Puppeteer Chapter 6
The Dead Memory
The air was thin and cold, as what death would feel like before the final moment of life. His surroundings were dim and bleak and the smell of decay lingered from every direction. Nowhere in the entire world has he ever felt so alone dead. The world refused to stop spinning, causing the poor soul to empty his stomach. Then, all was still.
Regaining his senses from the fall, Locke scanned the area for life. The last moments he remembered was jumping for the shackles on the prisons walls and then tumbling down into a deep hole. Someones boot connected with his head and finally all was lost to him. Shaking away the thought, he would need to figure how to get out from wherever he was and help his friends. Pushing himself up, his knees buckled, causing him to fall backwards into a sitting position.
Celes! Terra! Anyone! he called, not expecting an answer. But an answer he got.
Calm down. I only went to explore our environment, Celes replied from behind him, smiling widely.
Hey, love. Wherere the others?
The former generals face turned cold, tilting her head up. Locke followed her gaze and saw an opened shaft just thirty feet above them. Being hoisted up by his close friend, the thief turned to her, hoping she would clarify.
During our descent we entered into a slide that forked in a few directions. There, we were all separated, she ended, guiding him across the cavern.
Where are we? he asked with a smile. It could use a little remodeling.
I would guess some sort of catacombs, Celes responded aloofly.
Hey, whats the matter?
YOU! snapped Celes, stopping to glare at him. Why did you come here?
Damn you, Locke! I thought we were friends. I wouldve helped.
Sorry Celes. Come on, lets find our friends.
Oh, no you dont, Locke Cole, she said, holding him in place by his waist and wrist. Shadow, of all people, trusted Terra and I with his secrets. Are you telling me that he trusts us more than you would?
Locke was taken aback and gazed at the former general with mixed emotions. First with shock, then hurt, and finally defeat. He was expecting her to be angry with him, but he had no idea it was going to be at this extent. The fact that Shadow weighed his odds of someone getting hurt to getting help from his trusted allies blew the thiefs mind. Any excuses now have just been blown out the window. With a sigh, he decided to let it all go.
Its all about a dead memory. Sometime ago, I got a letter from someone named, Puppeteer. He went on in detail on how he messed with my life. Remember the bridge that I crossed for an artifact in Damora Mountain? Locke asked as he reminisced back into his past.
The one that collapsed on Rachael?
Thats the one, the thief agreed with a nod and a sneer. The bridge was rigged. I was supposed to have fallen, not her.
The memory of his former love was more than the thief could bear. His anger began to rise and he tried to growl away his pain, but he failed. Tears rolled down his cheeks, stinging his cuts along his face and he began to shake and sob.
He claims he rigged the trap. He was satisfied with my pain as Rachael lost her memory. Then he waited. Waited for the time the Empire would dispatch their troops to Kohlingen. He went there, with only one target in mind.
Rachael, Celes gasped. He must have been an Imperial soldier.
He could have been, but all I know is what he wrote. He killed Rachael and if I didnt do what he asked, he wouldve killed you, sighed the thief.
I could take care of myself. This is just like you. Didnt you learn anything from the Phoenix Cave? You shouldve trusted us trusted me. You mustve known this was a trap.
I knew that! But I already lost one love of my life; I wasnt going to lose another! the thief snapped.
That last statement had more emotion behind it than Locke wanted in it. Locke couldve got the same reaction if he slapped her in the face on how surprised she was. Their relationship was growing and she knew she loved him dearly, but with his constant calm nature, it was too hard for her to tell if he loved her back. She was at a loss, until a noise pulled her out of her reverie.
The tunnel ahead teed off with the sound echoing down either end. Rhythmic and steady, the sound continued to close in on the Returners. Placing Locke gently on the floor, Celes unsheathed her blade, waiting for whatever was coming from either direction. A young man came into view on the left, clapping his hands together.
Ah, Celes Chere, former general of the Empire of Gestahl, defeater of the powerful Kefka, Daithi said with a respectable bow. His owl took flight once he began to bend.
Youre the one whose been overseeing us with that owl, Celes replied, bringing her sword up in a defendable manner.
Rising from his bow, a blade came up with him, pointed directly at Celes. This exact moment hes been dreading ever since he walked into the temple. He wasnt afraid that he would lose and die, but the idea he would easily dispatch a fellow warrior, a woman at that, made him feel sick to his stomach. Across the way, Celes glared at Daithi with spite. He needed a way out of this deadly duel.
Yes I have. The name is Daithi ORaily, he kindly said with another bow. Coming back up, however, he pointed his rapier back towards the general with a scowl on his face. Out of respect, Im going to ask you this once. Drop your sword.
You got to be kidding, Celes answered through clenched teeth.
Without any further hesitation, the ex-general charged and swung Illumina in a wide arc, leaving a trail of blue light in the air. The rapier came up far more quickly than Celes expected. In one fluent movement, the rapier slapped the sword out wide and sliced downwards, nicking her wrist. She dropped the blade from the sudden fiery pain.
Daithi broke into motion, stomping his foot on the floor and sheathing his rapier in one perfect move. Illumina flipped end over end in the air, stopping as a hand snapped out and grasped the handle. With a flick of his wrist, Daithi flipped Illumina over to its blade and handed the sword to Celes, handle outwards.
Obviously you never fought an opponent who was left-handed before, the hunter declared, pulling Celes out of her bedazzlement of the display of her enemys that took only three seconds. Also, you underestimated me due to my age. You are wiser now.
With a nod, she tenderly took Illumina back, never breaking eye contact with the young man. Indeed, his skills were up to par, but she was once a general, and even if she hadnt used her sword in years, she was more than up for the challenge. With another nod of gratification, she took a step back.
Keeping a distance of five paces, the former general eyed her adversary, taking a measurement of him. Out came the rapier, again poised at her heart. He was well built and agile, dancing around his position, never staying in one spot. The hunters eyes were fixed on her, as if readying himself to spring.
She knew taking the offense again could prove faulty as what happened before but the longer she waited, the longer her friend would suffer in these moldy catacombs. She charged, swinging Illumina wide to the left, but at the last moment, she brought the sword to bear and kicked out for his chest. He saw the feint clearly, moving into position where he could block the attack with his knee. Whipping his sword towards Celes, he aimed for her unprotected face, but pulled back immediately, having his sword brush through her hair.
Are you playing with me? Celes barked, backing away from the dancing swordsman.
Daithi flinched at the accusation. When he fenced, he always fought with his heart and to do otherwise would cheat the combatant out of a real win. But all of his previous opponents were covered with a mask and padding armor. He wasnt playing around and he almost scarred this beautiful woman before him. I must disarm her again and demand her to surrender.
Celes came in harder and faster than he thought. Illumina descended down upon him. Out came the rapier, parrying the blade to his right. Celes walked into the parry, elbowing the hunter between his eyes. The blow caused Daithi to tumble back a step but he held his ground.
Noticing that her enemy was dazed, Celes thrust her sword out with all of her strength, aiming for his heart. Knowing he couldnt parry the large sword with as much force that she had put behind it, he had only one place to go. Arching backwards, the blade past right over him. On instinct, he kicked out between Celess arms and into her face. Dropping from the exposed position, the hunter spun around, tripping the former general.
Flipping back up, Daithi kicked Illumina away from Celes and placed his blade under her chin. The blade froze her in place. Before he had time to beg her to surrender, a rock flew towards his head, which he easily ducked. However, the projectile wasnt meant for him.
A sickening crack, followed by a soft hoot, forced the hunter to surrender his advantage. Pivoting on his heels, he saw his owl friend hopping on the stone floor, hooting in agony.
Snow! he cried, running to his friend and holding her in his arms.
You care about a stupid bird more than your fellow man? Celes accused.
No I dont, Daithi replied, examining the broken wing.
Seeing the opportunity to avoid the battle, a battle she already lost twice, Celes picked up her sword and sheathed it. Hearing the sound of metal, the hunter turned back to his opponent, swinging his rapier out and cutting a stalagmite in half horizontally. The thiefs jaw dropped at that sight, wondering if the monk also magically imbued his sword. Celes remained passive with her arms outstretched.
If you dont care about harming others, why must we fight? she asked kindly.
It is my job. Im being paid two million gold pieces for my services, he snapped harshly, stepping forward with his rapier in one hand while cradling Snow in his other. Can you top that?
No, but why do you need such a sum?
My hometown its been plagued with some unknown disease. My mother, my father, my fiancée remains on the brink of existence. Every second I waste with you, he paused, as his anger continued to build, he brought his blade up to Celess heart.
So you need the money to cure your town?
Then help us escape and well help you.
What can you do?
I know of the best medical mind in the entire world, she replied with a soft smile. Help us and your village is as good as saved.
Now why should I believe you? After all, Im part of the reason why your friends have been imprisoned.
Because you were just doing what you were told, so we cant hold a grudge to those who were just following orders. Also as Returners, it is our duty to help those in need. Something, Im sure, your employer didnt want you to know.
Taking a glance at Celes, he looked to Locke and back to her. The hunter wanted to believe her. He once heard the stories of the heroic Returners, but his hometown didnt have all that much time left. If he chose wrongly, his love and people would die.
What would you do father? he thought.
Son, if you are ever given a difficult decision, just follow your morals. Even if it comes out to be the wrong choice, at lease youll have a clear conscience. Daithi remembered an old saying his father used to say.
Lets go, Daithi suddenly announced while sheathing his blade. Well find your friends and attempt to get out of here.
Thank you, Celes sighed as she began to get Locke.
Thank me by saving my town, he answered kindly. Within a few minutes, the two Returners, a hunter, and an owl, were off within the catacomb maze.
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