Shadow of the Assasin
The Life and Times of Clyde Arrowny Chapter 2
Home, Sweet Home
Man, Emitt thought to himself. Thamasa's looking better than ever.
And he was right. The house that had burned down over a year ago was almost fully rebuilt. He knew that if it wasn't a Friday, the townspeople would've been working on it right now. He shook his head. He'd live here almost his entire life, but had never discovered why Friday was so special.
Over on the west side of town, he was surprised to see two new houses, and a third halfway to being built. Thamasa was apparently expanding. It made sense, Emitt supposed. After all, Thamasa had been about as far away from Kefka as everyone could get, and therefore the safest in most people's minds. But with Kefka defeated, would these people stay here? Emitt hoped so. If there was one thing he had learned in his former profession, it was that blending into the crowd was a good idea. Especially when trying to hide your true identity.
No sooner had he thought this than a kid came out of one of the nearby houses, followed by a swarm of others from the other homes. He heard a few mothers calling after them to finish their lunch. But the children ignored the adults, focusing instead on this newcomer. They all gathered around him, smiling. They had apparently gotten used to people moving into town, and had grown to like it. Some of the children poked at him, some shouted questions, and some just stared. Emitt didn't know what to do. He wasn't good with kids.
"Hey... please... could you... hey, let go..." Finally, a townsperson came to his rescue, calling to the kids to leave him alone and go play in the forest. And, realizing that this newcomer was no fun, they agreed, and ran off, with the youngest kids trailing last.
The man trotted up, chuckling. Emitt soon recognized him as Gung Ho, Strago's long-time friend. Gung Ho slowed to a stop as he neared Emitt, smiling. "Well, hello, stranger," he greeted Emitt. "Name's Gung Ho. And what brings you to our humble town."
Emitt had long ago gotten used to people he knew calling him stranger, and was unperturbed by it. "Emitt. Exactly as you said. It's a humble town."
"Ah," replied Gung Ho, knowingly, "Tired of city life? Or perhaps you fear for your life? That's why some people came here, you know."
Emitt shook his head. "What's to fear, sir? Kefka's been dead for a week or more, or so I-" Emitt was cut off, as Gung Ho put his hand over the stranger's mouth.
"Ssshhhhh. Don't say that. Someone might hear."
"But it's true."
"I know that. Figured it out from the signs in the weather. Notice how the clouds aren't dark anymore? But we can't announce that. If anyone announces that without 'conclusive' proof, then people will leave, afraid of the Light of Judgement, for speaking such blasphemy. And this place might become a ghost town."
"What? You can't just keep everyone in the dark."
"No, of course not. But I sent my friend, Strago, one of the heroes, off to get some proof. That way, not only will everyone know it's fact, but they'll be proud to live in a town where two of the heroes live."
"Two," asked Emitt, playing the part of the stranger excellently.
"Yes," replied Gung Ho, smiling. "My friend Strago Magus, (Yes, that really is his name. It tells you if you beat the game.) and his adopted grand-daughter Relm."
"Adopted, eh? How'd the parents die?"
"That's the sad part. Maria, her mother, died of a snake bite, quite by surprise. No one saw it coming. Least of all her husband." Gung Ho's expression was more serious now.
"And the father," Emitt asked, knowing what had happened, but wondering how everyone else saw it.
"We're not... completely sure. He was depressed for a while after his wife's death. And one day, he just asked Strago, out of the blue, to babysit the girl. He said he was going out for a walk. He went out, and never came back. No one's really sure what happened. Me, I think he killed himself, but Strago says he couldn't have. According to Strago, Clyde, the father, was too... well, afraid of death. And too practical. The way Strago tells it, Clyde would have seen no purpose in wasting a perfectly good life for something like sadness." He paused for a moment. Emitt supposed that he was lucky that he wasn't portrayed as a deadbeat, but still wished that that description of Clyde hadn't been so accurate. "Well," Gung Ho announced, suddenly, "I think that's enough of that topic. How long you staying?"
Emitt blinked. "How long? Well... As long as I'm welcome, I suppose. I heard this place was nice, and it looks it. A perfect place for a retired soldier," the lie slipped off his tongue.
"Retired soldier? For whom? The Empire?"
Deciding that he'd be more popular on the winning side, he shook his head. "Nope. Returners. I was a raider, stealing defense plans and such from the Empire. That business got me a lot of money, but I hated it. I think I'd just as well live in a nice place where your life isn't threatened daily."
This explanation was good enough for Gung Ho. "So, you're planning on settling here?" When Emitt nodded, Gung Ho continued, "Gonna build a house for your family to live in?"
Emitt tried to keep his voice pleasant. "I don't have a family. And I don't see one coming any time soon."
Gung Ho looked at him sympathetically. "I see. Well, several houses in this town would be happy to let you sleep in one of their rooms for a while, for a reasonable price, at least until we can build you a house." He paused. "Unless you don't want a house."
Emitt considered it. But in the end, he decided that he had come here to make his own home, not live in someone else's. "I think I'll build myself a home. I just wonder how long it'll take me to build it."
Gung Ho patted his shoulder. "With all the men in this town helping, it shouldn't be long. Around here, building something is considered fun. If they like you as much as I think they will, the whole town will help you out. And maybe that family'll come along one of these days."
Emitt looked up with a start from the book he was reading. There was a big commotion outside. When he listened closely, he could hear a faint, familiar flap-flap-flap in the background. Like the propellors of an airship. And there was only one airship in existence that he knew of. He quickly decided not to go investigate. Whether it was what he thought it was, or whether it wasn't, Gung Ho would almost certainly be along to tell him every detail, whether he wanted to hear it or not. Not that he didn't appreciate Gung Ho's kindness. Since he had gotten here four days ago, the man seemed to have an unlimited amount of energy, all of it directed toward being nice.
Emitt nearly jumped for his sword when a huge yell erupted from outside, followed by more cheers. Emitt was pretty sure that the news was of Kefka's demise. And that meant that he'd soon be introduced to Strago Magus, the former Blue Mage.
He looked at his book, unable to concentrate on it anymore. But he didn't want to look like he had purposely chosen to wait inside. So, he tried to look engrossed in the book, even though it had turned into a mess of meaningless symbols. And the clock ticked. And ticked. And ticked. And ticked.
He jumped slightly at a knock on the door. Three knocks, quickly, forcefully. Gung Ho must be excited to share the news. Emitt didn't bother moving a muscle. He and Gung Ho had worked out a system. Gung Ho would knock, and Emitt would have all of two seconds to get prepared for company, whether it meant combing his hair, which he had recently dyed black for this occasion, or hiding behind furniture until he could get dressed. True to his pattern, Gung Ho pushed open the lockless door, smiling until the edges of his mouth met behind his head. (or so it seemed to Emitt)
"Emitt," Gung Ho, announced excitedly, "I'd like you to meet someone." Emitt didn't look up, trying to brace himself to go on a lying spree in case the old man recognized him. "Emitt, this is my friend, Strago Magus, and his grand-daughter Relm."
Emitt closed the book, and looked up, pretty much expressionless. As he had expected, Strago was smiling, probably based on the information Gung Ho had given him. Emitt smiled slightly, but Strago's smile withered away, and he paled slightly. His mouth opened slightly, and closed again, unsure of what to say. He didn't get a chance.
"Gramps," a voice yelled from elsewhere in the house. "Gramps! Where are you, old man?" A blonde teenage girl suddenly pushed her way into the room. "There you are! You just left me- Hey!" She looked at Emitt, and blurted out, "Who's the hunk?"
Almost immediately afterwards, she blushed slightly, apparently embarrassed, and stepped back. For once, she truly seemed speechless, and Gung Ho took the chance to answer her question. "This 'hunk', Relm, is my friend. His name is Emitt. He came here a few days ago. He's going to try to build a home here after the present projects are done. Ah... Relm?"
Relm nodded distractedly, and tried to come up with something. "Uh... your name... Um... Do you have a last name?"
Emitt nodded. "Sure. Name's... Slint. Emitt Slint. I don't believe I know your full name, young lady."
She almost seemed to flinch at the term "young lady," but answered anyway. "Um, it depends on who you ask. My Grand-dad's last name is Magus. But mine's Arrowny." She managed a small curtsy. It was obvious that she didn't do it much. "It's a... pleasure to meet you." Once again, she blushed.
Finally, Strago managed to get a word in. "Excuse me," he began, catching everyone's attention. "But you look a lot like someone I once knew."
Emitt raised an eyebrow. "Really? And who would this be?"
Strago was about to answer, but glanced over at Relm, who'd seemed to have recovered. "On... second thought, the only thing you have in common with him is the color of your eyes, and the shape of your chin." It was obvious that he was lying through his teeth, but Strago wouldn't bring up painful parts of the past, just because this man looked like someone he once knew. Especially since that person was probably dead. In his travels around the world, Strago would have known if Clyde was still alive.
And so Strago (with many an interjection from Relm) told Emitt of Kefka's fate. Emitt, of course, steadfastly avoided asking any questions that might hint that he was in any way related to Shadow. He was a bit disappointed that Strago didn't mention Shadow at all, but simply mentioned that two members of their team didn't make it out. Emitt was pretty sure that Interceptor had made it out, so who was the second casualty? He hoped it wasn't Terra, or Locke, or Sabin, or Gau. He felt he had truly connected with those four. However, he had no doubt that Strago would end up telling his story eventually, and Emitt would get his information then. Until then, Emitt could wait.
It was dark outside, and a bit chilly, but Relm just couldn't sleep. So, she had taken a walk with her dog, Clyde, whom she'd named after her father. Her thoughts kept wandering back to her friends, to Kefka, and to Emitt. There was something very familiar about Emitt, and at the same time, mysterious. He seemed nice enough to her, but she wasn't sure if it was just politeness, or if he actually liked her. She was probably too young for him to see her in a romantic light. Probably.
That was what bothered her the most about him. She couldn't read him. Relm not only thought, but knew that she had a gift for instantly judging and identifying anything about her, which really helped her with her painting. But Emitt was completely unreadable, as if others saw only what he wanted them to see. And that kind of worried her. Gung Ho, upon questioning, had told her and Strago that he had worked for the Returners, and done hard things in order to survive. And that was another thing. Why was Strago so interested in Emitt as well? Had he sensed that barrier, or did it have something to do with that person Emitt looked like? She didn't know, but she'd ask in the morning.
Clyde suddenly looked up, and sniffed the air. He could smell something. "What is it, Clyde?" As usual, he didn't respond to that name. Instead, he began to walk along, with Relm following.
They came to the small grove of bushes and trees, in which General Leo was buried. Relm was about to take Clyde back home, but heard something. She listened closely, and heard muttering. She didn't move a muscle, except to look around. In a moment, she spotted him.
There was Emitt, on his knees, before the tombstone of General Leo. Watching his lips move in the moonlight, she recognized some of his muttering. It was another language. But she recognized this phrase... and that one... and that one. She recognized them because those words had been spoken at Leo's funeral.
Abruptly, Emitt stopped, and whistled softly. Almost immediately, Clyde went running out from behind the bushes, and stopped before Emitt. Emitt stood up, and looked around, until his eyes settled directly on where Relm was, even though she'd been certain she was hidden. And so she stepped out.
Emitt visibly relaxed, and put his sword in his sheath. Relm hadn't even noticed him take it out. Maybe he'd had it out when she got here. "What are you doing out here so late at night," Emitt asked, glancing down at Clyde.
Relm walked up to him. "I could ask you the same thing."
"Fair enough, I suppose. But I asked you first."
Vexed, she told him heatedly, "I couldn't sleep. So I took my dog for a walk. Now what were you doing out here, speaking in some foreign language to a tombstone?"
"I was... paying my respects to a warrior of virtue... Something I've done many times in my lifetime..."
For a long time, neither of them said anything. And then he did.
"What's the dog's name?"
"Clyde," she answered, instantly, "named after my father."
She noticed that he seemed to flinch at that name. Had Gung Ho told him about her past? He replied, "I see. Is he trained?"
She nodded. "Very well trained."
He nodded in return, then looked down at the dog. "Clyde, sit."
The dog did absolutely nothing. When Emitt glanced at her dubiously, Relm was quick to explain.
"Oh, Clyde's not his original name. He doesn't respond to it. Watch this." She took off her bracelet, and threw it on the ground a few feet away. She commanded the dog, "Interceptor, give me my bracelet."
Instantly, the dog trotted over, picked up the bracelet, and held it up to her, until she took it.
"Impressive," Emitt stated. He got down on one knee, and began to scratch the dog behind the ear. "You know, I think he likes me."
"Can you blame him," Relm asked quietly.
But Emitt didn't hear her. He was too busy with the dog.
"Today is the first day of the rest of your life."