Puppeteer Chapter 9
The hall ended in a large, four cornered room with only a single door leading out. Gazing back down the tunnel and back to the returning to the door, Celes wondered where her other friends were. Did they leave instead of waiting for them or were they back in the catacombs, maybe even dead. That last thought she shook away. They survived the apocalypse; they survived Kefka, so she rested more easily, believing that they could survive anything.
Were the first ones here, Daithi pointed out.
How can you be sure? Locke had to ask.
Look at the floor. Its clean, except where we are standing. If they came this way, they wouldve left some soil or rock behind.
Celes smiled as she agreed with the young hunter. He really was helping them. She glanced back to Locke and gave him an approving wink. So they rested in the room, awaiting their friends. The wait wasnt long.
Edgar! Sabin! Celes cried, running over and embracing the two.
Edgar leaned into the embrace, resting his sore head on her bosom. Flushing brightly, the ex-general glared down at him, but held back her temper as the king fell asleep on her. Next coming from the hall was a huge native man that had to hunch down to get through the hall and doorframe. After him was Terra, sheathing Atma as she entered the room.
Qaletaqa, you decided to join them too? the hunter said in shock. A grunt and shuffle from behind told Daithi differently. Noticing that he had to be bound from behind, the hunter could only shake his head.
Traitor, the native cursed.
I was never loyal, so I couldnt betray anyone. These guys offered this mercenary a better deal.
Three million gold pieces?
No, not money.
The native huffed at this. Money made the world go round. Without it, his tribe would die. What could possibly be better than money, which could solve any problem?
I told you about my town. I needed the money to save them, but these people are offering, no giving me some help. I needed the money for the best doctor money could buy. Im getting that doctor for free, the hunter excitedly said. Again, the native huffed.
Listen, the guy right there is the king of Figaro. His influence could help your starving family out on the Veldt!
For a third time, Qaletaqa huffed, but it was less dramatic. To ask for a hand out was not his way, yet maybe he could offer his assistance to these people. He shook his head, thinking such a course was unlikely. It was he that captured the Returners and it was he that almost killed the three that shown him mercy. Never would anyone want to ally themselves to their captor.
So, thats why you were helping that damn monk. Hell, we could help you out with food and I know someone who lives out on the Veldt that could help your tribe find food, the martial artist mentioned, while sticking a thumb up.
Looking back to Sabin, Qaletaqa couldnt believe what he was hearing. Gazing all around to each Returner, who nodded in agreement, even the lovely blonde he manhandled earlier, he almost fell over. Who were these kindhearted people who care about the unfortunate and are strong in will to defeat the demon of the skies? Even Daithi nodded and smiled at him. With a swoosh from behind, he was free of his bonds. The only problem was all of the Returners were in front of him.
Either kill him or let him go. We dont have the time to carry around a prisoner, Shadow coldly said as he and Setzer moved around the giant.
Who the hell are you? Locke gasped at his dark friend.
The name is Shadow, idiot, the ninja replied calmly.
All in attendance eyed him in a puzzled expression. Taking a moment to check himself, he realized his top was bare with his mask missing and they never seen his face. With a shrug, the ninja began to carry Setzer towards they only door out of the room.
Wait, Celes called. We got to come up with a plan to get everyone out without them freezing.
Follow me, the native chimed in.
Where are we going? Sabin asked.
Were going to the main hall and then to the opposite wing. There is a tunnel that leads to the volcanos heart.
Im all for warming up, but I dont plan on burning to a crisp! Locke yelled.
The volcanos heart is where your flying craft is, Qaletaqa finished, opening the door. Without hesitation, they all followed.
They rushed through the corridors, all keeping pace with the native. Qaletaqa kept his speed slow, but brisk to the main hall. The temple was designed like a large maze, a maze that he walked through a hundred times. Within minutes, they arrived in the main hall.
Stop right there! commanded a voice from above.
On instinct, a throwing knife came out and went flying towards the target. On a balcony above stood the monk, who seemed completely unfazed by the incoming projectile. Up the blade flew, hitting the invisible field in front of him. Puppeteer exploded in laughter.
I know that voice, Shadow pointed out, grabbing the others attention.
As well as you should, the monk paused, pulling back his hood. Old friend.
Out flopped his long, blonde spiked hair that bounced in every direction on his head. His face appeared contorted, as if he was both crazy and calculative at the same time, confusing his own mouth on what he really felt at the time. Half smiling and half deranged, the monk eyed the ninja with his only good eye, while his other eye remained behind a patch. Even though he has aged and appeared torn, Shadow knew immediately who it was.
So youre alive, Baram, the ninja passively said.
Yes, thanks to you, Clyde, Baram cooed to the ninja.
Get out of here, all of you. This is personal.
Hey, if you havent noticed, this is personal to us as well, the thief jabbed.
A maniacal laughter erupted from the balcony, darker than any in attendance has ever heard. Like a specter fading from sight, the monk vanished before his audience as a light mist surrounded him. The simple illusion was enough to confuse the Returners, keeping their attention skywards. Before any of them could act, Shadow was gone.
Hes going to get all the fun, Setzer chuckled.
We came here as a team and were leaving as one. Daithi, could you take Locke here to the airship? Celes begged, trying to hand over the weakened thief. With much dismay, Locke agreed while Daithi nodded his own concurrence. Terra followed though with her friends idea and helped Setzer over to Qaletaqa.
Well meet you at the Falcon once we finish up with Puppeteer, Terra excitedly said. With that, Terra and Celes ran off south, towards the main stairs, while the rest headed west, towards the only chance for their breakout.
* * *
Down the hall Shadow ran, just behind his former partner in crime. Many questions and emotions swirled in his heart. How could Baram, the one who made him doubt his own actions for more then two decades, still be alive? That fateful day, many years ago, Baram was severally wounded while they were being chased by Imperial soldiers. His friend asked Clyde to kill him before the soldiers would drag him back to Vector and send him to a fate far worse than death. Being his friend, or perhaps he was just weak, Shadow refused to put Baram out of his misery.
Ducking back into a room, the monk tried to elude the assassin. Shadow saw the door shut and quickly followed suit. Beyond the door was not a room, but a flight of stairs leading to two huge golden doors. At the top, Baram glared down at his old friend with a mixture of rage and confusion.
Can I be alive? the monk interrupted. The ninja answered with a nod.
Once you left me by that river, I was captured. That, you already know. But, I was not to be executed, Baram paused and smiled down at his friend. I was placed in Kefkas care.
My god, Baram, Shadow responded honestly. If I knew
You still wouldnt have killed me. No matter. My mentor taught me well, so I really should thank you. If you killed me, I wouldnt have known my true destiny.
What would that be? demanded Shadow, taking a step up.
To ascend in my mentors footsteps.
So thats why you interfered in all of our lives?
Yes and no. I may have had a hand in your lives, but it was Kefkas infinite wisdom that guided my actions. But I had fun doing my job. Now, old friend, since you didnt follow the rules, stated the monk while reaching into his robes.
Shadow bolted immediately up the flight of stairs, to attempt to stop whatever Baram had planned. Out of the robes came a vial of black liquid and a tiny candle. With a smirk, the deranged monk finished the formula by chanting a single word and crushing the two ingredients together. A ball of fire shot forth, slamming the ninja squarely in the chest and sending him flying back down the incline.
Because of your cheating, I will go to Thamasa and grab that beautiful daughter of yours and use her as my own love slave, Baram stopped his threat short, noticing activity coming from the hall. With a snap of his fingers, the doors opened and he entered without a moment to lose.
Shadow, Terra weakly said, helping the ninja to his feet.
Checking out his well being, Shadow saw the scorch mark on his chest, but not much damage was done. Brushing off his bare chest, he stood straighter, appearing unharmed. Somehow, Baram could use magic, so he nodded gratefully at Celes and Terra, truly grateful to have the reinforcements.
Puppeteer can use magic, so be careful, Shadow said to them both with a soft smile. So together then?
Both ladies returned the smile and joined their friend. Now was the time for them to finish this adventure they all started. Together, the three friends prepared for the unexpected.
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