Puppeteer Chapter 1
The sun felt wonderful on her soft skin as she continued her trek towards the town of Mobliz. Shed been on the road for a week, searching for her close friend who didnt visit her at their rendezvous point. Never has he failed to show without sending word to her that he couldnt make it. Her curiosity on why he didnt meet her or told her that he couldnt come, became concerned when after a weeks search and sending letters to her fellow Returners, came up with nothing. He seemed to have fallen off the face of the earth. The day was hot and sunny, but she felt very cold.
Rounding the final bend, she masked her scowl with a smile and tried to throw a spring in her step. As soon as she passed the first house leading into the town, she became surrounded by orphaned children, aging from ten to almost eighteen. It has been six years since she visited this town. Her life has been a daily routine of constant rebuilding and sacrifice, but after one gaze at the circle of preteens, she knew how much of a change she and her companions have made.
Her fake smile melted away, revealing a truly sincere grin. Hushing the children down, she asked them all in whispers where their mother was. In unison, all the children pointed to a house just a block away. Giving then all a wider grin, she sprinted towards the building, quickly being followed by the youths. She was going to slow down to give them a chance in this playful race, but two boys were overtaking her, so she pushed herself on. After a few heartbeats later she made it to the house first, winning the race.
Figuring the game was over and their visitor was going to talk about boring stuff with their mother, the youths disbursed. After catching her breath, the Returner rapped on the wooden door. The door swung open, leaving in the doorway, a beautiful woman with fair skin and long blonde hair. She wore a green dress that appeared to long for her, for it dragged wherever she walked.
Celes! the woman cried leaping into the former generals arms.
The ex-general embraced her, but held out some of the womans blonde hair with her right hand. The woman stepped back, looking upon the confusion in her friends face, and then smiled.
Its me, Terra. After we defeated the Goddesses, my hair seemed to grow out in the color of blonde, so I dyed it to match my roots. Anyway, come in, come in, Terra explained and began dragging her friend into the house.
Celes complied, staring around at the clean, homey house. The ex-general never had such a large place of her own, only for the fact that she didnt have a large family and didnt need the space. Celes tried not to envy her friend, but seeing the bright smile on Terras face, knowing she was far richer in spirit than she, caused her to shake. The tension was not lost to Terra. Feeling her friends sudden change, she stopped them in the living room and offered her a cup of tea.
No thanks. I was wondering if you have seen our cunning treasure hunter lately, Celes asked, not even bothering to sit down.
Locke? No I havent. Why?
Usually we keep in touch, but the other day he hasnt shown where we said we would meet and Im worried about that. I sent a letter, via carrier pigeon to Figaro Castle. My reply was that both the Figaro brothers have been missing.
Strange. I could understand Sabin leaving without any notice, but Edgar? This could be serious, if Edgar, Locke and Sabin are all gone. Ill help you out, Terra finished, jumping up and heading out of the living room.
Itll be a long walk. The Falcon hasnt been seen in the sky for a fortnight. I fear our friend Setzer Gabbiani has also disappeared. So are you sure you can leave your children behind? Celes asked matter-of-factly.
Yes, Im sure. Dwayne has become the man around here and has watched them before when Ive been out for weeks at a time. Just let me get dressed and the half-Esper paused, hearing a loud thud coming from her front door.
With haste, both the ladies rushed to where the sound emanated from. Celes was first to the portal and threw the door out wide to hit whoever was on the opposite side. No one was there. As soon as Terra caught up, she slammed her fist into her friends shoulder. The ex-general pivoted around, glaring angrily at Terra, but the look of anger was replaced by fear a moment later after gazing upon the fires in Terras eyes.
One of my children couldve been behind that door, she snapped, stepping outside and looking around.
With a nod, Celes accepted the scolding and stepped out, shutting the door behind her. Once the door was shut, an object remained on the door.
Terra. I dont think a kid was behind the door, called Celes, attempting to get Terras attention.
Terra spun around and brought a hand to her mouth. Embedded in the wood was a long dagger with a note wrapped around the handle. Before she could call her children, who may be in danger, Celes took the note and put a hand in the air. The ex-general looked back to her friend.
Its from Shadow.
* * *
Within an hour of receiving the note, Terra got dressed in a light-weight chest plate and knee high boots, strapping on Atma, her faithful blade. Both women arrived south, in a luscious grove, filled with trees and bushes. Noticing that balance was returning to the world, both women smiled brightly. Knowing that they brought back the life of the planet brought a satisfaction that no one could even begin to understand but them. A dark object fell out of the nearby tree, bringing the two out of their thoughts.
In a black ninja gi stood the most mysterious of all the Returners. At times, he appeared kind and generous, but most of his existence was to kill and make money doing so. During the final fight with the god Kefka, Shadow fought on with a heart no one had ever seen from him. Yet, during the escape, he vanished without a trace. Everyone figured he chose to stay behind and die, but no one knew why. The fact that he was standing before the two Returners, alive, shown how impressive his survival instincts were.
I had a feeling you would come here eventually, Celes. Edgar, Locke, Sabin and Setzer have fallen into a trap. A trap, I will not be lured into, he paused, tossing a tube at Celess feet. The gaiden will clarify.
Unrolling a parchment from within the case, the former general read it aloud to Terra and herself:
Little do you and your friends know that each of your lives was predetermined by me! Each of you are nothing more than characters in a game and I am the one playing that game and controlling your life. I know the truth of your life Clyde, all of it. When Doma, Vector, and Jidoor had railways, you robbed each train you could get your grubby hands on. After you robbed the Silver Bullet for one million gold pieces, you felt powerful and immortal changing your name to Shadow was just an afterthought. Not known to you was that I influenced the conductor to leave at a secret time so you would attack the train.
To play with your life more, I also planned for you to attack and fail the train heist at Doma, where your other half died and the other half to be left broken, spiritually and physically. So I guided you to Thamasa, where I knew Sarhia Medium would take care of you. I also knew you would run if she ever knew your past. Ah, but I wouldnt have guessed that you would impregnate Sarhia, let alone leave your daughter behind. You are truly coldhearted.
Oh, I watched you for years, nudging you here and there. A rumor lead you to Kohingen so you would meet up with the Returners and you thought there was real big money to be made. Just want you to know, I also informed the old Empire to hire you to go to Thamasa so you would have to confront your past. I even had a hand setting the house on fire where your little girl was in.
Enough! I believe I have your attention. Now the game continues. I have more information about your life that I havent mentioned here, so if you dont the information leaked out, youll come north of the frozen peak. If you do not show, your daughter will meet a fate worse than death and everyone will know the truth. Come alone. I am waiting.
What the hell? Shadow, is any of this true? Celes asked, completely baffled by the letter.
Before he had time to answer, Terra surprisingly grasped him from the front of his gi and pulled him down to stare at him eye-to-eye. The assassin was caught completely off guard and actually shown fear in his eyes while watching the gentle nature of Terra turn dark before him. Never has he seen such raw fury or burning hatred, let alone seen it coming from her.
When Relm was caught in that fire, I wasnt surprised that a killer like you wouldnt help. BUT SHE WAS YOUR DAUGHTER! Terra screamed, throwing the assassin against the nearest tree.
I wasnt going to let her die. If I jumped up and helped you, there would have been a possibility that you wouldve connected me to Relm. I had an excuse to get her out of there, Shadow replied, dusting himself off and trying to regain his lost composure.
You think that this man has Locke and the others? Celes interrupted, jumping to the matter at hand.
Yes. The others vanished when I got my note. I figured every Returner wouldve gotten one, but thats not the case. Strago and Cyan are dead; Relm and Gau didnt get one and Umaro and Mog have informed me that some major activity is coming north of Narshe. I came here hoping to find both of you, but Im guessing neither of you received a gaiden, Shadow stated.
Isnt Relms life in danger now, since you shown us the letter, Terra replied, narrowing her eyes at the assassin. This time, Shadow remained his perfectly calm and dark self, unafraid of any of Terras threats.
Yes, but as I said, Im not going to fall into his trap. We three can stop him before he goes after Relm. But then again, this could be part of his plan. Are either of you interested in a suicide run?
Terra and Celes shared a look, knowing full well what the other was thinking. Locke, Edgar, Sabin, and Setzer were in trouble and if the situation were reversed, they would do the same thing. They turned back to Shadow, who was already walking south without them. It seemed he knew what they were thinking as well.
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