An Ultimate Quest Chapter 8
There's a momentary silence, then the voice laughed: "Very good Cloud! So you do recognize me! I'm touched!"
"You f*&^ing touched in your head!" Barret snapped, "Sephiroth is f*&^ing dead!"
"Oh no, friend, that's what you think. Master Usroe gave me a new form, I'm truly immortal now!"
"Then the storm was your doing?" Cloud asks quietly, hand tightly on his sword.
"Oh yes. I thought the Master Demon here could at least take care of the half-Esper for me, what a pity, the girl lived." He laughed, "Which is more than I can say for your Aeris. By the way, did I ever tell you, I really enjoyed seeing my sword run her through."
"Damn you Sephiroth!" Cloud roared angrily, clenching his fists; "Why are you hiding like a f*&^ing bitch? Come out here and fight, you coward!"
"Oh no, my friend. I'm occupied at this moment. Come to my castle, I shall satisfy your wish to die." With that, the voice vanished.
"He's gone." Magus said.
Cloud stares into the space, face white with fury: "Damn it, I thought I rid him for good!"
They were silent for a moment, then Locke suddenly spoke: "I get it, the sorcer, his name was not Lake-froth, it's La-kef-roth!"
Cloud nodded slightly: "Yes, that makes sense. Roth is for Sephiroth, and "
Celes shivered: "Kef is for Kefka, that means he is alive too."
Glenn looks at Crono: "Then La must stand for "
"Lavos." Crono, Marle, Ayla and Magus said in chorus.
For sometime all fifteen of them were dead silence. Lavos, Kefka and Sephiroth. One of them is already such a pain, not to mention three all together.
"Well, looks like we'll just have to deal." Setzer finally said; "C'mon, we all need a good rest if we are to fight Lakefroth."
"Yes, but that thing we just fought there's only one Master Demon in this castle, right?" Marle asked.
"I think so." Locke nodded, "From what Sephiroth said, I think that demon was the only one in this castle."
Marle did not seem very convinced. Then Crono whispered something to her, and she relaxed noticeably. The two bid goodnight to others, and went off.
They saw them enter Marle's chamber together, but no one said anything. Instead, they parted silently, dwelled in their own thoughts.
Edgar waited until everyone else left, then looks at Terra with concern: "Are you going to be alright?"
She smiled weakly: "Yeah, I'm just fine. Go ahead, I'll be asleep in no time."
Edgar frowns slightly. She looks pale and exhausted, the demon must gave her quiet a scare. He very much doubts she could get back to sleep again, yet she needed rest.
He walks over to her, gathered her into his arms: "It's okay to be scared, Terra. I'll stay here with you, if you want."
"But I've already been so much trouble " She complains, but he knew that she appreciates his company very much.
With a comforting smile, he assisted her to lie down on the bed: "Believe me, my dear, you've been anything but trouble. I'll stay here for the night, so get some rest."
Terra seems to relax considerably. She closed her eyes for a moment, then whispered: "Edgar, you'll be here?"
"Aye, milady, I'll be here." He kissed her forehead lightly, "I'll always be here for you."
Setzer, Sabin and Locke were still in the hallway, their figures hidden by a pillar.
"Edgar didn't leave." Setzer commented.
Locke shrugs his shoulders: "Maybe it's better that way, Terra had quiet a scare, it'll be better if someone stayed with her."
Setzer smiled: "You not gonna do anything about it? Sometimes you get very protective over her."
Locke chuckled: "Protect her from Edgar? What for? As far as I can see, he's damn in love with her."
Sabin nodded his agreement: "The way he try to cover her from the black dragon I thought I'd lost him altogether."
Setzer shakes his head: "That pretty boy's going to have a tough time chasing Terra. She might be intelligent in other matters, but she's rather slow when it comes to emotional stuff."
Locke shakes his head: "She's not slow, she's just cautious. Her experience with the emperor and Kefka taught her to be alert with human nature. I was surprised that she even trusted us in the first place."
Setzer laughed: "It's hard to believe, but that flirt's gonna have a hell of a time seducing this lady."
"Edgar's not really a flirt like he pretends to be." Sabin said seriously; "He When I left the castle, everything fell on his shoulders. He was lonely, and he just pretends to be a playboy, to get rid of the loneliness. In a way, it was my fault."
"Let's wish him good luck then." Locke grins, "Hard to believe that Terra might become the Queen of Figaro."
"I would not be surprised if I have to address her as Your Majesty one day." Setzer commented, then eyeing the door to Celes' room, "So, what's going on between you and Celes?"
"What you mean what's going on?" He asks rather sharply.
"I ain't blind. She pretends to be normal, but sometimes she's so into her thoughts she doesn't even notice. If I'm allowed to make a guess, thief, I'd say you broke the lady's heart pretty bad."
"And since when are you an oracle, gambler?" Locke snapped, and then sighed, "Look, I'll talk to her."
Sabin nodded: "Better be some time soon. You'll probably hit me for this, but still, we all know that chances are not all of us will return after the battle."
"Shut up, Sabin." Locke and Setzer said in chorus. But deep inside, they both know Sabin is right. The battle against Lakefroth is going to be hard, and they are not always lucky.
Locke sighed again. He need to talk to Celes, and soon. They need to talk about the things between them, and about Rachel. It's going to be hard, but they do need to talk it over. He does not wish to enter a battle with regrets.
The next day they spent in preparation. Sharpen the weapons, going over spells, practice moves and magic, picking relics and materia to equip. And then comes the transportation. The snow didn't melt enough for them to travel on foot; the only option left was the flying mops.
"*&^%, #$%^*^<, !@$^$#@%^&!!!" Barret cursed, "I'm not gonna sit on that thing even if ya pay me! Can't you think of a better idea?"
Celes nodded: "yeah, we can always ask Magus to turn you into a big ugly chocobo and ride on you! What you say?"
Magus shrugged: "I don't care. There's always time for some entertainment."
Barret gave up: "Alright, it's the f*&^ing flying mop then."
Locke came in: "What are you arguing about? C'mon, dinner's ready, let's have a good meal."
"I doubt anything that pink pot cooks can be called good." Celes murmured, but followed others into the dining hall, and ate.
"So this is it then." Marle spoke first, "I mean, tomorrow's gonna be the big day."
"Yeah. It's gonna be quiet a battle." Barret said.
Terra looks at Cloud and Magus: "Do you think Do you think Lakefroth has crono trigger and white materia?"
"I don't know. But knowing Sephiroth is alive, and have the chance to battle him again, already made this journey worthwhile." Cloud answered.
Magus nodded his agreement: "My promise to Schala, I will do anything in my power to destroy Lavos, and this time for good."
"Lavos, Kefka and Sephiroth." Locke murmured, "This turns out to be quiet an amazing quest."
"Yeah." Glenn nodded, "And allow me to say, you are all wonderous warriors, it's been such a pleasure meeting you all."
Edgar rise from his seat, and held up his glass: "A toast then, to our quest."
"To our quest." The fifteen of them drank together.
Ayla and Barret were still eating after the rest of them left.
"You good, strong, eat much." Ayla said while chewing a beef stake, "Eat much, become chief of village. Ayla eat thirty Jurassic pork, become chief of Ioka village."
"I wish our world go by that rule, I would be a f*&^ing mayor than." Barret said dreamily.
Ayla laughed: "Come, hard battle tomorrow, eat!"
It was sure a hearty meal they had.
Magus and Shadow sits on the roof of the west tower, watching the starry night silently.
"The black wind, is stronger now " Magus murmured.
Shadow didn't answer for a moment, then asks flatly: "Am I going to die?"
"Do you care?" Magus asks without looking at him.
Shadow thought for a moment, and answered: "Yes, I do. It used to be that I don't give a damn, but now I miss my daughter. Strago will not be there forever, Relm needs me to take care of her, she needs a person to guide her though youth, and Gau is immature himself. I want to live, for my daughter."
Magus nodded: "Then you wouldn't die. As long as you are living for a purpose, you would not die easily."
"Thank you." Shadow said sincerely. "I learned so much during this quest. I shall return to Thamasa first thing when this is over. It's about time Relm get to know who I really am."
"Tomorrow, the old score will finally be settled." Magus said.
"Yes, and I hope you find your Schala when it is all over." Shadow gave his best wish.
Setzer, Cyan, Sabin and Glenn sits together in one of the drawing rooms, drinking the wine they found in the storage.
"Good wine this is. Must be at least hundred years old." Cyan commented.
"Aye, I always liked a good drink before a battle." Setzer said.
Sabin laughed: "Talk about it, the day before we fought Kefka, you drank the best wine there is in Figaro Castle."
Glenn polished his sword with a piece of silk: "So what thou going to do after the battle?"
Sabin shrugged: "I don't know. Travel the world, adventure, or even treasure hunting--and I'm no Locke, I do mean treasure hunting, mind you--that sort of stuff. I don't settle down easily."
The other three nodded their agreement, and drank to their adventurous soul.
In Marle's room, she and Crono sits together on the bed, holding hands while Marle rested her head on Crono's shoulder.
"You know, I'm a little scared about tomorrow." She said quietly
Crono brushes her hair gently: "Why are you scared? You weren't afraid when we battle Lavos."
"I don't know, but seems that was somehow different. Or maybe it's because I am growing older, and learned to be afraid." Marle was clearly troubled: "It's not just Lavos anymore. The part that belongs to Kefka and Sephiroth they give me the chills."
"Sure there's more to him, but there are more of us too. Cloud is an excellent swordsman, the best I've seen; Terra, Celes, Locke, Edgar, all good fighter and strong magic user; and there's Barret, Shadow, Cyan, Sabin, Setzer; plus we still have Ayla, Glenn and Magus." Crono briefly counted the people on their side, assuring Marle, "Don't worry, we are going to win."
"You are right, I guess I'm a little too nervous. C'mon, let's get some sleep."
Ever since the demon accident with Terra, they decided to share a room. Since they are engaged anyway, no one can question whether it is proper or not.
They lie together quietly for some time, then Crono reach out and took Marle's hand in his. "Don't worry, I'll protect you. You are to be the Queen of Guardia, remember? And I'll be your Champion."
"No, you'll be the king. But then again, have the King of Guardia as my Champion is sort of flattering." She chuckled softly, and rolled over to kiss him.
In her room, Celes was leaning on the window frame, staring at the sky and humming softly to herself.
A knock on the door.
"Come in." She said without looking back, rather expecting the person.
The door opens and closes, Locke came in quietly, standing behind her: "Get some rest, you'll need it."
"I like to go over my thoughts a little before a battle, makes me alert." She said with a half smile.
"I remember. The night before we fought Kefka, you were sitting alone on the roof." He said with a grin, "The roof is occupied today, is that why you stayed in your room?"
"Shadow and Magus aren't what you call pleasant company." She said, her smile deepened with memory, "I remember that night. I couldn't go to sleep, and then you found me on the roof."
"Yeah, we talked, and then I made you sing the opera."
"Which nearly drove Shadow nuts." She chuckled softly, "It's a miracle he didn't cut my throat with a ninja star."
"But he couldn't, because Terra and Relm joined you."
"Then you and Edgar takes Derek's part, and Setzer was the evil prince." She shakes her head, "What a performance that was."
"Yeah, it was fun." Locke said. They were silent for a moment, then Celes murmured in a low voice, "Locke, if if I'm not coming back "
"Hush, you are coming back. We are coming back, together." He puts his hand on her shoulder.
"I'm just saying, if, if that happens, please take care of Cid for me." She turned back to face him, her eyes pleading, "Please, don't let him spend his last years in isolation and loneliness, that's all I ask."
"Stop talking like that, Celes." Locke grabbed her shoulders, forcing her to face his glance; "This is not like you, you were never so depressed. Tell me, what's bothering you? Is it me?"
"How dare you you conceited, chivalrous pig!" Celes felt embarrassed and ashamed, struggled to break his hold.
He would not let her go: "Please Celes, give me a chance to talk to you. After what we've been through, we are at least close friends, right?" She stopped her struggle, and he get go of her genteelly; "Celes, be honest with me, tell me what's bothering you. Actually, I think I know what is bothering you, but I'd like to know for sure."
She sighed: "Locke, if I can't have anything else, can I at least keep my dignity? "
"Just tell me once and for all, what an I to you?"
"The most important person in my life." He admitted without hesitation.
Celes bit her lips, avoiding his eyes: "Then what about Rachel?"
"Rachel " He paused for a moment, then slowly spoke; "Celes, remember I said I want to revive Rachel? Well I thought it over, and "
He sighed: "Really, we have no right to just haul a person back to life. It really should be the person's choice, whether he or she wants to live again. At first I wanted Rachel back, because she deserve a longer and happier life, but then I realized, I can no longer give her happiness."
"Celes, a lot has changed since her death. The world changed, her family is no more, and I changed. I don't think she wants her peace to be disturbed." He said sincerely.
The battle with Lakefroth is tomorrow; it's going to be the hardest battle in his life. Never before had he been so conscious of the fact that he loves Celes. He loves her, loved her for a long time now. What he loves, he can not love with half a heart. Bring Rachel back now would only do damage to all of them.
"Celes, this might not be the best time, and I'm not good at making speeches. Nonetheless," He reached for her hand, looking at her eagerly, "Celes, will you be my wife after we return to our world?"
She could only stare at him with tears in her eyes, and nodded. For the first time in her life, the former General of the Empire was speechless.
Locke swept her into his arms, and kissed her passionately, burning away the shadow of past that kept them apart for so long.
Celes was glad Locke held her, otherwise she would surely fall with knees so weak. Their long kiss left her breathless, but her heart was light as a feather, singing her joy.
Somehow they end up on the bed, in each other's arms. "I love you." She whispered.
He kisses her lips and throat: "And I love you."
They went to sleep much later, content and without any doubt or mistrust between them.
Rachel lives on, in his past, in his memory. But in the present, it is Celes he holds in his arms, it is Celes that he treasures, and loves with all his heart. And for the many years ahead of him, she will be the only love of him.
Terra saw Locke enter Celes's room, and when he didn't come out after half an hour, she can't help with a smile on her face.
They are finally getting somewhere. Good for them both, and for her too. Once the two lovebirds have an understanding between them, Celes would no longer doubt the friendship between Locke and herself.
She felt restless, so instead of going back to her room, she headed toward the kitchen for a cup of tea. There she found Cloud, along at the stove.
"Tea?" He asks.
She nodded, and he filled a cup for her.
"Thanks." She took a sip, then after a moment of hesitation, asks him: "So this Sephiroth Is he very powerful?"
"As powerful as your Kefka, I'd imagine." Cloud replies, moved to sit beside her, "You seem pretty calm before such a battle."
"Oh, believe me, I'm very nervous. I just don't show it." She laughed a little, "What about you?"
Cloud's smile was bitter: "Let's just say I'm glad to have another chance to slay Sephiroth. This time, I'll make sure he stays dead."
Terra frowns: "Dead people are supposed to stay dead, unless someone revives them. Who do you think is behind all this?"
"I don't know yet, but in my dreams, Aeris warned me of an impending evil. We'll get some answers when I get her back." Cloud said, with a flash of pain in his eyes when he mentioned Aeris's name.
"Cloud How do you know you love Aeris? I mean, what does it feel like to love a person, not as a friend but as someone closer than that?"
" How do you know anything? You just do, it's a natural feeling, Terra."
"But I'm not natural. You saw me in battle as an Esper, I'm not even completely human."
Well, probably the same thing can be said for him, considering his experience as a Soldier.
Cloud smiled: "The difference between machine and human is that machines do things under calculation of profit, they give up and run away in the face of danger. The sole thing that enables human to face danger is their emotion. It is for emotions that they are willing to risk their lives even when no profit can be gained. By choosing to fight Lakefroth, I think you are perfectly capable of human emotions."
"But how do I know?" She was uncertain.
"It's not a matter of knowing, it's a matter of feeling, of believing." Cloud paused for a moment, then added, "Once I was a mercenary, I lived for money, because I don't know what else to live for. Then I met Barret, Tifa, and Aeris I was attracted to Aeris, because there's just so much caring and loving around her, she seem to shine like a light beam, with her love for the world. I didn't know how much she meant to me, until the day of her death."
"Cloud I'm sorry I brought this up." She whispered.
"No, don't be. Terra, I know this is strange, but you you seemed so much like me. I don't want you to experience what I have experienced." Cloud said seriously, "Don't hesitate, let go of your feelings. If I'm not mistaking, there is someone waiting for you to open your heart."
She left the kitchen more confused than when she enters it. The feelings inside her, the doubt and hope, all mixed together like a giant knot. She returned to her room deep in thought, and found Edgar waiting for her.
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