra’s children, remember?”
“Yeah, yeah. I know. Sorry, gambler.”
“It’s quite all right.”
Locke looped his thumb on his belt. “So, where to next?”
Terra shook her head. “I’m not sure. This place... This place...” She shook
her head again and brought a hand up with a cringe. A spark seemed to have shot
out from the very center of her brain causing yellow and white spots to flash in
her eyes. “Ooh. My head.”
Edgar stepped closer and gripped her shoulder to keep her from falling when
she stumbled. He tilted her chin up and examined her face and eyes. “What’s
wrong?” He felt her forehead and glanced sharply over at Locke. “She’s burning
“What?” Locke strode forward and touched her forehead as well, then checked
her pulse. He shook his head. “Something spooky’s going on, Edgar. We’ve got to
get her back to the ship.”
Terra shook her head feebly and tried to straighten. “No. No, we have to go
on,” she insisted.
“Terra,” Edgar said firmly. She locked gazes with him. “Terra, if something
here is causing you pain you are not going on. Setzer will take you back to the
ship while Locke and I discover what we can.”
Terra pressed her lips together and dropped her hand from Edgar’s arm to
straighten under her own power. The pain surged through her body, but she forced
herself to not recognize it with even the barest hint of a cringe. She took in a
slow breath and willed herself to ignore the burning agony that seemed to melt
her brain. “We will go on as a group, Edgar,” she said firmly. Her voice didn’t
even quiver. “A group of four in Zozo is bad enough. Two is a suicide
Edgar shook his head with a reluctant smile after a long pause. “Very well.
We will stay together, but I’m only agreeing so that I may keep an eye on
Terra forced a smile.
“You’ve had your eye on her for long enough, don’t you think? I’d say you
need to get a little more physical than that.”
Edgar’s ears flushed pink and he shot Setzer a warning glare, ignoring
Locke’s loud laugh that even had the Zozo residents looking amongst themselves
in confusion. To get the focus off himself, Edgar pulled a small bottle from a
pouch on his belt and handed it to Terra. “Here,” he said. “Take this. It may
not take away all the pain---”
“Edgar...” Terra took it with a grimace.
“Do not deny that you are hurting. I think it will help.”
“Thank you. I’ll save it for later---”
“No,” Edgar pressed firmly. “No, you will take it now. I have plenty more, as
do Locke and Setzer.”
Terra removed the stopper and took in a deep breath as she prepared herself
for the super-sweet taste of the herbal potion, as well as the bazaar effects
that would linger for several moments afterward. With a last hesitation, she
swallowed the thick, greenish-blue liquid and grimaced as she handed the glass
bottle back to Edgar. The liquid slid down her throat slowly, causing her whole
body to shiver as it’s healing effects tingled and warmed her insides. The
burning in her brain receded a bit, making it easier for her to ignore, and the
sparks that had begun to cascade through her body from toe to fingertips all but
disappeared. She swallowed several times, desperately trying to clear the
remaining sticky substance from her mouth as her limbs began to feel a little
heavier than normal. The heaviness was due to the effects of the potion and
would pass quickly.
“Better?” Edgar asked.
Terra gave Edgar a small nod. “Better.”
“Good, because our company is getting closer,” Locke warned.
Terra sent them a look, carefully gauged the challenge, and decided that
there really wasn’t any. “Nothing to worry about.”
Setzer smirked and lightly fingered his deck of cards. “Well said, but a
challenge nonetheless. We have, after all, been out of the fighting business for
quite a while.”
There was a brief tingling at the base of her skull followed by a pop in each
of her ears that quickly faded. Terra sent Setzer a smile. “Come on, gambler,
are you telling me you’ve forgotten how to use those cards of yours?” She slowly
pulled her sword from it’s sheath and sent Edgar a wink. “Come on, let’s show
them how it’s done.”
Edgar tried to grab her arm, but she took off with a war cry that scattered
the less assured ruffians while causing the more arrogant ones to gather around
her. Their move blocked any avenue of escape she might have had. The trio stared
after her with shocked gazes.
“What’s gotten into her? She’s never been this way before,” Locke said in
Edgar holstered his chain saw and hurried forward after her. “It’s the
potion,” he shouted over his shoulder. “It has to be!”
“What kind of potion did you give her,” Locke asked as he followed. “Have you
had that thing in your pocket your whole life or something?”
“No,” Edgar shot back. “It’s reacting to whatever is causing Terra to be
Locke grit his teeth. “Remind me to tell you---”
“Save the Philosophy lesson. We’ve got work to do,” Setzer said calmly as he
palmed at least 5 cards. “She may be a good fighter, but she’s not as powerful
as she used to be. Not only that, I believe 5 or 6 Zozoians would be too much
for any woman.”
Locke’s gaze followed Setzer’s and he groaned. “Man, we can’t take her
anywhere without some kind of trouble.”
Setzer shook his head and sent Locke a smirk. “What are you saying? Leave her
home? That would go over well.”
“It’s a thought, okay? Take her flank, Setzer. Edgar, take the--- Edgar!”
Edgar had already begun hacking his way through the closest residents in
order to attempt a clearing of Terra’s right side. Setzer flung his razor sharp
cards at the Zozoians attacking her rear and they whistled through the air with
a high-pitched whine before hitting their mark with a thud followed by a
Locke grinned. “Show-off!” He made his way to one of the last shrouded
figures and readied his Gradius and Swordbreaker. Before he could attack,
though, he was disarmed and staring stupidly at the black figure that had done
the deed. “What the---”
“You need practice,” the dark figure said to Locke.
Locke could hear the familiar cool detachment in the voice and sent the
figure a shocked look. “Shadow, what are you doing here? I thought you were
“Death and I have an arrangement.” Shadow returned Locke’s weapons and
silently dispatched the last Zozoian with a shuriken to the throat. “Interceptor
“Oh wonderful. Now we’ve got a psychic dog added to this crazy bunch.”
Shadow was silent a moment and knelt down to retrieve his shuriken from the
gurgling throat of the barely conscious victim. Locke cringed and looked
“I suggest you go home to your woman, Locke,” Shadow finally said. “Your mind
is anywhere but here.”
“My mind is just fine,” Locke said as Setzer came to stand beside him. Edgar,
on the other hand, was desperately trying to calm Terra down. “I knew it was you
all the time.” Setzer raised an eyebrow with a chuckle and Locke continued. “So,
where’s your dog?”
“He picked up a strange trail and decided to investigate. He will know when
he is needed.”
Locke shook his head before turning to check on Edgar’s progress. Terra was
still anything but her usual self.
“There is evil at work here,” Shadow told them in his usual somber tone. “The
people of this town are uneasy and prone to fights amongst themselves.”
“Aren’t they always?” Setzer asked.
“Not like this. People act differently when here. I haven’t yet been able to
determine the reason, but it’s evil. Of this I am sure.”
Locke looked over at Terra and rubbed at his scalp before sending the ninja a
probing stare. “Have you noticed any kind of symptoms?”
“Of medicines I know little. All I know is what I see and what Interceptor
senses. Things are not right here.”
“How come Setzer and I are okay then?”
Shadow was silent for a long moment before answering. “Are you?”
Locke and Setzer exchanged a glance. “We get your point,” Locke said.
“We have been a little more short-tempered than usual, my friend.” Setzer
“Yeah. It’s just that I hate the fact that some low-life took Terra’s kids,
Setzer. It makes me feel helpless, useless, and generally hopeless because there
wasn’t anything we could do about it. I don’t think it has anything to do with
Zozo or whatever ‘evil’ is here.”
“Perhaps it is reaching outside of Zozo,” Shadow said.
“Doubt it. Terra was fine until she stepped inside here. Then, wham, heart
beat going like mad and temperature through the roof.”
Again, Shadow was quiet for a long time. “There is a connection between this
evil and Terra.”
“Then what’s the connection between it and the people who actually live
here?” To that, Shadow gave no answer. He simply turned and made his way to
Edgar and Terra. Locke followed with a slow exhalation of breath. “Didn’t I say
it before? A walking freak show, that’s what he is,” he grumbled.
Setzer smirked and pocketed his cards with a shake of his head.
“What is the matter with you,” Edgar asked harshly. “You scared me to death
with your foolhardy charge into those brigands. Are you mad, woman?”
“Don’t be ridiculous,” Terra said, her voice edged with annoyance and anger.
“I’ve been in tougher situations than that when I was on my own and lived
through them just fine.”
“Terra,” Edgar said through clenched teeth. “You’re not alone anymore. When
will you finally realize that?”
“Well maybe if you’d visited me once and awhile I wouldn’t feel as if I
were,” she shot back. “You ever think of that?”
Edgar pressed his lips together and let out a slow breath. The guilt he felt
at the truth of her last statement helped him get his temper back under control.
“We are not discussing me---”
“Of course not,” Terra cut in sharply. “We can never talk about you.
Something might slip out that would give us a clue as to what you really think
about anything or anyone. We couldn’t have that, could we?”
The venom in her tone shocked him and he flinched.
“I mean, after all, if you started talking about yourself you might need to
actually trust someone with something and that just isn’t acceptable for King
Edgar of Figaro Castle! He has to be a mystery. He has to be a stranger to
everyone who cares!”
Setzer, Locke, and Shadow had gathered around her by this time and they
stared at her flushed face and wild eyes in amazement. Edgar was speechless, not
even really hearing the insults being hurled at him because of the hatred that
made her eyes burn. Had he ever seen her like that before? “Terra,” he asked
slowly, “what’s wrong with you?”
“Nothing,” she snapped. “I am getting so sick and tired of you people running
around under my feet like little bugs trying to figure out what’s wrong with me
when nothing is. Edgar, what do you take me for? Some kind of weakling? Some
waif bawling for a handout?”
Edgar blinked. The calm, compassionate, overly sensitive woman he had known
for -- what was it? Years? Months? -- she was gone. Vanished. Disappeared
without a trace to be replaced by the seething, glassy-eyed, flushed-faced woman
now before them. Edgar was at a loss for words, as were the others. “Terra---”
Edgar attempted again.
“No,” she snarled. “No more, ‘Terra, what’s wrong?’ No more ‘Terra, don’t
cry.’ I’ve had it up to here with your smooth talk and flirting. It’s all lies
and you know it! Just leave me alone and quit babying me!”
With that, Terra turned with a rage-filled screech and ran into one of the
many dilapidated buildings that the citizens of Zozo had the misfortune of
calling home. Edgar watched her go with a dead weight in the pit of his stomach.
He felt more alone now than he ever had as a young king of Figaro. All the
secret feelings and doubts he had ever told her had been thrown back in his face
as if they had been lower than imp slime. It hurt. It hurt a whole lot and she
seemed to like it that way.
Locke broke the shocked silence. “Who was that? It wasn’t Terra, that I know
Setzer nodded and fingered his cards in thoughtful silence.
“I don’t know,” Edgar said in a quiet voice. “I don’t know anything
“What made our dear Terra go off like that? I didn’t think she had a hostile
bone in her body,” Setzer said calmly.
Shadow knelt down and studied the ground in silence.
Edgar shook his head. “She doesn’t.”
Setzer hesitated. “I believe you should re-think that. Apparently, she
Edgar looked off in the direction Terra had taken and narrowed his eyes. “Was
it her,” he asked, almost to himself.
“What do you mean: ‘was it her?’ You heard and saw her with your own eyes. We
all did,” Locke said.
Edgar shook his head. “It wasn’t Terra. I don’t know who that was.”
Locke’s eyes opened wide and his mouth gaped in shock. “Are you on
Edgar turned his head to meet Locke’s wide-eyed gaze and then threw his arms
up in the air. “I don’t know, Cole. I don’t know. All the time I was trying to
seduce her on the ship I didn’t feel a thing. Not a spark, tingle, or blasted
bit of warmth!”
“Pardon me,” Setzer interrupted with a hand on Edgar’s arm. “Seduce? What
sort of game have you been playing with Terra’s heart?”
“We’ll tell you later,” Locke mumbled.
Setzer raised an eyebrow and crossed his arms in silent protest.
Edgar’s hands dropped to his sides and his eyes glazed with a faraway
expression as he went on. “Before... Before there was light. There were flames.
Passion. Everything I had searched for and never found. Terra and I didn’t need
to touch for the spark to be there.”
“Maybe you’re just getting over her,” Locke offered.
Edgar gave Locke an incredulous glance. “Getting over Terra is as likely as
getting over living or breathing. My friend, it simply does not happen. When I
went to visit her for the first time since the battle with Kefka, my breath
nearly left me completely when I saw her resting so innocently on the grass. The
desire to spirit her away nearly overcame my reason. You remember how it is,
Cole, don’t you? Just being by her side set my skin on fire!”
Locke turned his head away. “I remember.”
“Even at the castle I was tempted to have the Chancellor put me in chains so
that I would not give in to temptation.” He turned away. “Terra felt so good in
“And on the ship?”
Edgar sighed. “As I told you before, on our way to Jidoor she opened up to
me. She talked about how she felt and why.”
“So, when did it change?”
“When we left Jidoor,” Edgar said miserably. “I wanted to kiss her so bad,
Cole, but I’ll be hanged if I felt a blasted thing when I touched her face or
kissed her hand. There was nothing! Not a single spark!”
Locke turned to Setzer. “Was she in your sight the entire time that Edgar and
I were in Jidoor?”
Setzer thought about it for several moments as he absently shuffled his
cards. “Terra came aboard and immediately went below deck.”
“Drat,” Locke mumbled as he rubbed his scalp.
“I don’t know what to think, Cole,” Edgar went on. “Is it her? Is it me? Was
it my imagination?”
“That tongue-lashing certainly wasn’t,” Locke reminded carefully.
“So what am I to think? It’s almost as if someone had Berserked her, but
magic no longer exists. According to Strago, anyway. The statues were magic and
we had to destroy them in order to battle Kefka. Conceivably, magic no longer
exists. Is that correct?”
Setzer put a hand on Edgar’s shoulder. “There are many things we don’t
understand about magic and Espers, my friend. Who’s to say that Terra hasn’t
drawn a bad hand?”
Edgar clenched his jaw. “Don’t you think I am well aware of the kind of hand
she’s been dealt? Her father an Esper and herself captured by the Empire. Her
mother murdered by Gestahl. Terra didn’t even know to which ‘race’ she truly
belonged: human or Esper. To make matters worse, she never learned how to care
for someone because of being raised by the Empire - the details of which still
remain a mystery to us because of her memory loss - and then wearing that
accursed Slave Crown most of her life---”
“Edgar.” Locke gestured to the top of a building. “Edgar, what’s that?”
A strange, purplescent glow lit up the sky and burned their eyes if they
tried to examine it for longer than a mere moment. Edgar pounded the ground with
the haft of his spear in thought and then strode toward the building. ‘I want
some answers,’ he thought harshly. ‘I’m bloody well going to get them!’
“I believe it would be safe to assume we’re soon to find out,” Setzer
“No kidding.” Locke followed Edgar with a shake of his head. “This whole
thing just keeps getting weirder and weirder. Kidnapping, strange lights,
stranger women.... I should have stayed at home and helped Celes make those
blasted garlands for the wedding.”
“How charming. Locke weaving flowers.” Setzer chuckled under his breath and
palmed a couple cards. “I would pay money to see that.”
Shadow followed silently behind them, his eyes searching the alleys for
Locke caught up with Edgar. “Do you have a Remedy you could give her?”
“No. I never cared for that powder. It always caused me to sneeze. Plus, it
was always so expensive.”
“Edgar, who cares? It might help better than that potion you gave her, or
whatever it was.”
“I have one,” a voice said from behind.
Locke gave a start and sent Shadow a glare. “Don’t do that! You’re going to
give me a complex!”
Shadow ignored him. “If it will help her, I will give it to you.”
Edgar sent the ninja a reluctant smile. “Thank you, Shadow, but before we
give it to her I’d like to know what’s causing the problem in the first place.”
The others nodded. “It’s just so strange,” Edgar continued, almost to himself.
“One moment she’s fine and the next she’s going wild-eyed crazy and taking off
for the hills. It couldn’t be anyone but her because she’s not been out of our
sight long enough to do any kind of switch, or whatever they would attempt.”
“I cast my vote for Esper intervention,” Setzer said.
“Espers are dead.” Locke paused and sent Setzer a strange look. “Aren’t
“Don’t be so sure,” Setzer said in a lazy tone of voice. “Like I said before,
we don’t know a lot about them. Maybe they just... I don’t know, warped to a
different dimension and now they’re calling to her. It could be anything.”
“Then why only the people of Zozo?” Edgar asked.
“Maybe it has nothing to do with Zozo,” Locke insisted. “These people always
were on the darker side of insane. Besides, living in a hole like Zozo the way
the world is now? It would drive me insane.” Locke sent Setzer a look.
“Don’t say it.”
“I wouldn’t dream of it.”
“I hate to argue with you, Shadow,” Locke went on, “but I really believe I’m
right. I’m not saying there isn’t anything ‘evil’ going on in Zozo. There always
is. I just don’t think it has anything to do with Zozo. Maybe that’s why the guy
doing that freakin’ light show chose Zozo in the first place. Cover.”
Shadow nodded and Edgar was surprised. “Locke, old boy, you must be on to
something if Shadow doesn’t argue with you.”
“I try,” Locke said with a grin.
Setzer smirked. “Try harder. Maybe we’ll solve this before the day is over
and get to go home to wine and women this evening.”
“Here, here,” Locke agreed.
‘I only wish to return home with Terra,’ Edgar thought to himself.
They entered the building into which Terra had disappeared and Shadow froze
in the dark hallway. He crouched, 3 shuriken in his hand. Edgar didn’t even
hesitate before readying his spear and checking to make sure his chain saw was
prepared for a quick change. Setzer was absently shuffling his razor-edged cards
as his eyes narrowed to scan the distant shadows and Locke was nonchalant as he
pulled his blades free.
“What is it?” Edgar whispered. His eyes strained against the dimness of the
hallway, but his untrained eyes couldn’t even detect movement. “What do you
“An old friend,” came Shadow’s stealthy reply.
Edgar, Setzer, and Locke exchanged raised eyebrows and then turned to again
search the shadows. What they saw made their hearts freeze in their chest. The
man was tall with eyes so evil they seemed black and endless when Edgar looked
straight into them. He wasn’t muscular by any means, but there radiated such a
power from him that the group took a step back before they realized what they
were doing. All but Shadow. A firm determination emanated from him that
heightened when the figure stepped from the blackness that he seemed to create
by his mere existence.
“Ledo,” Setzer and Shadow said at once.
“We meet again.”
The voice was strange in that it didn’t seem to fit with the rest of his
body. It was almost as if the deep rumble came from the air instead of the man
in front of them. Edgar didn’t like it and sent Locke a glance that conveyed as
much. Locke simply grimaced and adjusted his grip on his daggers.
“This is my home,” he continued. “I don’t take kindly to people barging in
with weapons drawn.”
Edgar took a step forward, carefully adjusting the grip on his spear. “As we
‘don’t take kindly’ to people kidnapping children.” A chuckle rumbled deep in
the floorboards of the building and Edgar’s stomach twisted. “Where is Terra and
where are her children?” The chuckling began again and Edgar clenched his jaw to
control his rising anger.
“Please, please,” Ledo said in a sarcastic sneer, “let’s not waste this
precious time together by speaking of them.”
“Then you do have them,” Locke said sharply.
Ledo chuckled. “I didn’t say that. You assumed that I knew whom you happen to
be searching for.” He changed his gaze to Shadow. “It’s been so long. What have
you been doing with yourself.” Shadow didn’t speak and Ledo appeared annoyed.
“Come, come. Are you still angry about that woman? It’s been years. Let bygones
be bygones.” Again, Shadow was silent.
“Mister,” Locke spoke up in a careless voice, “we don’t give a fig about your
‘bygones’ with Shadow. All we want is our friend. Tell us where she is or...” He
lifted his blades with a smile. “Or face the consequences.”
“You have the nerve to threaten me in my house,” Ledo asked in an angry
voice. “You should quake in your shoes at the sight of me, little man!”
Locke’s cold gray eyes looked the man up and down before he adjusted his
grip. “Sure, at first glance you’d curdle cream, but I can assure you we’ve seen
worse. Beaten them too. My friends and me will give you one more chance. Terra.
Where is she?”
There was a bright flash, several shouts as the group’s eyes reacted
violently to the sudden change, and then all was dark silence.
Locke sheathed his blades with a sharp motion and put his fists on his hips.
“What a freakin’ pansy! I was looking forward to poppin’ the guy once or
Shadow was still cautious, but his stance relaxed somewhat. “Ledo is a
techno-mage. He has never failed to see the importance of a well-timed retreat.”
The ninja knelt where Ledo had stood and touched the ground with a few fingers,
then his palm. Edgar and Locke came to where he was while Setzer hung back.
“What is it, Shadow?” Edgar sounded as if he were wary of the answer. “What’s
“He was never here.” Shadow straightened, his eyes searching the dim hallway
as his sensitive senses tested the air.
Locke slapped his leg with his cap. “I thought so,” he mumbled.
“Locke?” Edgar asked the question with a raised eyebrow.
“I don’t know how to explain it. After I got over the initial shock of the
guy’s ugly face, something wasn’t right.” Locke shrugged. “I don’t know what it
was. Maybe it was the way the shadows flickered on his armor or something. It’s
an instinct, Edgar. That’s what I get for how I’ve lived my entire life. A sixth
“It would have been nice if you’d let us on to it before challenging him in
our name, my friend,” Setzer told him. “There are still many women I have yet to
make love to.”
Locke actually smiled. “Hey, Setzer, I’m not exactly in a big rush to check
out either, you know. Celes would kill me if I missed our wedding.”
Edgar had been watching Shadow as he examined the foreign technology in the
room and didn’t like the look on his face. When the ninja was in the far corner,
Edgar left Setzer and Locke to their jovial discussion and followed him.
“Shadow, is this techno-mage responsible for the kidnapping of Terra’s
children and her own strange behavior? Or even of that purplescent glow we saw
on the roof?”
Shadow paused his examination of some strange wires and pierced Edgar’s eyes
with his own. “Ledo is capable of much, Edgar. He seeks power and will do all
possible to receive this power.”
Edgar knelt down and continued to hold the ninja’s gaze. “But Terra and her
“We have not actually seen proof of the children’s disappearance,” Shadow
reminded, “and Terra was much feared and hated by the Empire. He who controls
her, controls much power.”
“The Empire no longer exists and her power left her with the disappearance of
magic.” Shadow turned away and didn’t respond. Edgar took in a deep breath and
nodded. “All right, Shadow. All right. I understand. Rebel forces always exist,
whether evil or good. Unfortunately, it’s a fact of life. One cannot have good
without the presence of evil. As for the reality behind the lust for her
power... Terra’s Esper power was never understood. Who are we to say it still
doe not lay dormant? Hidden for safekeeping until it was once again needed.”
Shadow stood. “These wires lead upstairs,” he observed.
“Then let’s go.” Edgar returned to the others and tried to keep thoughts of
Terra well hidden.
Terra cowered in a corner of a dingy room, her nose burning at the stench as
she dropped her head between her knees. Her arms tightened around them and she
stifled the sobs. Memories hit her like bombs of light. Memories she had buried
long ago. Terra felt herself slipping beneath them. Losing her identity in the
bombardment of images from her time with the Empire.
Droning tones of people telling her how to make every blow count.
Mysterious voices filled with hate accusing her of murder and acts too
numbing to recall, even now.
Times on the battlefield defeating yet another hopeless cause.
The charred bodies and spilled blood of innocent soldiers at her hand.
Thousands mutilated and tortured at the simple request of a mad man.
Screaming children crying in the darkness of her mind. For their parents long
dead. For their homes long since burned.
The memory that hurt her the most, however, was the one of Edgar.
What is wrong with you, he had snarled and his eyes had held such anger. ‘But
why wouldn’t he listen to me? Why did he keep accusing me of things I didn’t
do?’ She had desperately tried to hold back the tears, but she hadn’t been that
strong. They had come and Edgar had launched a fresh attack. ‘No more “Terra
what’s wrong?” No more “Terra, don’t cry.” Stop expecting me to baby you all the
time!’ He had yelled at her. And he had said so many things, the others just
staring at her in silence as if they agreed. ‘What went wrong? What happened to
the Edgar I knew before...’
Her kids were gone.
Her friends no longer cared.
Terra wanted to die.
She moaned, the pain beginning again. Throbbing, streaks of fire and ice.
Bright light. Voices. Pain. Terra gripped her head in her hands and screamed,
her lungs and throat burning with the intensity of it. Even the crumbling walls
seemed to shake with the vibration of the agony.
Terra screeched, but the pain went on, growing in fury as she attempted to
fight it. The voices didn’t stop. The volume grew and Terra fell to her side,
tucking her knees to her chin as her hands tightened their grip on her head.
Voices. Whispers. Screams. Laughter... Terra screeched and screamed until her
throat was raw and bloody.
She blacked out.
Edgar looked up sharply, his eyes narrowing. “What on earth is that?”
Locke and Setzer exchanged a glance, but Shadow examined Edgar’s face and
began to listen.
“What’s what?” Locke asked. “I don’t hear anything.”
Edgar continued to listen and his face went pale. “It’s Terra.” He turned to
the others and his eyes were desperate. “We must find her,” Edgar insisted.
“They’re torturing her!”
“What?” Locke listened again. “I don’t hear anything, Edgar.”
“You can’t hear that?” Edgar gestured wildly behind him at the
ascending stairs. “Locke, she’s screeching loud enough to wake the dead!”
“No, I can’t hear it,” Locke said again. “Where’s it coming from?”
Edgar looked a little green by now as he looked around the building. “I don’t
know... It’s all around---” He broke off and his eyes glossed over with terror.
Locke cringed. “I hope she’s okay.”
“What now,” Setzer asked softly.
Shadow stepped forward, his gloved hand resting on the massive head of the
beast he called Interceptor. The dog’s black hair was bristling and the growl
that rumbled deep in his chest was threatening.
“Interceptor has found something.”
“Don’t stand there, man,” Edgar said harshly. He gestured at the stairs
behind him. “Where is she?”
“There is a trail leading out of Zozo---”
“No,” Edgar cut in. “I heard Terra here. In Zozo. I shall not leave to wander
after some mysterious trail!”
“Edgar,” Locke reasoned with hands outstretched, “we don’t know that she’s
even still here. We can’t search each building hoping we’ll trip onto something.
This is the best lead we’ve had all day!”
Edgar strode up to Locke with such a look of rage on his face that Locke
actually took a step back. The treasure hunter, in all the years he had known
King Edgar of Figaro, had never seen him like this. ‘Well I’ll be,’ he thought
suddenly, ‘he really does love her, doesn’t he?’ And that shocked him. How many
times had Edgar told him of his most recent conquest, all the while chuckling at
the naïveté of the woman when she believed his ‘I care for you’ line.
“Cole, it doesn’t matter to me if this is the only lead we receive,” Edgar
was saying. His tone was a harsh whisper. “I shall not leave Zozo without her.
Leave me by myself, it won’t matter. I’m bringing her out alive and in one
“We can’t leave you in a place like this on your own! That’s a suicide
“So you would leave Terra?”
“I didn’t say that,” Locke protested harshly. “Don’t twist my words.”
“Then you better say what you mean, Cole, and quickly for I’m leaving with or
Locke glanced over at Setzer, who shrugged and turned away, and then changed
his eyes to Shadow and Interceptor. Shadow seemed withdrawn, even more so than
usual, and that made Locke uneasy. “What do you say Shadow? It’s your dog. Do
you think the trail is bogus or the real deal?”
Interceptor grumbled and sat on his haunches as he licked his chops, his
black eyes pinning Locke’s gray ones.
“It is real,” Shadow said.
“Will it still be there, say, in an hour’s time?”
“That I cannot say, but to risk it could mean losing the trail
Locke nodded absently and turned back to Edgar.
“You know I cannot leave her,” Edgar said. He was more controlled and the
hands gripping his spear were the only indication of his struggle. “I must find
her, Locke. I must.”
“Yeah,” Locke agreed reluctantly and reached out his hand. “Yeah, I
Edgar took hold of Locke’s outstretched hand. “I have cheated death many a
time, Locke Cole. Do not be sure you have seen the last of me yet.”
Edgar turned away and ascended the stairs, his cape fluttering in the breeze
giving him a melodramatic appearance. When he disappeared around the corner at
the top of the staircase, Locke finally turned away.
“Smug old scratch,” he mumbled.
Setzer chuckled and followed as Locke led the group back out into the rainy
afternoon. When Shadow took the lead, Locke glanced over his shoulder at the
building once more before following them. Locke clenched his jaw. ‘Good luck, my
“She’s rejecting it. I told you this would happen!”
“She is rejecting nothing. Be patient and have faith. Her body is adjusting.
It takes time.”
“We don’t have time!”
“Procedures such as this cannot be rushed. She is a unique specimen and must
be handled accordingly.”
“Unique specimen....” The voice grumbled.
“Have I failed you thus far?” Silence. “Then leave her to me.”
Blood trickled from Terra’s ears and she awoke with a groan. The pain had
faded, but she could feel it waiting, perched at the outer edge of her brain
biding it’s time. Patiently gauging the appropriate instance to renew it’s
presence and power. Terra stared vacantly at her hands, unbound, and numbly
wondered why she didn’t flee. ‘Flee? Am I in danger?’ She wasn’t sure. She
wasn’t sure of anything. Disjointed images, blurred memories, and jumbled
emotions were the only thoughts that greeted Terra. The effort required to make
sense of them caused a muted throbbing behind her eyes.
Terra struggled to her feet, leaning almost her entire weight against the
moldy brick wall. Rats scurried from under her and she moaned again, the sound
of rushing blood all she could hear. ‘Where... Where am I?’ She tried to
remember and the pulsating in her brain stopped her. It hurt too much. ‘I need
to get out of here...’ However, she suddenly didn’t know why. When she had first
awoken, there had been an underlying sense of fear and desperation. Now it was
replaced by a strange sort of calm. Peace. Belonging. Terra rubbed at her
forehead with a frown of mild confusion. Something wasn’t right. She felt
disconnected and numb for brief moments and then a drug-like feeling of peace
Something warm trickled down her jaw and she rubbed at it with a cringe. When
she pulled her hand away from her face, it was smeared with blood. She wiped the
liquid on her leggings with an absent motion and took a few steps forward. A
strange longing to be outside kept pulling her forward. ‘Outside. I must get
outside. Everything will be alright once I am outside... Fly.’ The thought
struck her as familiar, and yet it seemed odd. ‘I can’t fly in a building,’ she
finally reasoned. ‘I would hurt myself---’
Pain seared through every corner of her brain and Terra screeched in terror,
her hands grabbing fistfuls of matted hair as she collapsed to the floor. Sewer
rats clambered up and over her, sniffing, scratching, and biting at her, but she
could only feel the burning in her head. The melting... The boiling... The
agony... She screamed again and the rats scurried away when she began to
Then was still.
“Ledo, what have you done?!” A voice screeched. “You’ve killed her! What good
is she to me dead?”
Ledo turned from the massive array of machinery and crystals with a dangerous
gleam in his black eyes. “Terra Branford is an Esper, you fool. Espers do not
The short, fat, balding man pointed a chubby finger at the glass tubes that
held moving pictures of the cells in Zozo. “What did I just see then?” He
pointed at more glass tubes and then wagged his finger in Ledo’s face. “Even
your precious demon-machines say she’s dead,” he snapped. “You failed and you’re
through in this ‘industry’ of yours. You’ll never---”
Ledo struck out with a gargantuan hand, blue-white sparks leaping from his
gloved fingers to the fat man’s chest. The man fell back, his eyes permanently
open in a shocked gaze of death as Ledo turned away.
Edgar rounded the corner and flinched at the repulsive odor that nearly made
his toenails curl. He coughed a couple times, brought a kerchief up to his nose
and mouth, and then fumbled around in his pockets for a match. ‘Blast! Never a
light when you need one---’ His foot rubbed against something and he knelt down
to touch it as he squinted in the blackness. It was cold to the touch and Edgar
shook his head. ‘Another body,’ he told himself as he straightened. Edgar had
found three already: two men and one woman. All of them had held such an
expression of agony on their faces that it had nearly turned his stomach.
Edgar turned and left the room, closing the rickety door softly behind him
with a sigh. ‘Poor soul. To die in a place like that...’ He hoped he wouldn’t
find Terra in such a position and his mind steered away from the possibility.
But Terra persisted in fluttering in and out of his mind like a determined
butterfly. Teasing him with memories of touches and laughter that he dreamed
meant more than they probably had. Then there was the strange reaction he had
felt toward her while on their way to Zozo. Feelings could not disappear in less
than an hour, that he knew, but he also knew that his reaction couldn’t be
logically reasoned away. It was frustrating and did nothing to alleviate his
growing rage. Terra wasn’t to blame, but someone was and they were going to pay
with their life.
There was a slight scratching to Edgar’s right and he turned sharply, his
spearhead instinctively poised at the point of origin. It was a door. The
scratching sounded again and Edgar stepped closer, lifting the bar across the
door with his spear. It dropped away and the door swung open, the hinges
screeching in protest. Edgar rushed forward, dropping his spear and chain saw
with an exclamation as he knelt down by the bloody figure of a young woman. He
pulled her into his lap and wiped the blood from her face and eyes as well as he
could. Her opened eyes didn’t react to the movement and Edgar dug in his pocket
for everything he owned. Potions, Eye Drops, Antidotes, Echo Screens, and many
Edgar carefully measured two drops of the eye salve into her eyes and watched
as they began to track motion and sound. He sighed, but didn’t dare let himself
relax. Instead, he popped the cork from the potion and gently lifted her higher
to ladle the honey-like mixture of herbs and roots into her mouth. Minutes
passed and he continued his gentle ministration of the potion, keeping his eagle
eyes on her staggered breathing that rattled in his ears and on the ghostly
whiteness of her clammy skin.
“Come on, Terra,” he whispered close to her ear. “Fight this thing. Fight it
like I know you can.” He gently massaged the liquid down her throat with a
finger lightly stroking her neck and paused long enough to wrap his cloak around
her when her light tremors began to worsen. “I will not leave you,” he promised
softly. Edgar ladled more of the potion into her mouth and caressed her cracked
lips with a finger. “I will not leave you ever again, Terra. You have my
When the last of the potion had finally trickled down her throat, and her
breathing had become less of a struggle, Edgar carefully lifted her into his
arms and stood. ‘If there is a God in charge of this detestable planet we live
on, then let me get out of this hell-hole without a problem.’ He didn’t think it
was too much to ask, but then again, what did he know of God and His time
schedule. Edgar pressed his lips together and stepped into the hall, not caring
that his spear and chain saw were still lying on the bloody cell floor.
He would be hanged if he let anyone stop him from leaving Zozo.
An odd sound gurgled in Terra’s throat and Edgar looked down at her pasty
white face. The healing effect of the potion wasn’t working on her internal
bleeding. She needed an alchemist or someone more knowledgeable than he, at
least. Edgar was at a loss as to what to do to keep her from drowning in her own
blood and that feeling of helplessness quickened his step.
“Where are you off to in such a hurry, mister?”
Edgar halted mid-step, his jaw tightening. “That is none of your affair.”
“Well, well. Ain’t we the King of Figaro with your high-falootin’ way of
Edgar didn’t turn, nor did he think it wise to own up to how close the
hoodlum was to the truth.
“Ain’t you a pretty sight,” the man sneered. “I’m thinkin’ I want me some of
those pretty clothes of yours.”
Edgar gently laid Terra on the floor and shrugged out of his deep purple
cape, his richly embroidered vest and jacket, and took off the gem-encrusted
cufflinks on his white silk shirt. He put them in a heap beside him, still
without turning, and then lift Terra into his arms once more.
“Well I’ll be,” the Zozoian cooed. “That was easier than guttin’ a stuck
“If that is all...”
“Now don’t be in such a rush there, mister. I sure could use a new pair of
Edgar finally sent a look over his shoulder at the haggard, half-starved
ruffian and raised an eyebrow. “If you keep me one more moment, I shall give you
a boot directly in your ass, you swine. I have given you more than you deserve
and I shall take it back if you ask for more.”
The Zozoian was so shocked at that response that Edgar was able to exit the
building before he was even able to stutter out a reply. Edgar listened for his
footsteps and let out a thankful breath when there were none. ‘Now for the final
walk through Main Street,’ Edgar muttered to himself. He knew that he didn’t
have enough to bribe the entire city and, unless he found a weapon on his way
out of town, he was defenseless as well. ‘I’m a fool for leaving behind my
spear.’ But he knew that he wouldn’t have been able to carry Terra and the
Terra moaned and began to thrash. Edgar increased his grip on her as he
continued to stumble forward.
“Do be still,” he mumbled. She proceeded to unknowingly hit him on the side
of the face and neck. “Stop it, woman. You’ll hurt yourself more than you have
Terra groaned and whimpered, her arms still flailing while her upper and
lower body twisted and writhed against Edgar’s grip. He stumbled to a halt,
barely 100 yards from the exit of Zozo, and desperately attempted to adjust his
“Terra, if you don’t quiet down we’re going to have a lot of unwelcome
visitors.” She cried out and arched her back, her arms and legs suddenly going
rigid. Edgar staggered to keep his balance under the sudden change. “What is
it,” he asked as he slowly knelt.
Her eyes drifted wildly, not focusing on anything, and her body remained
stiffly arched. Edgar repositioned her in his arms, his eyes continuing to
search for danger in the surrounding buildings, and gently began rocking her
back and forth. He pressed his lips against her forehead. ‘What do I do? Is she
dying? Is she still under the influence of that blasted craziness? Is it me? Is
it Zozo?’ Edgar couldn’t keep up with the questions and they were beginning to
make him feel an odd sense of paranoia. An urge to flee and leave Terra to the
mercy of the residents nearly overwhelmed him.
“No,” he snapped. “I will not leave her.”
Edgar stared down at her contorted, pale face and pressed his lips together
as he pulled his arms out from under her. He took a firm and gentle hold of her
face, took in a slow, deep breath, and lowered his head to press his lips
against hers. There was nothing. No response. No spark. No emotion. Edgar
continued to kiss her in the only way he knew how. Passionately. Thoroughly. He
kissed her the way he had dreamed of kissing her for so many months. Her lips
were cold, unyielding, but he pressed on. His mouth became more coaxing as he
desperately attempted to persuade the Terra he loved to come back to him.
Her body remained rigid, her back arched in protest. He used it the only way
he knew how. Edgar wrapped his arms around her and pressed her closer against
him until he could feel the steady beat of her heart against his chest.
Then it happened. Her lips began to move against his.
Sparks burst behind Edgar’s eyes and his lips turned to fire, the molten
passion running a trail of ecstasy through his entire body as her response
continued to grow. ‘She’s back,’ his brain shouted. ‘Terra’s back!’ Her arms
wrapped themselves around his neck as her fingers buried themselves in his hair.
Edgar’s scalp tingled as his mouth trailed down her neck. He pulled her so tight
against him that she cried out in pain.
“Thank God,” he said against her neck in a strangled voice. Terra began to
sob and he scooped her up into his arms, holding her against him as he strode
“Edgar,” she sobbed in a rough voice. “Edgar, where am I? What’s going on---”
She broke off with a shudder and Edgar picked up speed. “It hurts... My head is
on fire, Edgar...” Terra breathed in sharply and shuddered so hard Edgar’s teeth
were nearly jolted from his head.
“Hold on,” he whispered between deep puffs. “Hold on, Terra. We’re almost out
“Why is this h-happening? Wh-why me?” She convulsed, throwing Edgar
off-balance for a moment, and a sharp cry was ripped from Terra’s throat.
“I’m sorry,” he said through clenched teeth as he regained his footing. “Did
I hurt you?”
“N-no. It’s m-my---”
Terra broke off with a strangled scream as she began to claw at her face and
ears. Panic made Edgar’s heart skip a beat and he began to run toward the exit
of the dark city, her wails of agony ringing in his ears. When she went limp in
his arms, Edgar could feel the blood drain from his face.
“Terra?” She didn’t stir and when he jostled her slightly, her head and arms
fell back with no resistance. “Terra? Terra, do you hear me?” His voice sounded
panicky and his mind somehow forced himself to continue forward. “No,” he said
sharply as his eyes drifted to her body again and again. “Don’t you die on me,
Terra Branford. Not now, blast it all! Not now!”
Locke looked over his shoulder, again, and shook his head with a deep breath.
The group was headed for Jidoor, much to Locke’s surprise, and had left the
airship at Zozo for Edgar. Setzer hadn’t been too thrilled with the idea of
leaving it, but had given in to the common sense of the situation. After all,
Interceptor was a miraculous beast, but he couldn’t follow a trail that was on
the ground when he was in the air. Not only that, Locke had wanted to leave
Edgar a quick way to Figaro Castle in case Terra was hurt or dying.
“Cole, what’s wrong,” Setzer asked. “You’ve been silent and distant the
“I don’t like leaving them.”
“I can assure you that the rest of us don’t like it either. We didn’t have a
Interceptor grumbled at Shadow about the noise and Shadow stroked the beast’s
head. “The trail is stronger. Prepare yourself for the unexpected,” he
“If it’s unexpected,” Setzer countered, “how are we supposed to prepare
ourselves. That’s what I’d like to know.”
Shadow ignored him.
“Are you sure this is the place?” Interceptor sent Locke a dirty look and he
raised his hands. “No offense. It’s just that we came here first and Terra was
positive the guy wasn’t here.”
Shadow glanced at Locke sharply. “Terra?”
Locke examined Shadow’s eyes before answering. “Yeah. She took one look at
the place and said it was too quiet for anything to have happened recently. She
also brought up a good point: why would the slaver bring his business there when
they don’t use slaves.”
Shadow refocused his haunted eyes on the town of Jidoor. “Ledo is no slaver,
Locke Cole. His one desire is power and that is what he wishes to receive from
“But what about her kids?”
“They are still at home.”
“What?” Locke turned Shadow around with a hand on his arm. “What are you
“I suspect the urgency of her children’s disappearance was a ploy to lure her
from the safety of her home.”
“Are you telling me Terra wouldn’t notice her kids still at home before
leaving to get us?” Locke asked doubtfully.
“If Ledo is involved, many things will not be as they appear. He is an expert
“So you’ve said.”
Setzer came up to the two and gave them an incredulous stare. “Are you
hinting at ‘brain-washing’?”
Shadow turned and began walking for Jidoor once again. “I mean
Locke and Setzer exchanged a glance and then hurried after him.
“Mind-control? Are you crazy? How? When could he have gotten to her?” Locke
made a move to grab Shadow’s arm, but he turned sharply, a dagger at the ready
as Interceptor growled with a snap of his teeth. Locke backed off with raised
hands and shocked gray eyes. “Easy, Shadow. Easy.”
“Do not doubt my words and knowledge so easily, Locke Cole,” he said in tight
tones. “I know this demon Ledo, and I know what he is capable of. I know he was
once an Imperial dog who would have sold his own nation’s soul to Hades for
power. I know that Technology is his mistress and he is fully aware of what it
can do. I know that he can toy with a person’s mind using tools we cannot
understand and thinks nothing of killing children and babies. I know all these
things and more.”
Locke examined Shadow’s face as he lowered the dagger. “This woman Ledo
Shadow turned away without an answer and Locke sent Setzer a look. The ninja
had always been a mystery to everyone in the large group of friends, and no one
had ever known how to talk to him about his past. No one had really thought
about it much, either.
“What do you think,” Setzer asked nonchalant. “Should we ask for an
explanation now or later?”
“Either time would be a risk to our lives,” Locke said. “He’s like that and
you know it.”
“We need answers, Cole, and you know that. Stumbling along blindly is not my
idea of a well-thought-of plan. Neither is trusting Shadow’s twisted sense of
justice.” Setzer gestured after the ninja and his eyes narrowed. “This whole
thing stinks to high heaven. You know it. I know it. Hell, Interceptor even
knows it! We can’t fight as a team if we don’t act like one.”
Locke gave Setzer a helpless look. “Don’t you think I know that? What do you
want to do, Setzer? Shadow isn’t a force to be reckoned with.”
Setzer turned to stride after Shadow. “Don’t be too sure,” he tossed over his
Locke stared after the gambler in surprise before following. “What do you
mean by that?”
“I guess you don’t find it the least bit strange that good old Shadow took
time out of his busy schedule to track Terra down by himself?” Locke remained
silent and Setzer continued. “Sure, he said Interceptor smelled trouble, but
wouldn’t they have needed to be at Terra’s home in the first place in order for
the beast to smell at all? Wouldn’t that explain him knowing the kids are
Locke watched the ninja and his dog as they carefully examined a shack
outside of Jidoor. “Go on.”
“Didn’t you notice Shadow’s change of mood when he suggested we leave Zozo to
follow this trail? That man cares what happens to her just like the rest of
“So?” Setzer was shocked. “So? What are you, Cole, a blasted ignoramus or
something? If he has a weakness for Terra, that means that we may be able to get
the guy to see he’s not doing her any favors by keeping the information a
mystery. He’ll start talking.”
Locke shrugged. “I doubt it, but, sure, why not.”
The two strode up to the dark pair and Interceptor bared his teeth. Shadow
didn’t even pass them a glance.
“Shadow,” Setzer began, “if you know so much, why are you keeping it to
yourself? Teamwork is needed to beat this guy and, right now, we have anything
Shadow sent them one of his infamous guarded looks and Locke picked up where
Setzer dropped off.
“We respect your obsessive desire for privacy, but Terra’s life is at stake
here. How do you expect to save her by yourself---”
“I have defeated Ledo before,” he said coolly.
Setzer and Locke let out an exasperated breath.
“Well, he’s back again, isn’t he?” Locke said. Interceptor snapped at him.
“Stay out of this,” Locke ordered. He turned back to Shadow. “So you’ve got a
score to settle. So it’s a pride issue. Join the club, Shadow. Terra is our
friend and this blasted techno-freak got to her through us. You can’t get all
the vengeance. Give us some information, Shadow. Trust us for once in your
Shadow faced the two men with a cold stare, his presence distanced from them
though he stepped closer. A chilled breeze ruffled a gloomy, dark embroidered
sash at his waist and it did nothing to relieve the feeling of doom blanketing
the group. “Do not attempt to understand that which you could not possibly
comprehend. My life is my own and it shall stay thus.” Shadow paused, barely.
“Terra is my friend, yes. This I will not deny for she has risked her life for
mine many times, as I have done for her. Now I do this for that honor she has
shown me. For the compassion she has given. For the welcome she has
“Let us help, Shadow,” Locke pressed. “We agree with every thing you just
said, so quit making us stumble around in the dark! Give us a clue!” Shadow
pulled out a dagger and turned, slicing several snake-like wires that trailed
from the side of the shack to a mansion on the outskirts of Jidoor. Locke sighed
with clenched teeth and glared over at Setzer when Shadow headed toward town.
“Now what?” Setzer only shrugged. “Oh, you’re a big help. It was your idea in
the first place.”
“I never said it would work. Shadow exists. Period. No one knows anything
about him and he never offers any inside information.”
“But what about that Relm connection we always wondered about?”
Setzer shrugged again. “Who knows? We can’t ask her because she’d have been
too young to remember anything. We can’t ask Strago because he never gives us a
straight answer. And we certainly can’t ask Shadow because... Well, because he
just doesn’t talk about it. We’ve just got to go with the flow, Cole. There’s no
“That doesn’t help. Not a bit.”
“I never said it would.”
Locke shook his head and strode toward Jidoor with a glare. “If he doesn’t
start giving us a clue as to what the plan is, I’m going to kill him
“Setzer thinks Locke is crazy.”
“Right now, I don’t care what you think,” Locke said. “If he wants to save
Terra so bad he can trust us with some info. You see him doing that?”
“You never know, Cole, he may be doing just that in his own way.”
Locke let out an exasperated breath. “Yeah. Yeah, I know. It just pisses me
off to know that he doesn’t trust us after all we’ve been through.”
“For someone like Shadow, trust is a hard thing to earn. Or give.” Setzer
paused and squinted in the distance. “What the---”
Locke looked up and followed Setzer’s gaze. An eerie glow of gloomy purple
radiated from one of the houses. “That’s not good. It’s the same light that was
“Did you notice it here before?”
Locke shook his head. “No. No, I didn’t. Do you think it could have been here
when... you know. When Terra said the guy wasn’t here? Do you think that same
light had something to do with this mind-control Shadow was talking about?”
Setzer nodded slowly. “I think it does. Coincidences such as this just don’t
happen. Not to me.”
They entered Jidoor at the back and caught sight of Shadow gesturing to them
from behind another small shack similar to the one outside the city. They rushed
over to him and skidded to a halt at the smiling faces that greeted them.
“Sabin! Celes!” Locke’s face broke out in a grin. “What are you doing
“We came to help.” Sabin stated the obvious in his usual get-down-to-business
way and gestured to Celes. “She got your note and had some pretty good ideas of
what to do.”
“Locke,” Celes said carefully. “Locke, Terra’s kids are still at home.”
“Yeah, so Shadow just told us,” Locke said somberly. “And when we saw the
purple light outside... Well, we think we know why Terra was so sure this wasn’t
the place now. Someone put the thought in her head.”
“Just like the thought about her kids being missing?” Sabin asked the
question with a nod. “It makes sense. We don’t really know what they did to her
while she was with the Empire.”
“Well...” Celes dropped her eyes. “I have an idea.”
Setzer smirked. “Why does this not surprise me?”
Celes stepped forward suddenly and pulled Locke aside as Sabin went into
further details of how the duo had tracked them to Jidoor. “Locke, don’t leave
me behind when something like this comes up. Okay? I’m anything but a helpless
woman, and I think I deserve to be included. Besides, Terra is my friend
Locke flushed with embarrassment and glanced over his shoulder to see if the
others were hearing their conversation. “Sorry, princess. I lost my head.”
Celes smiled and caressed his cheek. “I’m not mad. I was a little annoyed,
but the fact you sent me a note helped me get over that fast enough. You never
thought you’d be doing that, I bet.”
“Checking in with the ‘misses’ before running off on some glorious
Locke chuckled and planted a kiss on her upturned lips before grabbing her
hand and leading her back to the group. “Hey, you’re not the old battle-axe yet.
Besides, there’s nothing wrong with that. And the benefits are worth the
It was Celes’ turn to flush and she smacked him upside the head. “Not in
front of everyone, Locke.”
Setzer chuckled and shook his head. “Now that the lovers are reunited, can we
get back to the business at hand?”
Shadow knelt and sketched a rough outline of the city of Jidoor, as well as
the shack positioned on the outside of the city. “The lines from this shack run
to this house here.” He drew an ‘x’ on a square that represented the building
across from them and then placed his palm on the shack they were using as cover.
“This shack holds a power source, as well as the connecting lines from an
additional power source in the shack outside Jidoor to Ledo’s house there.”
Shadow gestured to the same house.
“Power source,” Sabin repeated. “What power source? Like in Narshe?”
“No. Not steam,” Shadow said.
Locke looked over at Celes and noticed her faraway expression. “What’s
Celes faded back into the conversation with a start. “Hmm? Oh. I’m sorry. I
“You mention a power source, but the only ones we’ve ever seen have taken up
rooms. Like the generator for the engine of Figaro Castle. Or the multiple
steam-generators in Narshe.”
Celes looked over at Setzer. “You have an ear for news, Setzer. Don’t you
remember hearing about some new type of power they’d been using in Vector?
Something that took up less space than what had ever been done before.”
Setzer frowned and stroked his chin. “Now that you mention it, I do recall
something about that. What did they call it... Some kind of new liquid
Celes nodded and then looked down at Shadow. “If this is the power source,
then we’ve got to make sure we know who we’re dealing with. Only the Empire knew
about this new fuel and I’m talking the high-ranking officials like Kefka, Leo,
“And you,” Sabin reminded with a smile.
Celes grinned. “I kept my ears open. One never knew when their usefulness
would be up in the Empire.”
Shadow continued to stare down at his rough map. “I know who we are coming
against,” he said darkly. “Ledo is the inventor of this new power.”
“I didn’t think any of the Imperialists survived,” Celes stated.
“Ledo survives all things.” Shadow’s voice was different from it’s usual calm
detachment. “Fire, disease, famine, disasters. Evil survives evil.”
“Do stop being such a doomsayer, Shadow,” Setzer complained. “Just get on
“I cut his main power source.”
“So we noticed,” Locke said.
“One of you must remain outside, ready to cut his final power as a
“Diversion. Good idea. Who’s going to stay,” Sabin asked slowly.
Locke looked at Celes and she scowled at him. “Don’t even think of asking me,
Locke Cole. I’ve already missed out on the trip to Zozo.”
“Celes, it’s going to be dangerous---”
“Of course it’s going to be dangerous. That’s why I’m going. I was a general
in the Imperial army, you know. I can handle myself and any others that get in
my way. The last thing I need is an overzealous man telling me when it’s too
dangerous for me to do what I do best.”
Setzer and Sabin chuckled under their breath.
“But you can’t use magic---” Locke began.
“Is that the best you can do?” Celes’ face hardened and she put her fists on
her hips. “Locke Cole, I was a soldier first and foremost. Just because I can’t
use magic now, doesn’t mean I’ve forgotten how to swing a sword. I’m going and
that’s the end of it.”
Setzer put a hand on each of their shoulders. “Locke, you better stop
protesting or she’s liable to leave you at the altar. And you...” He looked at
Celes with a wide smile. “You should appreciate his concern. You mean much to
him, Celes, and he is only protecting that which he loves.”
Celes smiled mischievously. “Setzer, for a lady’s man you certainly don’t
know much about women.” Setzer raised an eyebrow and she continued in a lower
tone as she leaned toward him. “Locke and I enjoy the make-up after a...
Sabin threw back his head and laughed, slapping Setzer on the back who only
shook his head with a chuckle. Shadow sent Sabin a hard look, which made him
quiet down, and Locke shrugged Setzer’s arm from his shoulder.
“Fine. Fine. You can go. Setzer can stay behind since he thinks he knows so
“It will be my pleasure,” Setzer said between chuckles.
When Edgar cleared Zozo, he immediately knelt on the ground and set Terra
down. He bent over her, placing an ear close to her mouth to listen for
breathing as he watched for the rise and fall of her chest. There was nothing.
Edgar clenched his jaw and tilted her head back, then pinched off her nose and
covered her mouth with his. Once. Twice he breathed air into her lungs. Then he
watched for the rise and fall of her chest once more before beginning again.
Edgar could feel the beat of her heart through the fingers on her throat, but
she wasn’t breathing.
“Come on, Terra,” he whispered as he again bent close to her mouth. “Don’t
let this devil win. Come on.”
Edgar tried to ignore the rising panic, but with each passing moment it
became more difficult. Especially when he noticed the bleeding from her ears and
nose. ‘Blast. What did that man do to you?’ Again and again he breathed air into
her lungs with no response from her. Edgar didn’t know what else to do. He
couldn’t let her die. He couldn’t give up and let her slip away from him. There
was still no reaction and Edgar pulled her into his arms to rock her back and
forth, his eyes tightly closed.
“No,” he said harshly. “No, Terra, do not die. Do not leave me alone again.
Not now. Not when I have not yet told you I love you.” He struggled to his feet,
determination hurrying his steps toward the airship. When he boarded, he paused
in shock for the briefest moment before placing Terra beside the wheel.
The Doma swordsman straightened with a grim look at Terra. “Does she
“Her heart’s beating, yet she doesn’t breathe.”
Cyan knelt beside her and placed his fingers on her throat. “Hurry, sir. Time
is of great import. Fly us to Kohlingen, the home of the alchemist.”
“The one who assisted Locke with Rachel?”
Cyan nodded and gently positioned Terra on her side before carefully prying
her mouth open, two fingers disappearing inside. “The very one. Be quick,
highness. Her life is dependent upon your speed.”
Shadow led the three around the back of the house and knelt, touching the
ground with his fingers as Interceptor searched the path ahead. The ninja
searched the area with his eyes and then pointed at a small object with a red
“A trap. Break the connection and a silent alarm sounds.”
“Does that mean we can’t get in this way?”
He shook his head to Celes’ whispered question and made a sign at Interceptor
who looked up, watched Shadow a moment, and then disappeared around the far side
of the house.
“Where’s he going?” Locke asked.
“He has a job to do. As for this simple trap, step over it. This is only for
catching those who do not pay attention.”
Locke, Celes, and Sabin stepped over the red light without a problem and
proceeded to wait as Shadow searched the remaining distance to the door before
“Do you think Ledo knows we’re here?” Locke asked.
Shadow didn’t answer. He traced the frame of the door with his fingers before
tapping a section twice. He removed a dagger from a hidden sheath on the back of
his neck and drove the blade into the center of the section, then cut a deep
gash to the floor. The trio watched Shadow’s ritual in amazement, then shook
their heads when he opened the door and stepped inside.
“What was that all about?” Locke asked.
Again, Shadow didn’t answer. Locke made an angry noise as Sabin passed them
to follow Shadow and Celes placed a hand on Locke’s arm. She sent him an
understanding glance when his angry eyes focused on hers. He examined her face,
nodded with a deep breath, and then followed Sabin as Shadow led them further
into the house. There was a strange and soft humming that was unfamiliar to the
group and Shadow put a hand out to stop their progress.
They listened. After a moment more, Shadow knelt and began to lightly touch
the floorboards beneath their feet. The trio was careful not to move. Just as he
had on the door, he tapped a small area of the floor twice and inserted his
dagger. This time, however, he left the dagger and stood to gesture to a far
room. Locke, Celes, and Sabin followed him with hurried steps.
Machines and crystals, glass tubes and strange lights were arranged around
the room haphazardly with wire spread snake-like throughout it all. Locke went
to different areas and touched the machines with a shake of his head.
“What is this?” Sabin asked with a harsh whisper.
“It’s a laboratory,” Celes whispered in amazement. “It’s like the one I saw
in Vector. Where people were... injected.”
Locke looked at her. “What?”
“These are the same kinds of machines I saw when I escorted people to be
injected with magic from an Esper. I’m positive---”
“You are correct.”
The group turned sharply, weapons at the ready as they faced the owner of the
voice. It was Ledo.
Setzer shuffled his cards with a yawn, his eyes occasionally moving to the
house to wait for the signal. When he focused on a great black and brown beast
running toward him, he palmed three cards.
Interceptor paused with a raised eyebrow and tilted head.
“Sorry, my friend,” Setzer said with a smile. He put the cards back in the
deck. “No offense.” The massive dog jogged the remaining way toward him and
looked up at him expectantly. Setzer shook his head. “I’m working now. I can’t
follow you.” If it was possible, Interceptor looked annoyed and gave a little
growl. “I must wait for the signal and then---”
Interceptor grabbed Setzer’s leg in his strong jaws, ignoring the gambler’s
shout of surprise, and proceeded to pull him toward a house.
“I should have known I wouldn’t be rid of you so easily,” Ledo said in a lazy
voice. “Ah well. It doesn’t matter whether it is later or now. You shall be
taken care of just the same.”
Celes pressed her lips together and swiped the air with her sword. “I don’t
“Ditto,” Locke put in.
“No doubt,” Sabin agreed. “Is he crazy or something? Doesn’t he know who we
Shadow stepped forward from behind Ledo and the tall man turned to face him.
“As you can see, demon, your power has come to an end.”
Ledo chuckled, his arms crossed tightly. “So little you know of me and my
power, Shadow. Even then your mind could not handle the truth.” Ledo leaned
toward Shadow with a condescending sneer, his hard eyes pitying as they focused
on the ninja’s. “How does it feel to know you are the reason she died?”
A quietly building rage sparked from Shadow’s veiled eyes and he held Ledo’s
gaze without a cringe. Locke and Celes exchanged a wary glance and took up
better positions on either side of the techno-mage while Sabin absently clenched
and unclenched his fists, the muscles of his arms rippling.
“You better not be talking about Terra, mister, or you’re in a world of
hurt,” Sabin warned through clenched teeth.
Ledo straightened with an air of boredom as his black eyes took in Locke,
Celes, and Sabin. It even appeared that he restrained a yawn before refocusing
his attention on Shadow. “These children you spend so much time with... I often
wonder what you hope to accomplish by it.” Silence. Ledo began to slowly pace,
the sound of his footfalls echoing like hollow laughter. “I often wonder if you
are hiding from your past, Shadow. After all, it would be so easy for you
“Be quiet, demon,” Shadow shot at the tall figure. “You have been the hell to
my soul long enough. Your reign of terror has finished and I shall be
Ledo appeared genuinely amused. “Little Shadow,” he chuckled. “Still you do
not understand.” The man turned and pushed a button. “Welcome to hell.”
A glass box came to life and the group noticed an odd familiarity about it.
Or rather, with the information displayed. There was a still picture of a young
woman and then several graphs and meters that were strangely still. Another
glass box displayed a single, red word. Danger! Locke hurried to the console as
he sheathed his blades, ignoring Ledo who silently smiled on. The
treasure-hunter examined the screen and then turned to Shadow with a pale face
and haunted expression.
“It’s Terra. He’s killing her.”
“How,” Sabin asked harshly. His eyes never left Ledo’s face. “How can he be
killing her when she’s not here?”
Locke shook his head and turned back to the console with it’s many displays
and odd-shaped buttons. “I don’t know,” he growled. “I don’t know!”
“The Esper is mine, Shadow. If you wish her to die, remain. However, it will
have been you who killed---” Ledo turned in surprise and his eyes focused on
nothing. “You! What are you doing here?”
Locke and Celes exchanged a glance before he hesitantly reached out to touch
the dark figure. It flickered. “He’s not here! Again!”
Sabin examined Ledo’s face. “Then, wherever he is, someone is there with
“No,” Ledo screamed, his hands raised in defense. The figure wavered, then
vanished and the group heard the tail end of a screech from somewhere outside
Shadow gestured at the console. “Save Terra. I will find Ledo.”
“Whatever’s left of him. I think Interceptor was pissed.” Locke reluctantly
smiled, then turned back to the console. The smile disappeared. “Blast! I hate
this techno trash.”
Celes came to stand beside Locke as Shadow disappeared from the room. “I
know, babe, but you’re the only one besides Edgar who understands this.”
Locke looked over at Sabin. “You’re his brother---”
“Hey, don’t look at me. I don’t get this junk either. You’re the brains of
“I don’t know jack about this techno--”
“Locke.” Celes turned him to face her and held his gaze. “Locke, you know
many things. I know you can do this.”
He let out a deep breath and nodded as he faced the console again. “All
right, Lady Luck. Let’s do this thing right.” Locke examined the few
instructional plaques and then flipped a few switches.
“Well? What do you think?” Sabin asked the question hesitantly.
“I think...” Locke’s hand paused over an odd-colored switch highlighted by a
flashing light. “I think it’s this one.”
He pushed it.
“Well, well. What do we have here?”
Interceptor’s grip around Ledo’s throat tightened and the mage tensed as he
lay on the floor. When Interceptor had begun dragging Setzer to the small,
abandoned house on the opposite side of Jidoor, the gambler had been sure the
beast had finally lost touch with reality. Then Setzer had seen an odd
assortment of wires snaking their way along the ground, hastily hidden under
molded pieces of wood specifically designed to conceal them. Coincidences didn’t
happen to him.
Picking the lock had been easy enough, thanks to Locke’s good-natured
tutelage, and then the mystery had been solved as soon as Interceptor had dashed
through the gaping door into the technological wonderland to pin it’s owner to
the ground with a death-grip to the throat.
“Patience, my friend,” Setzer told the growling beast now. “He won’t be much
use to us dead.”
Interceptor grumbled his complaint, but relaxed his grip, barely. Ledo’s
gloved hands were held carefully away from the beast, and his eyes were wide
with terror. Setzer chuckled and came to stand by the mage, examined his dark
metal gloves, and promptly pulled them off. The gloves were connected to the
mage, however, by several thin, multi-colored wires that ran from inside his
‘armor’ to the gloves themselves. Setzer retrieved a card from his pocket, cut
the wires, and tossed the gloves away. Ledo watched every motion with glazed
“I must say that you’ve been a cunning villain,” Setzer remarked calmly. He
propped one foot up on the seat of a chair and leaned his arm on it as he stared
down at the mage’s white face. “But you do realize that it’s highly unlikely
you’ll leave here alive, of course. You see, Terra is a part of our family. A
sister to some, friend to most, but most of all a woman of quiet passion and
sincerity whom we all love in our own way.”
Ledo was silent and Interceptor adjusted his hold.
“Whether her Esper power is simply dormant and waiting to be released or lost
forever we don’t care. We love her for who she is and not what she can or cannot
do. It’s too bad that you don’t understand this for you could have saved
yourself a lot of grief.” Setzer shook his head and gestured at the high-tech
consoles, monitors, and miscellaneous objects with a barely lifted finger. “At
first, I wanted to know what you had in mind for our little woman, but you know,
I don’t really care anymore. I know you’re slime and I know you’d do it again if
we gave you half a chance. So, tell you what. You tell me why Terra is acting so
blasted crazy and how to fix it, and I’ll persuade Shadow there not to kill
Ledo’s eyes strayed to the ninja who had just appeared in the doorway and the
panic made his muscles quiver. Setzer glanced over at Shadow and watched his
eyes. A war was being waged beneath the ninja’s calm exterior and Setzer knew
there was no way for him to help. Shadow had chosen long ago to keep his past to
himself. The group had guesses and half-solved clues, but nothing to prove that
what they believed was true.
It was simply another mystery in the area of ‘Shadow’s Life’. They all knew
it was off-limits.
“Any problem with me calling off your pooch,” Setzer asked finally. Shadow
only gestured. Interceptor reluctantly released Ledo’s throat, but rested a foot
on it instead. Setzer smirked and withheld a laugh for the sake of seriousness.
“There now, wasn’t that sporting.”
Ledo’s eyes switched to Setzer. “You are all fools---”
“None of that,” Setzer cut in. “I’d say we have the upper hand at the moment.
Tell us what we want to know and we’ll let you bow out.” Setzer paused, his pale
eyes taking in Shadow’s expression. “Perhaps. The house is still out on
Ledo clenched his jaw and his gaunt face hardened with hatred. “I shall tell
Setzer nodded slowly. “I see.” He glanced at Shadow again and shrugged. “I
guess he’s all yours, Shadow.” Setzer straightened and strode lazily toward the
door. “You sure picked the wrong card, mage. Shadow here is the card of death.
He’ll get you to talk and it won’t end pretty.”
Setzer left the room just as the screeches began.
“Edgar.” Cyan placed a hand on Edgar’s shoulder. “She asks for your
Edgar turned in surprise. “She’s awake?”
Cyan nodded, his face grim. “Yes, but thou must still prepare thy heart for
the worst. Terra bleeds more than what is natural.”
“Her ears.” Cyan scowled, his hand resting on the hilt of his katana. “This
puzzles me greatly for she shows no wounds, yet the bleeding continues. I have
dressed her ears, yet I do not believe it has helped.”
Edgar relinquished the wheel of the airship to Cyan and hurried below, his
mind puzzled. Her breathing had resumed halfway to Kohlingen, but Cyan and Edgar
hadn’t been able to determine a reason. ‘I am simply glad that she is yet
alive,’ he told himself firmly. ‘Locke and Setzer will deal with the reasons
why.’ In fact, some part of Edgar knew they were responsible for her being awake
“The sleeping beauty awakes, I see,” he said with a gentle smile. Kneeling
beside her makeshift bed, he took her hand and caressed her pale cheek. “You
gave us quite a fright, my lady. I should have you clapped in irons for a month
for terrorizing me so. You showed this king no mercy.”
Terra’s unique eyes glistened with tears and her lips trembled as she
clutched his hand tighter. “I’m scared,” she whispered. “Cyan won’t say
anything, but I can see it in his face. I-I’m dying, aren’t I?”
The question hit Edgar like one of Umaro’s fists and he couldn’t suppress the
cringe fast enough. She saw it and closed her eyes, turning her head away from
“All the time I’ve wasted and now... Now what do I get? A death sentence by
the Empire that destroyed itself years ago without realizing it.” Terra sighed
and the sound resembled a whimper. “It’s not fair. All the things I’ve wanted to
Her words faded, replaced by the soft tears she still attempted to hide from
her closest friend. Edgar watched her and his soul hurt. For the first time in
his life he no longer surrendered to the easy answer or the empty words of
nonsense to comfort her. She deserved truth, integrity, and passion. She
deserved all he had never given her. ‘Is there time for that now? Would the
bittersweet emotion of a too-short romance be worth the pain of the
“Tell me what you wanted to do with your life,” he asked quietly. “Terra,
tell me your dreams.”
She wiped the tears away with a choked sigh. “Why? What’s the point?”
“Because I wish to hear them. I wish to help you fulfill them.”
Terra looked over at him and examined his face. Edgar held her gaze though he
knew his own true feelings showed. Something registered in her face and her
cheeks colored a little before she dropped her eyes to their clasped hands.
“Do you know why I didn’t visit you after the final fight with Kefka?”
Edgar’s question was hesitant and Terra peeked at him out of the corner of her
eyes before shaking her head. “I no longer knew how to talk to you.”
Terra looked him full in the face, her eyes registering surprise and
He smiled and brushed a damp tendril of hair from her face. “You had been
through so much, Terra, that I had lost the common ground on which we once
stood. You had lost your powers and I didn’t understand how to move past
Edgar stood and walked to the window that gazed down on the recovering
landscape below. “People change, but I always fought it as a rebel army fights
the Empire. I was comfortable where I was and didn’t want to take the risk. Not
even once you and I became so... such close friends. It was easier to let you
drift away than to admit I was afraid and ask you to help.” Edgar faced her and
caught her eyes. “I am sorry for that. You deserved more than what I was willing
to give you and I didn’t see that until it was too late to change it.”
“Y-you mean... You didn’t mean all those things you said?”
Edgar’s brow dropped in confusion and he came to stand over her. “Things I
said? What things?”
“You said that you were tired of me hanging all over you expecting your help.
Y-you said I was wanting you to baby me and you wanted no part of it---”
Edgar knelt down and took her hand. “I never said such things, Terra. You
said much the same to me.”
Her eyes widened. “What?”
Relief flooded through his mind and he smiled as he caressed her jaw. “It
seems we’ve been fooled.”
“Fooled? By who?”
“By a techno-mage named Ledo Grikea. I don’t know how, but I’m almost
positive that would be who is responsible.”
“When did this happen?”
Edgar kissed her cold fingers and began the story.
Cyan came below to find Terra sleeping fitfully as Edgar held her hands and
watched her twisted face. The picture was anything but pleasant and brought back
too many memories of his own past love. Life had been hard in Doma, but Elayne
and Owaine had made it easier with their smiles and laughter. How would the
young king of Figaro survive losing that which he held above all else? Would it
break him? Would life cease to hold any importance?
Edgar turned to face Cyan with a forced smile, tucking Terra’s small hands
under the coverlet before following Cyan to the outer hallway. “She’s so weak,”
Edgar said quietly. His voice was a little uneven. “I checked her ears while she
They made their way on deck. “No wound and yet so much blood. It does not
bode well.” Cyan’s voice was calm, yet forced.
“We can always hope, Cyan. I need that much, at least.”
Cyan nodded and stared down at the small village of Kohlingen. “You must wake
Edgar nodded absently and headed back for her room as Cyan ‘parked’ the
airship. ‘Don’t die, Terra,’ Edgar thought. ‘Not now. Not when I haven’t told
you how I love you.’ He needed a little more time and yet he feared her time was
“My, my,” the alchemist crooned. Edgar carried Terra into his lower
‘laboratory’ and set her on the bed. “What have we here. A pigeon with no wings?
A cloud with no wind?”
Edgar wrestled with his patience. “She’s bleeding---”
“Yes, yes. I can see that,” the alchemist laughed. “I’m not blind, you know.
Just lost my marbles a while ago. If you find them - they’re in a tidy little
box - please let me have them in a hurry. My marbles, my marbles. Tra-la-la.”
Edgar clenched his jaw as the alchemist danced around the room before calmly
beginning to examine Terra’s ears. “I’ll need to take them out if you want her
to live,” he said suddenly. “Affects her brain, it does, and we can’t have that.
A brain is a horrible thing to control, don’t you think? It must be free, not
tied and shot.”
The alchemist pointed at Edgar. “Go on! Shoo! Shoo,” he screeched.
Edgar hurried out of the room and met with Cyan upstairs. “I had forgotten
how crazy he was.”
“That he is, yet a gifted man of medicine of which Terra is in dire
Edgar nodded and sat at a chair by a rickety old table. “I need to keep my
mind off what happens below. Could you tell me what made you come to Zozo?”
Cyan crossed his arms tightly and dropped his head. “Celes, Sabin, and I
discovered numerous disquieting facts while pursuing the villainous creature,
“Why did you start looking for him in the first place? Locke said he sent
Celes a note, but there was nothing including his name or location.”
“Celes, being the seasoned professional trained by the Empire that she is,
wished to examine the origin of the heinous activities before setting out on our
exploration of the area.”
“You went to Mobliz?”
Cyan nodded grimly. “What we encountered there was unsettling because of the
urgency with which Locke had written.”
“Cyan, what are you saying.”
The seasoned fighter took in a deep breath before continuing. “The children
were participating in a rousing game of hide-and-seek with the elder boys.”
“What?” Edgar’s tone was sharp and disbelieving.
“I do not lead thee astray with my narrative, Edgar. What I have said is
“But... But Terra said that they were gone. That she’d gone to the garden and
come home to find them missing. She said that she heard a scream!”
Cyan nodded along with the telling. “Such is so. Celes allowed us to read the
note once she had perused it to the full.”
“How can this be?”
Silence settled over the room and Cyan clenched his jaw. After a moment’s
pause, he gestured to the chair across from Edgar. “May I sit?”
Cyan made himself more comfortable before speaking. “Celes is quite
knowledgeable with respect to the darker transactions of the Empire.”
“Meaning she knew of their fascination with the domination of the human
“Domination of the---” Edgar cut off abruptly. “Mind control?”
“It is as you say. We believed that their first advancement was the designing
of the Slave Crown. Of course we all appreciate Terra’s less than agreeable
emotional response toward that contraption.”
“Most assuredly. But what do you mean ‘we believed’. Are you saying that
Celes knows of something that had been developed beforehand?”
“Mind control on a different level than the Slave Crown? What happened? What
was it called? Who began the experiments? Talk man!”
Cyan took in a slow breath. “Of details Celes knows little, but she was
certain of Terra’s involvement in experimental surgeries and procedures done by
a mysterious man said to be a wizard of an unknown magic. Superstitions,
however, run deep and Celes set little store in what her counterparts had to say
on the matter. After all, how could such abominations be true? Implanting tiny
pieces of metal in the minds of ‘loyal’ Imperial soldiers? It was absurd. Until
now, of course.”
Edgar clenched his hands into fists. “Are you saying they put... They
inserted foreign...” Edgar couldn’t find the words through his rage.
“I am.” Cyan rubbed at his moustache and shook his head. “Sadly, experiments
such as these found little funding in Gestahl’s Empire. The department, as it
were, was dismantled and forgotten.”
“But these things were never removed.”
Cyan nodded. “I believe thee hath hit the point of the matter directly.”
“So, now our crazy alchemist has to remove these things before they kill
“It would appear so.”
“And these... These things they put in her had been reacting to Ledo’s
“Again, I have no proof, but it would seem that he had either stumbled upon
this technology, or designed it himself.”
“Mind control,” Edgar mumbled with a dark glare. “This takes the cake, Cyan.
Even with the Empire being abolished for who knows how long, they still find a
way of making our lives miserable.”
Cyan nodded somberly.
“You’ve got that right, brother.”
Edgar looked up and with a start. “Sabin!”
Edgar stood and hurried over to his brother, his arm extended. They clasped
arms in greeting while Setzer, Locke, and Celes filed into the room. Shadow was
nowhere to be found.
“Celes! What on earth are you doing with these brutes?” Edgar asked.
She smiled and came to wrap him in a hug. “I came to help. You should know
better than to ask a question like that.” When she pulled back, she sent him an
understanding smile. “We came as quickly as we could. How is she?”
He forced a smile. “The alchemist is operating on her now.”
“What?” Locke stepped up to Edgar with an air of amusement. “That old
Cyan held back. “Celes, did thee discover that which will be of use to
Celes looked over at the Doma soldier and nodded. “I think so.”
“Then thee had best hurry below. Before time becomes too old.”
Celes nodded, sent Edgar another comforting glance, and hurried downstairs
while Edgar watched in confusion.
“Don’t worry, brother,” Sabin said with a smile. “We’ll tell you what’s been
“Please do.” Edgar sat at the table and looked at the four men with an air of
expectancy. “You might as well start by how you arrived here so quickly. After
all, you don’t have the luxury of flight.”
“Chocobo’s run pretty fast, brother. Especially, when you hold their favorite
food out in front of them.”
Edgar shook his head with a chuckle, the good times that they had once shared
together flowing back into his memory by slow degrees. ‘Yes, this is what I
needed. Their support and friendship is what will help me through this torturous
Locke chuckled despite himself. “They ran so fast that we had problems
holding on. It was great. Maybe Celes and I should go into Choco breeding and
bring up some racers.”
“Don’t forget that, though they are cute, they smell quite bad,” Setzer
Cyan cleared his throat. “Perhaps thee should remain closer to the subject at
The group looked over at him with a grimace and then reluctantly agreed. They
told him of the second confrontation with Ledo, of the technical jungle Locke
had to wade through, and the display that showed Terra dying. Edgar clenched his
jaw through most of it to try and keep his comments to himself, but once Setzer
ended his side of the telling and Locke began again, he couldn’t refrain any
“Where is Shadow? Why isn’t he here to tell us what he discovered?”
Locke and Setzer exchanged a glance, then looked over at Sabin who
“Well, brother, Shadow disappeared soon after telling us about the little
mechanical whatchamacallits that Ledo put in Terra’s head.”
“Why?” Edgar asked.
Sabin shrugged. “He said he had some unfinished business and then disappeared
without another word. Just gave us a little metal thingamabob and said the
alchemist would need it to save Terra’s life.”
“So, Ledo is dead then?”
Locke and Setzer nodded while Sabin offered a more in-depth answer. “Yeah,
you could say that. Shadow apparently had it out for the guy for a long time.
Vengeance is a serious business and he takes it to heart. I don’t think there’s
enough of the guy to---”
“I think that’s enough information, Sabin. Thanks,” Locke cut in.
Sabin smiled. “Whatever I can do to help.”
Edgar stared at his hands a moment. “What was the reason Ledo wanted
“Power. Plain and simple power, I’m sorry to say.” Sabin spoke up before
anyone else could offer an explanation. “It seems our techno-freak, wonder-boy
wanted the cookies from her cookie jar and didn’t care what he had to do to get
them. He remembered the experiments he’d done on her and figured that would be
his best chance.”
“How in the world did he get her to believe her kids were kidnapped?”
Locke stepped forward with a shake of his head. “I’m not sure I really
understand that. Something about the device in her head being open to certain
kinds of suggestions. I guess that purple light we saw was a kind of output for
the specific suggestion she needed. Once the idea was placed, the device in her
inner ears ran with it with sound effects, visuals, and the whole
“That would be the reason she was certain he wasn’t in Jidoor when he
actually was,” Setzer put in. “He suggested to her the logical reasoning why he
wouldn’t be and let his machine do the rest.”
Edgar nodded absently. “I see.”
“We’re not really sure why you and her... I mean...” Locke flushed and
glanced at Sabin. “You tell him. He’s your brother.”
Sabin chuckled. “You didn’t get the hots for her after leaving Jidoor because
the device inhibits some kind of hormone produced by the brain. It’s the
opposite of an aphrodisiac.” Sabin looked real proud of himself. “Hey. That
sounded downright brainy.”
Edgar stood and stared out the window a moment before turning to leave. Sabin
and the others watched him with a concerned expression before talking amongst
themselves once he’d gone.
“I really hope she lives. It’ll kill him otherwise,” Setzer said as he dug
some cards from his jacket.
Locke nodded and made his way over to the table. “You’ve got that right. I
never really believed how much he loved her until I saw the look on his face in
Zozo when he thought I was going to leave her behind. He nearly strung me up by
my heels when I said that.”
Sabin crossed his arms with a nod. “That’s my brother for you. When he does
something, he goes all the way. Sure, he tries to tell himself that it will be
better all the way around for him to leave her as she is, just her and her kids,
but he knows it’s a crock. Deep down he knows. I just hope he admits to himself
that he deserves to be happy too.”
“I hear you,” Locke said with a nod.
Setzer dealt a hand of cards and examined them thoroughly. “Perhaps it shall
be a double wedding yet, eh Locke?”
Cyan, who had remained extremely still and quiet, cleared his throat and made
a surprising comment. “All of thee must comprehend a significant truth about our
King of Figaro.”
Locke, Setzer, and Sabin looked over at Cyan in surprise. “What?” They asked
the question as one.
“He treasures her too greatly to appeal for her hand when he is of the
opinion that she experiences naught but friendship for him. He would in no way
deposit her in such an awkward position.”
“That’s nuts,” Sabin objected hotly. “If he doesn’t tell her how he feels,
she never will. The poor girl doesn’t really know anything about that kind of
love, Cyan. You know that.”
“Such may be,” Cyan agreed, “nevertheless, this is the truth as I see
“Let’s hope you’re wrong,” Setzer said.
“No kidding,” Locke said roughly. “The last thing Figaro needs is a
“The last thing I need is a bachelor brother who never really wanted
to be a bachelor in the first place,” Sabin shot back. “If only we could talk to
Terra before Edgar had a chance. We might get her to see...”
Locke noticed a twinkle in Sabin’s eye and cringed. “What are you planning,
Sabin?” He made a motion to speak, but Locke raised his hand. “Never mind.
Whatever it is, I don’t want any part of it.”
“Aw, come on. We never get to have any fun,” Sabin complained.
“Locke, let’s at least hear him out.” Setzer said with a smile. “What’s your
“Simple. Make him jealous.”
“What?” Locke shook his head and rearranged his cards. “All you brothers are
the same. Poor Terra. If she agrees to actually marry one of you... I’ll slow
dance with Umaro at the wedding.”
Sabin grinned. “Now that is a wager even I can’t refuse.”
They weren’t even the size of Edgar’s thumbnail and yet they had caused more
misery and heartache than could be imagined. Edgar handed the two devices back
to the alchemist and stared down at Terra’s pale face. The operation had lasted
for too many hours to count and yet the wait still wasn’t over. Terra’s body had
to fight the adverse effects to having the foreign technology active in her body
after so long a period of silence. The alchemist assured him that she would pull
through, he just didn’t know how long it would take. So, he had given her a
blend of herbs that would let her sleep until her body believed that it had
Then she would either wake up or pass away while she slept.
“You really must leave,” the alchemist was rasping in his ear. “She needs
quiet rest and you gawking at her would set my teeth on edge so you best
Edgar sent her one last look and then made his way upstairs to wait yet
“Brother, I’ve got to ask you something.”
Edgar looked up from his book and examined Sabin’s face. There was something
odd about the expression in his eyes. “What is it?”
“It’s kind of... Well, it’s kind of a sensitive subject.”
Edgar raised an eyebrow and set his book aside, then gestured to the seat
across from his at the café in Kohlingen. “Have a seat.”
Sabin looked at the manager of the café, ordered a glass of hot cider, and
then sat across from his brother. “It’s about Terra.”
Edgar clenched his jaw and forced a calm expression. “Yes?”
Sabin had been visiting her still form nearly as often as he himself and it
had begun to plant a seed of jealousy in Edgar’s mind. Especially when he
remembered how often Sabin had met with her and the kids in Mobliz. His visits
there had always been the subject of the brothers’ conversations when Sabin had
come to Figaro Castle every other week. Sabin had never failed to inform Edgar
of the merest little incident regarding the children or Terra, whether it was a
lost tooth, lost pet, or new hairstyle. At the time, Edgar had thought Sabin was
only trying to get Edgar to visit her for himself, but now he wasn’t so sure.
‘Perhaps...’ Edgar pushed the thought aside and tried to focus on what Sabin was
“Well... Um...” Sabin rubbed at his neck, accepted the cider from the
manager, and guzzled it in a couple swallows. “I’m falling in love with
The statement had hardly been unexpected, yet it still drove a spear through
his gut with the force of anything he’d ever experienced. Edgar was sure that
his face went pale just by the expression in Sabin’s eyes before he glanced
“I know that I’ve been telling you that you’re crazy about her and that you
should marry her... I guess what I’m saying now is that I want to do that.”
“I see.” Edgar looked down at his book and then forced a smile as he met
Sabin’s eyes. “Well, brother, you’re quite welcome to marry Terra. I can assure
you that, much as you were positive I was in love with her, such was not the
case. She and I were close, this I grant you, but not in love.”
Sabin blinked. “A-are you sure? I was so... Are you sure?”
Edgar presented his hand. “I often thought something was blossoming between
you two simply by the way you spoke of her. You shall make her a wonderful...
she shall be a lovely bride. Congratulations, brother.”
Sabin took Edgar’s hand slowly before standing to leave the room with several
backward glances. Edgar could feel every one focused on the back of his head.
When the door of the café closed behind Sabin, Edgar placed the book on the
table, paid his tab, and turned to go.
Locke met him on the way out. “What’s this business I hear about Terra
getting married to Sabin?”
“That’s the newest bit of gossip, I hear,” Edgar said jovially enough. “In
fact, he just asked for my permission.”
“You said yes?” Locke was shocked. “Edgar, can you be serious about your
feelings for Terra at least once in your life?”
Edgar frowned. “What’s that supposed to mean?”
Locke opened his mouth to reply, then shut it and shook his head. “Never
mind. If this is your choice, then you’re the one who has to live with it. See
you at the wedding.”
With that, he turned and strode to the alchemist’s house in the Northeast
part of town. Edgar followed him with his eyes, then headed the opposite
“This was your big plan?” Locke sounded annoyed as he cornered Sabin outside
the alchemist’s house. “Now he’s sure he’s found her the perfect husband, Sabin.
Do you think he’s going to propose to her now that he believes you love
Sabin put a hand on Locke’s shoulder to calm him down. “Locke, take it easy.
I know my brother. He believes it’s a good idea with his brain, but it won’t
last. The alchemist says Terra should be waking up any day now. The minute she
asks for him and not me... Zap, he’ll be over his attempt at chivalry in no
time. You just wait and see.”
“That’s what you said before. You were sure he would tell you to---”
“I said that’s what I would do. I didn’t say he would do
“Then what was the point?”
Sabin chuckled and shook his head. “To let him know there was competition. If
there’s anything my brother hates more than an unresponsive woman, it’s
competition for what he wants.”
“What about what Cyan said?”
This brought a scowl to Sabin’s face. “Yeah, I’ve been worrying about that
too. Maybe Celes should talk to Terra before we tell Edgar she’s awake.”
Locke rubbed at his forehead. “My head hurts.”
It only took Terra another day to decide she’d had enough sleeping to last a
lifetime. The alchemist ran through the town in the early morning announcing the
good news until the residents of Kohlingen began tossing water bowls and bricks
out their windows to keep him quiet. Edgar, who hadn’t slept much the entire
time she’d been sleeping, remained in his seat by the window of his room at the
Inn even while everyone else made their way to the alchemist’s house. Sabin and
Locke both tried to persuade him to come, but he insisted that it wouldn’t do
much good to over-exhaust her on her first day awake, and promptly told them to
let him be.
Cyan had watched him with a quiet certainty that the others didn’t
“What are we going to do,” Celes asked Locke as she took his hand. “He’ll be
miserable without her and she’ll never know what it’s like to love someone other
than her kids.”
Locke squeezed her hand with a sigh. “I know, princess, but we can’t force
them together. It’s gotta happen on it’s own. You just need to talk to her and
try to find out if she really does love the old bum. Then we’ll see what we can
do about him.”
Sabin came to walk beside the two, Cyan trailing behind with Setzer, and gave
Celes a smile. “You know what to do, right?”
She frowned. “I don’t know about you, Sabin, but I’m going to be a friend.
I’m not going to plant any hints, or ideas. I’m not going to coax her into
thinking something about Edgar that isn’t truthful. Or about you either. We’ll
talk about what she wants to talk about and that’s that.”
Celes sent Locke a loving smile and squeezed his hand, then shot Sabin
another glare before striding ahead toward the alchemist’s home, her blonde hair
waving in the slight, early morning breeze.
“I’d say she doesn’t approve,” Setzer remarked with a chuckle.
“No kidding.” Sabin shrugged. “Oh well. If it works, she’ll be taking the
credit. Just wait and see.”
Locke shook his head and groaned. He regretted any part he’d ever played in
the whole scheme.
“Terra?” Celes smiled down at the pale face and gripped her hand. “How are
Terra smiled sleepily. “I’m doing good, Celes.” She looked around her and her
eyes darkened in confusion. “Where am I?”
“You’re in Kohlingen.”
Celes hesitated. “What was the last thing you remember?”
Terra frowned in concentration and pinched the bridge of her nose. “It’s kind
of fuzzy, but I remember Edgar saying something about a mage named Ledo
kidnapping me, and the kids---” Terra looked up sharply. “The kids! Are they all
She struggled to get out of bed, but Celes pushed her back without too much
effort. “The kids are fine, Terra. It’s you that we’re worried about. You got
messed up pretty bad and had to have some stuff removed from your inner
Celes smiled. “All that time in the Empire seems to come back and haunt the
both of us, doesn’t it? Don’t worry about it, though. We got it taken care of
and you should be back to your usual self in a couple months.”
Terra relaxed back into the pillows with a deep breath. “Just as long as
“They are. I believe I received a note from Relm saying she was having fun
babysitting. I think Shadow shows up and gives her a hand every once and
Terra nodded with a sleepy smile. “Shadow. That man is one walking mystery
after another. I never know what to think about him. But he’s good to the kids
and they love his scary stories just before bed...” Terra’s voice drifted.
“What’s the matter?” Celes asked the question hesitantly.
Terra’s eyes met hers. “Edgar’s gone back to Figaro, hasn’t he?”
Celes’ heart skipped a beat with hope as she shook her head. “No, Terra. No,
he didn’t. As a matter of fact, he’s in his room at the Inn. He says it’s too
soon for us to be talking to you. That you need the rest as much as possible to
help you recover. I suppose he’s right, but we’ve all been too worried about you
to think about that.”
“What about the ball he was giving to commemorate the building of the new
power source in South Figaro? He was supposed to push the switch to make it
start running. He was to give a speech.”
Celes smiled. “He made the Chancellor find someone to do it for him. He said
that he couldn’t leave here yet - not until he knew you were going to make it -
and that was that.”
“I feel awful.”
“Why?” Celes asked with a laugh. “Edgar said it was no trouble to reschedule
it with someone else. He even said that he wanted to find a way out of it anyway
so that he could visit you and the kids. After all, it would have been Cera’s
Terra seemed surprised at first. “That would have been so nice... It’s just
my luck something like this would happen.”
“Now don’t start talking like that. It wasn’t your fault at all and those
kids of yours still have plenty of birthdays left. Don’t you worry about missing
Silence fell over the two until Terra broke it with a hesitant question.
“Celes, how do you know when you’re in love with someone?”
Celes’ smile lit up the entire room, but she contained her enthusiasm with
super-human effort. “Some people say ‘you just know’, but I always viewed that
as a cop-out of sorts.”
“What do you mean?”
“Well, it is true that when you love someone you seem to have an instinct
about them, but it’s more than that. You have an insight into what they feel, or
why they act a certain way. You seem to have an uncanny grasp on what to say to
make them feel better about themselves or a situation they find themselves
Terra watched Celes’ face and then asked another question. “But how do you
“That changes with each person, Terra. What’s true for me could be different
“Well, tell me what you feel.”
Celes took in a deep breath and let it out slow. “Let me see... It’s so hard
to put in words. There’s just something there that wasn’t before. A type of
light happiness you take wherever you go. When I see Locke, I can’t help but
smile because my mind wanders to something he’s said to me, or a particular way
he touched my cheek... Something silly like that. It’s like he’s another version
of me because he seems to understand me. What he doesn’t understand, he
certainly attempts to.”
Terra dropped her eyes with several slow nods, then looked back up at Celes
after another moment of silence. “I think I need to be alone for a little bit.
Do you mind?”
“Of course not.” Celes smiled down at her as she stood. “You get as much rest
as you need. We’re not going anywhere until we can take you with us.”
“All right. Thank-you.”
Celes left the room and gave Locke and the others a thumbs up.
Terra stared at the door for several moments before she let herself really
think about what Celes had told her. Everything seemed to fit as if the final
piece to a puzzle had been placed, ever so carefully, by an unknown part of
herself. ‘I love Edgar?’ Somehow the thought wasn’t strange, or foreign, or even
the least bit unexpected. It was a little awe inspiring. She, who had been
raised by the Empire and trained to murder and massacre with a simple command,
had somehow learned to love. Terra didn’t know when or how it had happened, or
even how long she had been hiding the feelings, but the truth was too much to
“I love him,” she whispered.
Terra looked away from the door and stared down at her hands. She loved the
king of Figaro who saw her as nothing but a child. A source of his amusement...
But a memory nagged at the back part of Terra’s mind. A memory of Zozo and a
kiss. A memory of genuine tenderness and concern and comfort on the airship. A
memory of a look in his eyes as he asked about her dreams. ‘So, what am I going
to do?’ Terra was in an unknown world of emotion and didn’t know how to
communicate her feelings to her closest friend. A friend that had always seemed
interested in what she felt or thought about everything. ‘Most of it was
probably feigned,’ she reminded. But she couldn’t even convince herself of that
now, not anymore. ‘Not after that look...’
Terra took in a slow breath and decided to tell him the only way she knew
how. Very badly.
Edgar paced around his room, occasionally glancing out his window toward the
alchemist’s home to wonder why the others were still there. ‘She needs her
rest,’ he objected to himself. ‘How can they stay over there exhausting her this
way?’ It was enough to drive him mad. Not only that, he was afraid Sabin was
persuading her to marry him. ‘Blast,’ he thought harshly, ‘I go through
all the trouble of getting her out of Zozo in one piece and yet he’ll
He turned sharply and focused on Celes’ unsure eyes. “Yes?” His tone was
“Edgar, I need to talk to you.”
“Well, it’s about Terra.”
Edgar rolled his eyes. “Don’t tell me you want to marry her too.”
Celes looked surprised and sent him a confused frown. “What?”
He shook his head and threw himself into a chair. “Nothing. Never mind.”
“I just had a nice talk with her---”
“How is she?” The question was out before he could stop it.
Celes smiled in understanding. “She’s fine, Edgar.”
Edgar let out a deep breath and his mood began to change. Terra was fine.
“Good,” he said absently. “Very good.”
“What I have to say is hard to phrase right.”
Edgar raised an eyebrow and watched Celes’ face. “Well, this is a surprise.
You, Celes, can usually tell anyone anything without a problem.”
“It’s about Terra and the kids living in Mobliz.”
A warning went up in Edgar’s mind. “Yes?”
“Do you think it’s wise? If this happened once, it could happen again and she
doesn’t have anyone to look after her there. Everyone’s so far away.”
“I was hoping you could help me think of some way to present Terra with the
problem. I know she loves it there by herself, and so do the kids, but we have
to make her see reason. It’s just not safe.”
Edgar clenched his jaw. “Whether it’s safe or not is beside the point. Mobliz
is Terra’s home and it is none of our affair whether she stays or not. I agree
it isn’t as safe as it once was, but the world is slowly changing back to the
way it was. She’s safer than she would have been a few months ago.”
“I know, but---”
“Celes, Terra is a free spirit. We cannot take it upon ourselves to tell her
where it’s appropriate to live and where it isn’t. Those are her decisions. I am
concerned for her as well, but I won’t be part of any plan to strong-arm her to
Celes looked insulted. “I would never force Terra to do something she didn’t
want to do. I was hoping that we could help Mobliz become a town again, Edgar.
For goodness sake, moving Terra away from Mobliz wouldn’t solve any problems,
only add to them! I was just wondering how to tell her what I wanted to do
because of the fact she’s been on her own for so long. I was hoping you could
help me.” Celes stood and glared down at him. “Strong-arm her indeed! Of all
the... What’s gotten into you, Edgar? Every time someone mentions Terra, you get
defensive of her and yourself. Someone would think you were in love with
With that, Celes flounced from the room.
Terra looked at Sabin with a smile. “You are crazy not to,” she told him. “Of
course you should start a school, Sabin. I think Duncan would approve, don’t
“I just don’t know if I’m qualified.”
“Qualified? You don’t know if you’re qualified?” Terra shook her head.
“Sabin, you’ve learned all you could from Duncan and made up some new techniques
besides. How can you be anything but qualified? I’m sure Edgar would agree. He’s
so proud of you.”
Sabin blinked in surprise. “Edgar? Proud of me? What for?”
“For your dedication to your way of life. It’s hard work and you know it. The
discipline. The long hours of study. The control of your thoughts and body.
Sabin, you’ve worked a long time to get where you are and he knows this. I’m
sure if you proposed the idea of a school to him, he’d agree to back you.”
Sabin stared down at her in silence and then grinned. “I’d never thought to
ask him. I was going to ask Setzer for a loan.”
Terra laughed quietly. “Setzer? Loan you money? I don’t think that’s very
bright. You couldn’t afford to pay him back.”
Sabin laughed and turned when there was a quiet knock. Edgar appeared in the
doorway. “Hiya, brother. After so many days of insisting she wasn’t strong
enough, you’re finally coming down, huh?”
Edgar’s face changed expressions when he focused on the two together and
Terra wondered why he seemed so distant. ‘I need to ask him.’ Terra placed a
hand on Sabin’s arm and gave him a smile when he turned to face her. “Sabin,
He placed a kiss on her cheek, as had become his custom on his visits to her
in Mobliz, and left after patting Edgar on the shoulder. Edgar made his way
further into the room, reluctantly it seemed to Terra, and eventually sat in the
chair at her side.
She watched his face and scowled in concern. “What’s wrong?”
His eyes changed, as did his face, and he sent her a smile that seemed fake.
“Nothing at all, my lady. I was just concerned for you. It didn’t seem wise to
allow all these visits when you’d only just recovered after being in such a bad
“I’m okay. The alchemist... What’s his name? Well, he said I’m a very fast
healer. He’s never seen anything like it...” Terra’s voice faded and she decided
to be honest. “They’ve kept me so busy that I didn’t have a chance to ask for
you. I’m sorry.”
He examined her eyes a moment, then looked away. “It’s quite all right.”
“No. No, it isn’t. You’re my closest friend, Edgar. I wanted you to be here
This time his eyes held hers. “Why?”
“Because... Because it just seemed like you should have been. Then the hours
and days went by and you still hadn’t come...”
“I was relieved that you were alive,” he said in a strained voice. “That was
Terra didn’t know what to say. ‘How can that be enough for him? How can that
be enough for anybody?’ “Edgar, what’s the matter? You seem so distant.”
His eyes dropped hers. “I need to ask you a personal question.”
“Go ahead.” Edgar looked up again and his eyes were masked. Terra didn’t like
what it did to his face. He was usually so bright and handsome, but now he
seemed haggard and alone. Something was terribly wrong. “Edgar? What’s the
“Are you in lo---” He cut off and clenched his jaw, then looked away with a
shake of his head.
“Am I in what?”
“Are you lonely?”
“What?” Terra was surprised and confused for the question had seemed to come
out of nowhere.
He met her eyes again. “All of us agree, Terra, that it’s not wise for you to
live so far away. Not when you have so many children to care for. Suppose
something of this magnitude were to happen again? I want you to consider
allowing me to rebuild Mobliz. To encourage growth. To have the city be as it
was before Kefka.”
“I think that would be wonderful,” she said hesitantly. “I’ll try and be as
helpful as I can, as will the kids, but why don’t you ask what you were going to
ask in the first place?”
Edgar cringed slightly and stared down at her hand in his. “It’s of no
“Then you wouldn’t look so miserable. What’s wrong?”
He clenched his jaw. “Sabin asked my permission to marry you.” Terra received
the information with shocked silence and Edgar looked up to meet her wide eyes.
“Wasn’t that what you were discussing when I came in?”
“No,” she said in a strange voice. “He was asking my opinion on whether he
should start a school--- He asked you if he could marry me? Why would he ask
“I don’t know,” he said quickly.
Terra knew beyond a shadow of a doubt that he wasn’t being truthful. There
was something about the tone of his voice that seemed to shout it. “You’re lying
to me, Edgar. Why?”
Edgar flinched, his eyes dropping hers as he stood. She gripped his hand, but
he still pulled away. “Lie to a lady? Preposterous!” His gaiety was forced and
they both knew it.
Terra sighed. “Fine, then I’ll ask Sabin why he talked to you about it
instead of me. Then I’ll ask him why he hasn’t brought it up...” She cut off and
decided to ask a certain question. “What did you say to him?”
“I told him that he would make you a fine husband. I told him that, although
he supposed we were more than friends...”
Edgar’s voice faded and Terra looked down at her clasped hands with a deep
breath. “Friends.” She looked over at him again. “Friends, Edgar? I don’t
believe that and I don’t think you do either. Not after all we’ve shared.” Edgar
was silent. “So, where do we go from here? Do we just forget that Zozo ever
happened? Do we forget what we said to each other on the airship on our way
here? Do we walk away like we did after the fight with Kefka? I don’t think so.
I did that once and I didn’t like how it felt.”
Edgar tried to say something, anything, but the words left his brain before
he could form the sentences. Locke had been right when he’d said he wouldn’t be
able to walk away. “Terra...”
“No more excuses, Edgar.” Her voice was gentle and yet more firm than he had
ever imagined it could be. “I think I love you.”
Edgar turned sharply. “What did you say?”
She tried to adjust her position, but it didn’t work. She only grimaced in
pain and then smacked at the blankets in frustration before looking over at him
again. He was still standing by the window.
“You heard me, Edgar Roni Figaro. I just told you that I think I love you.
What are you going to do about it?” She blinked up at him for several quiet
seconds and then crossed her arms. “Well? The ball’s in your court,
He stepped forward and sat in the chair across from her so slowly that Terra
was sure the world was in slow motion. It was bad enough that she felt she was
botching up the supposedly romantic discussion with her inexperienced handling,
but did he have to stare at her like that? One of his hands came up to stroke
her cheek and Terra blinked, her head jerking back at the tenderness of his
touch. For some reason, she was afraid of the look in his eyes.
“It’s all right, Terra,” he reassured her. “I’m not going to hurt you
anymore. I promise you this.” He lowered his head to brush her lips with his and
she pulled back, gazing up at him in surprise and a little fear. “Terra?”
She brought a hand up to her lips. “You kissed me.”
He smiled. “I kissed you.”
“Because I love you,” he admitted quietly. Edgar dropped his eyes and turned
his head away. “I realize I should have told you before, but I didn’t know how.
You always thought of me as a tease. A flirt. A sweet-talker with not a sincere
bone in his body. How could I prove this false when even Locke was against
Terra watched his face as he continued. Little by little the haggard lines
and paleness that came with exhaustion began to fade.
He let out a deep breath and shook his head. “I’ve cared about you for a long
time, Terra. That was why I stayed away. I was afraid it would ruin our
friendship. Sabin attempted to persuade me to visit you so many times I’ve lost
count, but I stayed away with the excuse that Figaro couldn’t run on it’s own.
He knew it was an excuse, but I suppose he had finally given up on me.”
He glanced over at her with a strange look in his eyes and Terra wondered if
that was what love looked like.
“That’s why I simply sent you the flowers, invitations, and gifts on
different birthdays. So that you would know I hadn’t forgotten you. I would
never forget you.”
She took his hand. “Why didn’t you tell me? Edgar, why didn’t you say
“I don’t know,” he said gruffly. “I, the ladies man of Figaro Castle, didn’t
know how to tell you I cared what you went through. So many times I tried,
but... Fear is a powerful thing, Terra. It can grip the soul of a very brave man
and make him a coward.”
“And when you visited me...”
“I needed to escape from the pressures and expectations that bombard me each
day. The only thought that was in my head was that you would understand. You
would listen as no one else listened to me.”
“And those times I thought you were teasing... You weren’t, were you?”
He smiled and turned to face her, pain clearly shown in his eyes. “I was
quite serious, Terra, but it seemed to come out wrong. Habit, I suppose.”
“Then you do care? You’re not just saying it to be charming? You don’t
really want me to marry Sabin?”
Edgar continued to smile down at her for several quiet moments. “If you marry
Sabin I shall kill him myself, but I have a suspicion this was a plot to make me
realize what an idiot I have been. All those nights of adventure against Kefka
with you so close and I didn’t know that I loved you. How could I have been so
Terra smiled at him, her eyes watching his. “I’ve never known love like this
before. Celes was right... Everything she said was right. You’re my friend, and
yet I love you, too.”
“And I love you.”
Her eyes twinkled at him. “How do I know you’re not just being your usual
self? Maybe I just present a challenge.”
“There’s only one way to prove my honesty, my lady,” he chuckled and bent
down on one knee by her bedside. “Will you marry me?”
She smiled, tears flowing silently down her cheeks as she gazed down at him.
“I... I...” Terra threw her arms around his neck. “Yes! Yes, Edgar, I will.”
He pulled back, gazed into the unique eyes that had come to be a part of his
soul, then dropped his head and kissed her quite thoroughly.
“I told you it would work.” Sabin elbowed Setzer and laughed. “Too bad Umaro
couldn’t come to the wedding, though. I really wanted to catch Locke’s
explanation to both him and Celes as to why he was going to have to slow dance
with the brute. It would have been a riot.”
Setzer shook his head and took another glass of the best wine Figaro had to
offer. “You have a sick sense of humor, my friend. You should be glad that Edgar
found it in his heart to forgive you for toying with his mind in such a twisted
Sabin made a face. “Edgar’s on cloud nine, Setzer. He doesn’t care what I did
just as long as he’s finally got a ring on her finger.”
“And Celes is happy because she has her double wedding.”
“And Locke is happy because she’s happy.” Sabin grimaced. “All this happiness
is making me sick. I need to get back out in the world and see somebody get
Setzer shook his head again with a chuckle. “I believe I shall talk Locke
into marrying you off as well. A steady woman would do wonders for your
“What?” Sabin looked positively spooked. “You keep Locke away from me. I
don’t need any of his matchmaking to mess my life up. I like it how it
“Very well, but the Fates often have---”
“Spare me the details,” Sabin cut in.
“Isn’t this great?” Relm made her way up to the two men and gave them each a
wide smile. “I love weddings. So many pictures to draw.”
“Where’s your grandpa?” Sabin looked around the crowd and raised an eyebrow
when Shadow was seen coming toward them. “Hello, Shadow. Didn’t expect to see
“I am here with Relm.”
His voice was unemotional as usual, but there was something different about
his eyes. Sabin and Setzer both decided against a comment.
“Yeah, he’s more fun than old fuddy-duddy. Besides, Shadow doesn’t talk all
the time.” Relm made a face and then smiled wide again. “You should hear all the
stores he tells at night, though. Much scarier than Grandpa’s. Of course, I’ve
heard his about a jillion times already,” she said with a grimace.
Setzer and Sabin shared a laugh and Sabin could have sworn he heard a sound
from Shadow’s direction.
“Come on, Shadow,” Relm said suddenly with a tug on the ninja’s arm. “We’ve
gotta find your doggie and give him some cake. I promised I would.”
With that, Setzer and Sabin watched in amazement as Relm grabbed his hand and
led him away, cheerfully chatting up at him about the different things only a
fellow teen would have found interesting. Shadow took it in stride and continued
to hold her hand. Setzer and Sabin exchanged a glance, and then shrugged. They
both knew that he would remain a mystery until time ceased to exist.
“So, where are the honeymooners bound?” Setzer asked nonchalant.
“Don’t know. Edgar refused to say and Locke told me to get lost. I kind of
got the impression that they wanted it to be a secret so that we couldn’t pester
them if the world went to pot.”
“How long are they going to ‘disappear’?”
“Don’t know that either. Edgar just smiled and I couldn’t even find Locke to
ask. If I didn’t know my brother, I’d think they were going to camp as far away
from civilization as possible.”
“With Edgar being as dependent on the luxuries as he is? I highly doubt
Sabin nodded his agreement. “That’s exactly what I thought, but he didn’t
admit to anything.”
“Did you ask Terra? She’s always been hard-pressed to keep a secret,” Setzer
reminded. “I think it’s something about her face that a person can read like a
Sabin smiled. “Yep. That would be Terra--- Say, she looked hot in that
wedding dress, didn’t she?”
Setzer chuckled. “Be careful of those thoughts, my friend. Edgar is liable to
be a jealous husband with a gem such as she.”
“Don’t be silly. I love Terra like a sister and he knows that.”
“Perhaps your comment about wanting to marry her changed that.”
Sabin made a face. “Stop it, Setzer. Edgar knows it was just a way for me to
get him to wise-up.”
“Then why didn’t he tell you where they were honeymooning?”
Sabin remained silent and Setzer chuckled.
“So what do you think?”
Terra stared at the newly rebuilt house in Mobliz with wide eyes. “When...
How... Edgar, when did you do this?”
He smiled and lifted her in his arms to carry her over the threshold of the
house. Once inside, he kept her in his arms and smiled down at her. “I’ve had my
men working on it day and night since I asked you to marry me. I gave them
strict instructions to change as little as possible... And to keep it a secret
She tightened her arms around his neck with a smile. “So, that’s why you
wouldn’t tell me where we were going. You didn’t think I could keep it a secret
from your brother, did you?”
Edgar began forward. “Your face would have given it away, my sweet. I had to
keep our little getaway a secret so that we could remain here as long as we
wished without unwanted interruptions.”
“Surely Sabin wouldn’t have come knocking on our door during our
Edgar’s eyes twinkled and he closed the door to the bedroom with his foot.
“You don’t know my brother as well as you think.”
“There’s only one Figaro I want to know that well,” she told him with an
Edgar looked down at her in surprise and then he laughed. “You are always
able to surprise me, Terra.”
“Good. I wouldn’t want your life to be dull.”
He laid her on the bed and stroked her hairline with a finger. “I doubt that
will happen for quite a while.” When he kissed her, his mind quickly amended his
last statement. ‘If ever.’