Locke trembled as Celes broke her embrace. To think, he was this close to the girl who could finally set him free of his past and help him live his life as he should. He looked at Celes and smiled. He was just as overjoyed to see her as she was to see him. Her embrace maybe even boosted his confidence a bit. He felt stronger around her and the sense of wanting to protect her was slowly coming back. However, he suddenly remembered what Terra had told him earlier.
Stop trying to be a hero to every girl you meet and start being you.
He was at a dilemma. Here he was, in the middle of the opera house lobby dressed in clothes that he had tailored just for this situation. That wasnt him. If he had had his way, hed be dressed in what hed normally wear. If he really wanted to follow Terras statement, he felt that he had to abandon the current path he was taking. He then decided to go back to his old method of being the knight in shining armor that Celes once saw him as. He figured that he was being himself if he did that. He wouldnt feel as awkward either. He would put up the charade, for now. When he was alone with Celes, though, he would go back to the Locke that she knew before, the Locke he thought she loved.
Locke, whats wrong? asked Celes, breaking Lockes moment in thought.
What? Oh, nothing, he said. I was just just glad to see you again, I guess. Celes smiled after he finished. Locke looked at her again from head to toe and was a bit confused by her costume, especially her wig. No offense, Celes, he said, but green is not your hair color. Celes scoffed and grabbed at her wig.
I know. Its awful, she said in compliance. I wish that the legend didnt go into that much detail. She then removed the wig and stared at it. Locke noticed that her real hair was concealed under a wig cap. Whos ever heard of green hair anyway?
Terras hair is sort of green.
Hers is more of a blue-green and it looks cute, she commented as she squeezed the wig in her hand. This is just blech! She threw the wig on the floor in disgust. Locke chuckled. Well, Im glad to see that you take amusement in my suffering, said Celes sarcastically.
Its not that, Celes, he said nervously. Im just glad to see that some things never change. Youre still the down to earth girl I met a long time ago. Celes blushed. She was obviously flattered by Lockes comment. Maria then interrupted their conversation.
SEE!!! She hates being Rydia. I certainly can be a better Rydia than this uncommitted little tramp! Maria shouted. The Impresario started jumping up and down. He needed to maintain control of the situation and keep both of his stars in the show.
Please, please, please, Maria! pleaded the Impresario. He had to think of a solution quickly. The roll of Queen Ashura takes more experience! he was stumbling over his words as he improvised an explanation. We didnt want to put Ms. Celes in that role because, well, shes not you! She lacks the talent to undertake such a difficult and prestigious role as you. And besides, you play a QUEEN! Shes a mere commoner, a little girl. You can make a much, much more elegant Queen Ashura than she could. So, please, Ms. Maria. Please come back to rehearsal. Maria raised her nose again, but this time with a smile. She was appeased.
I do make a good queen, dont I? she asked. The Impresario nodded up and down quickly as he wrapped his arm around Marias and led her back into the theatre.
Oh, and Ms. Celes, he said as he turned around, Kindly tell y our friend to leave. Since he his your acquaintance, however, he is entitled to complementary tickets. The Impresario looked again at Locke, whose face he suddenly remembered. And tell him that he looked much less goofy in his common attire. He then entered the theatre with Maria. Locke had a puzzled look on his face. He put his hand on the back of his head and looked up at the ceiling.
Thats the second person whos told me that I look stupid, he commented.
Because you do, remarked Celes. Locke snapped his head at her with a glare on his face. Consider us even from the hair remark and laughter. She then winked at him as he grunted in approval. At that moment, a man came out of the theatre who was clad in full body armor. He was about the same size as Sabin, only with finely combed brown hair. He looked too muscular to be an opera singer, so Locke figured that he had to be one of the stagehands who was working on the show. But, why was he dressed in knights armor, Locke thought.
Celes, he said calmly, were waiting for you. He outstretched his arm as if to usher Celes back into rehearsal. He just happened to notice Locke standing there with Celes. He crossed his arms and glared down at Locke. And whos this? he asked.
Oh, let me introduce you two. Celes took Locke by the arm and brought him over to the man in armor. He was even larger than Locke had initially perceived. Renier, she said, this is my friend Locke Cole. He was with me for the entire journey. Locke extended his hand; Renier did the same.
Charmed, said Locke as he shook Reniers hand. Renier still looked at Locke as if he was a mere ant.
The pleasure is all mine, said Renier as he let go. Now, Celes, we must get back to work. He then started to drag Celes back into the theatre. Not resisting at all, Celes went along with him, her eyes rolled back into her head. Suddenly, she looked back at Locke and called out.
Locke! Meet me in the Jidoor pub tonight around six! Ill be there, she said as the doors slammed shut in Lockes face. As soon as he heard the sounds of the orchestra playing inside, he felt a feeling of elation come over him. He didnt have to ask out Celes, she did it for him. A full smile broke out on Lockes face as he turned around and began to exit the Opera House. Everything was going his way. It looked as though he would find the liberation from his past that he was looking for, and it would all start that night as six oclock.
On his walk back to the Falcon, he started to think about how he should tell Celes how he felt about her. There were several options available to him, but he wanted to make his declaration unique. He didnt have to work as hard with Rachel. Things just happened with her and he turned out to be more than happy when he was with her. Maybe he should just do the same here. Hed lived his life up to this point seeking the spur of the moment and just letting what happens happen. However, another part of him felt that he had to be prepared for anything that came his way, especially tonight. He didnt want another repeat of what happened with Rachel, or what happened with Celes, for that matter. He still remembered that night when he almost lost her forever, but she forgave him. He betrayed her trust when she needed someone to believe in her. He felt his greatest fear at that moment; he failed her. He couldnt let that happen again. He had to plan everything perfectly.
When he finally got back to the Falcon, Setzer was in the main cabin of the ship, sipping a cup of water.
So, how did everything go with Celes? asked Setzer. Locke nodded his head and smiled.
Well, he said. Very well, in fact. She wants to see me tonight.
Wait, she asked you?
Yes she did, replied Locke with a newfound confidence and pride. Setzer stumbled as he got up and made his way over to Locke. He offered Locke his hand, which Locke took.
My friend, that is outstanding, said Setzer as he shook Lockes hand. Did you happen to see Maria while you were there too? Rather than burden his friend with the bad news, Locke figured that it would be better if Setzer remained in the dark on the subject of Maria.
Not at all. She was stuck in rehearsal. I barely got Celes out.
Dang it, said Setzer. Oh, well. I guess its all for the better. Id probably make a fool of myself acting like this. Locke turned his head and went to the guest quarters. He needed to give himself a makeover if he was to win Celess heart tonight. He threw off the long overcoat that he had been wearing and grabbed a dirk from his pants pocket. He then cut off the sleeves of the coat and also shortened it at the waist. He also took off his shirt and tore the sleeves off. He would keep the pants and boots the way they were, he needed to be able to move his upper body. He was missing one thing, though, his headband. He couldnt use part of his leather coat because it would stick to his forehead. He hadnt had a very trusty one ever since the destruction of the world. It fell off his head as he fell towards the ground along with Setzers old airship. He began to wonder whatever happened to it. He decided to cut his losses and go without one. By the time he was done, there was still about three hours before he had to meet Celes. His next step was to go out and get some adventure back into his blood. He exited the guest quarters and entered the main cabin, where Setzer was busy practicing cutting cards.
Setzer, Im going out, said Locke.
What for? Youre not meeting Celes until later.
I know. Setzer then noticed what Locke had done to himself. He looked more surprised than ever to see the old Locke back.
What? How ? Who are you? asked Setzer. Locke smiled, turned his back, and headed out.
Throughout the course of the afternoon, Locke was fighting monsters, jumping through the trees, and running wildly around the forests and plains. Of course, there was nothing that he was out to find, as a treasure hunter. The mere experience of getting back in touch with his adventuring roots was a thrill in itself. Soon enough, it was six oclock, and Locke leaned against the side the Jidoor pub waiting for his lady. He was trembling at the mere thought of being with Celes again, of being this close to her and talking to her, of looking into her beautiful eyes again. He looked up and saw an entourage of people heading in his direction. It was a rabid group of operagoers who were soliciting Celes for her autograph and asking her to sing a few notes. Although she had not debuted in Rydia yet, she was being hounded by patrons who had seen her in Aria de Mezzo Caratterre. Locke then saw another gentleman walking with her, acting as sort of a bodyguard. It was Renier. Locke cringed as he thought to himself.
Why is he here? Hes going to ruin my time with Celes.
Renier forced his way through the crowd of people towards Locke. Celes followed him and went up to Locke as soon as she saw him.
Hi, Locke! she said. I hope its all right if Renier is with us tonight. I absolutely need him to help me get past all these people. Locke groaned to himself. He was not happy.
No, not at all, said Locke in compliance. We wouldnt want anything to happen to the star of the show, now, would we? Celes smiled as she looked at Locke up and down. Something then occurred to her.
Locke, youve gone back to the way you were. Youre not wearing those stupid clothes anymore.
Yeah, it feels more natural for me this way. If the people of Jidoor dont like it, who cares? Im a treasure hunter.
I believe the correct term is thief, said Renier in a very matter of fact tone of voice. He then opened the door of the pub for Celes. Locke jolted his head towards Renier and looked at him with disdain.
Now, Boys. Calm down, said Celes. Try to enjoy tonight, Renier. Its the first night weve been able to go out like this for a long time. Celes then entered the pub. Locke then tried to follow, but was pushed out of the way by Renier, who then entered.
Youre pushing it, wise guy, muttered Locke as he entered. They sat down at their table and ordered their meal. Locke sat across from Celes and was looking at her the whole time. He was overjoyed to have her in this setting. If it werent for Renier, he would have had the perfect opportunity to declare his feelings for her. A romantic, candlelight dinner, just the two of them, no distractions; he would have been set. All of a sudden, Renier blatantly cleared his throat, breaking Lockes gaze at Celes.
So, Celes has told me much about you, he said. You were a thief before Kefkas reign?
Thats treasure hunter, Locke replied. He was starting to become annoyed with Reniers obvious dislike of him. Theres a huge difference. I never actually robbed people or killed them. I seek long-lost treasures known the world over only as legends.
Oh, how so? asked Renier.
Ever heard the legend of the Phoenix and the Phoenix Cave? I found them both.
Oh, yes. Celes told me about her journey through the Phoenix Cave in an attempt to find you.
It was amazing, interrupted Celes. That cave had some of the toughest monsters we ever fought on our journey. I couldnt believe that Locke was able survive, let alone find that ancient relic.
Speaking of relics, added Locke, did you know that an ancient castle dating back to the War of the Magi lies beneath Figaro Castle? Celes and I got a first hand account of that adventure.
Yes, indeed, Renier did not seem impressed by anything Locke had to say. Suddenly, Celes spoke.
Well, Locke, you dont know much about the opera, do you? Let me fill you in.
You can do so without my being here, stated Renier. I have served my purpose of keeping those rubbernecks away from you, Celes. Ill wait for you outside. If youll excuse me he added as he got up to leave. Locke watched him leave the pub and turned to Celes as soon as he got out the door.
How can you stand being around that arrogant jackass? asked Locke harshly.
You have to get used to him, said Celes. Hes a wonderful performer. A mans man in the opera world. Celes then sighed and gazed up at the ceiling. Once you get to know him, hes one of the nicest people youll ever know. All of us adore him at the Opera House. Hes just as noble as the character he plays.
Hes not noble at all. Hes a stuck-up opera performer who turns his nose up to everyone he doesnt like. Like me.
Oh, please, Locke. A lot of people are like that. Hes wonderful. He listened to my entire story of the journey and the battle with Kefka and even about my past. Celes looked down at the floor as she smiled and softened her tone. He didnt pass judgment on me. He understood me. Lockes jaw nearly hit the floor when Celes said those words. He knew what she was trying to convey. She was making it seem like she was in love with Renier. Locke couldnt believe it. He did not come all this way and feel all these long-lost feelings to lose the woman who could give him a new start on life. He became concerned for his prospects of a life with Celes. He had to ask her if she had feelings for him.
Celes, dont tell me you have feelings for that guy. Do you? Celes looked up at Locke.
You can tell? Locke then let out a loud cry inside his head. He had been defeated yet again. He was too late. Celes went on to tell him about her character, the young girl- caller Rydia, Reniers character, the dark knight turned paladin Cecil, and Marias character who teaches Rydia to harness her full powers, Queen Ashura, but Locke was too busy beating himself up inside to pay any attention. Celes and Locke also shared memories of their journey together, Locke putting on a façade the whole time. He had failed again. He couldnt let this happen if he wanted to move on in life.
As the night ended, Locke and Renier accompanied Celes to her room in Jidoor. The crowds of people had gone, as it was rather late. Ironically, Renier lived in the same boarding house as Celes. Locke couldnt help but look down at the ground the entire time they walked. He felt torn inside, as if someone had taken his one and only dream and shattered it in front of his eyes. Noticing this, Celes grabbed Lockes hands and held them in her own. Locke looked into Celess eyes, but couldnt help but be distracted by Renier, who still stood nearby, watching them.
Renier, could you leave us alone, please? she asked.
So be it, replied Renier, who turned his back to the two. Good night, Celes, he added as he walked off to his room. Celes turned back to Locke, who was looking at the ground again.
Locke, whats wrong? she asked in a compassionate tone of voice. Was it something that Renier said to irk you?
No, its its not that, Celes. He didnt say anything I havent heard before.
Well, then, what is it? Youre not yourself. Locke sighed. He knew that he was cornered again and that the only way he wouldnt spoil the evening was to lie to Celes and to himself.
Im just thinking about poor Setzer. Hes not going to like whats become of Maria. Celes laughed. Hearing her laugh sounded more beautiful than ever.
Oh, Im sure hell be able to get over it, she said. Oh! Locke, stay right there, said Celes as she entered her room and shut the door behind her. Locke hit himself softly on his head with his fist.
Stupid! Now look what you made yourself do, he thought. Celes returned with two tickets to the Operas Houses opening performance.
Here you are. One for you and one for Setzer.
Thanks, Celes, said Locke uneasily. He wanted to tell her everything that he had felt for her up to that point, but he didnt want to spoil what they had shared that night. It was good to see her again, but reality had taken its toll on Locke again. Ill see you at the performance, then.
Right, responded Celes. I hope you enjoy the show.
Good night, Celes, said Locke as he smiled and looked at her one last time. He turned around to go, but Celes ran to him and grabbed his arm, stopping him. Locke turned around.
Locke, she said, it was nice seeing you again. She moved her lips towards his cheek and kissed him tenderly. Good night. Celes then went back into her room and shut the door. That did it. Locke had to make Celes his and his alone. He didnt care about how he did it either. As he walked back to the Falcon, he remembered the night that he first met Celes. She was chained up in an underground cell in South Figaro, lost in despair. He freed her and gave her a chance to undo her wrongs and fight evil in its truest form. He remembered all the other times that he and Celes spent together on that journey. He couldnt let all his feelings go unanswered. He remembered feeling this way many years ago while he was with Rachel. He didnt realize it at first, but he knew it was all the same. He was in love with Celes. He loved her with every bit of his being and he was confident that part of Celes was still in love with him too. Why else would she have given him that kiss? He came up with a plan to finally prove his love for her. After the finale of the opera, he would be the first person to greet Celes as she came offstage and tell her that she did a great job. At that moment of high emotion, he figured that he could kiss Celes in front of everybody and that she wouldnt care. In fact, she would welcome it. Getting back stage would be the problem, though. He figured that he would be able to sneak into her dressing room, as he did before, and greet her in the stage wing there. He had it all figured out as he finally reached the Falcon. He was determined to, once again, win the girl and be the hero.
The days passed and the night of the opera arrived. Guests in formal attire packed the Opera House awaiting the start of the career of what was supposed to be the new operatic sensation, Celes Chere. All except Locke, that is. He wore what remained of his formal attire after he had washed it thoroughly. The other operagoers all stared at Locke in disbelief. To think, someone of such distastefulness was in their midst. He did not belong, but Locke didnt care. He and Setzer took their seats with anticipation as the lights dimmed and the music started. As the opera began, a burning village was shown, with Celes in the middle. Renier came on, dressed once again as the knight, and saw that Celes was grieving the loss of her mother. Renier then admitted that he was the one who started the blaze in the village, as ordered by his lord, the King of Baron. Celes then used her powers as a caller to summon the monster Titan, who quickly disposed of the village and sent Renier and Celes off to another part of the world. At this point in the opera, Setzer leaned over to Locke.
Celes looks and sounds great. Youre one lucky guy, Locke nodded in agreement and smiled. He didnt bother to tell Setzer what had happened on that night, at risk of losing status in Setzers eyes. Setzer was right; he was a lucky guy to have it in so close with this opera diva. He grew more and more anxious to see Celes with each passing moment of the show. He could hardly contain himself and had been fidgeting in his seat all night long. He was often told by many of the patrons around him to sit still, as if he was a small child. The first act was nearing ending when Locke could not sit there and watch Celes any longer. He was going to sneak backstage and be the first to greet Celes as she came off.
Excuse me for a minute, Setzer. Im going to check in on Celes, said Locke.
Right, agreed Setzer, but dont be too long back there. And if you see Maria, give her my best.
I will. Locke headed out through the aisle where he had been sitting, climbing over patron after patron. He exited into the lobby and headed towards the backstage area. He went through Celess dressing room and into the offstage left wing. Renier was standing there in costume awaiting the end of the act. Right now, Rydia was lost in an underworld cave. She would eventually find Queen Ashura, queen of all monsters, at the end. Renier noticed that Locke was standing behind him.
Now what in blazes are you doing here dressed like that? asked Renier disapprovingly.
What does it look like? Im here to watch Celes. Renier turned his back to Locke and scoffed.
I honestly dont know why Celes keeps a little rat like you around as a friend.
What did you say? Locke started to get riled up. Renier was definitely starting to get on his nerves.
You heard me right, responded Renier. When Celes told me about herself, she told me about this dashing and noble young man named Locke Cole whom she loved for a long time. However, she also told me that this Locke Cole was nothing more than a petty thief who could not leave well enough alone, get over his grief, and accept the fact that people change. Even dead people change. Locke could feel the anger build inside of him. If Renier didnt stop, there were going to be problems between the two of them. Renier continued. Maybe you realize now that Celes is destined for greatness. Shes changed. Shes wanted to forget you ever since she began here; shes wanted to forget everything in her past. So, I suggest that you make yourself scarce from now on, you ignorant, uncultured, brutish, little worm. Locke looked down at the ground and clenched his fists together. Renier was getting closer and closer to crossing the line. By the way, how is Rachel doing? Oh, thats right. She lost interest in you even though you tried to save her life. How unfortunate. That did it. He would let anything fly, but no one ever dishonored Rachels memory. Locke could take no more. He grabbed Renier by the shoulder, spun him around and laid a hard right hook on his chin. Renier stumbled backward, eventually lost his balance, and fell to the ground.
Dont you dare disrespect Rachel like that,
You still dont get it, do you? As Renier slowly picked himself up, he spoke again. Youre stupider than I thought. Well, let me make it clear to you. Celes is MINE! Locke punched him again in the same place, only harder. He put everything behind that punch. He used his feelings for Celes as his motivation. He had had enough out of Renier. Renier stumbled backward on to the stage in the middle of the active scene. Locke followed up by tackling Renier to the floor. The patrons stood up and gasped in utter disbelief as they watched the melee take place on stage. Needless to say, the actors on stage were surprised as well, especially Celes. The two men were too busy fighting to realize what they were actually doing. Renier got a leg up under Locke and threw him off with a mighty push. Renier then charged towards Locke and tackled him, like Locke had just done to him. The two men went flying into a part of the scenery, completely demolishing it. Renier laid in a few good punches of his own until Locke was able to break free of his grip and got out of the scenery. Renier lunged toward Locke again, but this time, Locke was able to dodge him. As Renier tried to spin back around, Locke kicked him in the back, sending him flying into the orchestra pit, landing on a few of the musicians.
Hows that for a little worm? Locke asked.
Locke, what are you doing??! screamed Celes behind him. Locke froze where he stood and finally realize where he was. There were whispers in the audience about how they were appalled by what just happened, yet they were not surprised to see whom it was coming from. Locke could see Setzer as well, who was hiding his face and shaking his head in disbelief. He knew he was in trouble, only this time, there was no octopus for him to fight as an excuse. He saw Celes run to Renier, who was having trouble getting back on his feet. After taking a few moments to check up on him, she marched back to Locke, who still stood in the middle of the stage. Locke, what have you done? The Impresario is going to pull his hair out when he sees this! she shouted. She spared no strength in her voice in yelling at Locke. The show was obviously over for the night.
Celes, let me explain. You see he was cut off by Celes, who was not in the mood to hear anything he had to say.
No! I dont want to hear it, Locke. Youve ruined this performance and possibly my career. Locke was in desperation he had to make Celes understand why he did what he did.
Celes You You dont understand. He was well he he Locke had no idea what to say. He was trapped and could not put any of his thoughts or feelings into anything coherent.
Locke, you hurt him! And you completely humiliated me. Get out! I never want to see you again! she yelled as she turned her back and walked away. Locke could feel his heart shatter into small pieces at that moment. He had no idea what he was going to do next. He merely sulked off the stage through the orchestra pit and left. Setzer, trying not to make himself look too conspicuous, followed.