By Margaret Rennie
The last thing that Edgar remembered was a loud whoosh that seemed to come from inside his own head, then, everything had gone dark. His first thought upon waking was that his backside hurt -- hurt badly. He had apparently landed on it, when he landed here, wherever this was. He sat on the ground, or what felt like the ground, since there wasn't actually anything beneath him, and shook his head. Slowly, his equilibrium returned, and he looked around.
It appeared to him that he was sitting in the middle of a gray fog, with little visible except a distant signpost, and a great, black storm wall, inside of which raged thunder and lightning, whose frequent bolts lit the storm clouds a deep purple. He thought he heard faint strains of organ music coming from somewhere, but decided that it was only his head, still ringing from his harsh landing from...he couldn't recall where.
"Oomph!!" Celes came down with a hard thud, seconds before Locke dropped next to her, crying out in painful surprise. She had been caught off guard, and her soldier's instinct quickly kicked in. Her hand dropped to what should have been her scabbard, and she raised her arm triumphantly, proudly displaying...a bouquet of flowers. She stared in disbelief.
"What the...Locke??" Her eyes had moved from the bouquet to her lover, who sat alongside her, looking intently in the opposite direction. Now she sat staring at her second shock in as many minutes. "Uh, Locke? My memory fails me at the moment, but, um, honey? When did you go...blond?"
"What??" Locke shouted out at the mist. "Blond! Me? No, can't be. I'm not the type to dye my hair! You must be seeing things!" Celes rubbed her eyes. Nope, he was still blond. And he was still facing the other way. She impatiently pursed her lips.
"Locke, will you for heaven's sake look at me? What in the world are you goggling at!" Locke groaned.
"I...dunno. Nothing. I'm trying to look at you, Celes, honest. It's just that I...can't seem to..." He grunted with effort as he tried once more to turn his head toward Celes. He succeeded only in moving his head from side to side, as if he was surveying some unseen landscape.
Celes' hand again dropped to her missing scabbard as she saw a figure approach in the mist that surrounded them. Her shoulders slumped with relief as she recognized Edgar of Figaro.
"Ah, it's only you," she said dismissively, and looked down again with dismay at the flowers in her hand.
"What d'you think happened," a familiar voice called out. Edgar and Celes, and presumably Locke, smiled in recognition. Terra stepped out of the mist to stand alongside Edgar. Her eyes widened as she saw Celes' and Edgar's smiles suddenly fade. "What," she asked. "You're staring at me as if I'd grown another nose." Terra noticed that Locke hadn't turned around to greet her. "What's the matter with you?" she asked huffily. "Something I said?"
"Terra," Edgar began. "Uh, sweetie..." He uncomfortably pointed to Terra's head. Alarmed, she moved her fingers to her hair. Yes! It was still there. She frowned in confusion.
"What? What about my hair?''
"It's blonde, dear," Celes replied, "just like Locke's." Terra gasped. Before she could respond, the group heard footsteps. Setzer and Shadow emerged from the mist. The group greeted them as they neared.
Celes groaned. Setzer now sported blond hair.
"What is with this place," she muttered, exasperated. Celes saw Setzer's concerned expression as he watched the back of Locke's now-blond head, and waved her hand. "Don't bother, Setzer," she said. "He won't look at you. He won't look at anybody. And before you make any cracks about his hair, you'd better grab a mirror." She shrugged. "Don't ask."
Edgar cleared his throat, and held up the signpost he had plucked from what passed as the ground in this strange place. The sign was comprised of just two numerals, "VI."
"Have you all looked at yourselves," he asked, "At each other? Have you noticed something different? Other than we seem to have been attacked by a mad hairdresser with a bottle of bleach, that is?" The Returners looked down at themselves and around at one another. Except Locke, who was unable to look at anybody.
"We're tall," Shadow observed, his voice muffled by the helmet he now wore. It was hot in there, but he feared to remove it. He was certain that his hair, too, had turned yellow, a most undignified color for an assassin.
"Very good, Shadow," Edgar praised. "As usual, nothing gets past our Ninja." Shadow's eyes narrowed in ill-humor. Edgar suddenly looked out into the fog. Sounds of a struggle had reached his ears.
"Move it, you lipstick-wearing, cackling, psycho clown," echoed a voice in the mist. "Move it before I plant my foot up your--"
"Oh, nice talk for a priest," came another voice. "I shall speak to Master Duncan about you!" With a sudden grunt, Kefka came stumbling toward the group, followed closely by the King's brother, Sabin.
"Look, brother," exclaimed Sabin. "Look what the wind blew in!" Shadow edged toward Kefka menacingly. Celes brandished her bouquet of flowers, then blushed and hid them behind her back. Edgar put a restraining hand on Shadow's arm.
"No, Shadow," Edgar cautioned. "If we kill him, we may not be able to get back."
"Back," Locke asked, apparently addressing some unseen person opposite the group. "Back where?" Edgar let the "VI" sign drop with a clatter.
"Back to III, I should expect," Edgar replied. The group fell silent. "Yes, friends, it appears that we have been transported to, well, Playstation. Look at our bodies! We're tall. And some of us are quite good-looking," Edgar added, looking at his nails.
"B-but, we can't live here," Terra said worriedly. "We're pixilated! This is Cloud's territory! We would never make it here!" She covered her face and began to weep.
"Well, why would we have to go back?" Setzer asked. "We look like ourselves, after all, sort of. Maybe they didn't get the hair color right, but look, I have my cards, Locke has his bandana, and Celes is charmingly outfitted for her famous opera scene -- "
"She is?" Locke interrupted. "Aw, babe, you wearing that ribbon? You know what that ribbon does to me..." Celes affectionately patted the middle of his back.
"Yeah, honey. I know."
"Yes Setzer," Edgar interjected. "I understand what you're saying, but look around. Nothing has been moved here except us, and not even all of us. Cyan isn't here, nor is Gau, nor Strago --"
"Nor Relm!" came Shadow's muffled voice.
"Nor any of our non-human members," Sabin added.
"We have no place here," Edgar continued. "Oh, there are a few things, a turret, a hallway, a balcony. No towns, no townspeople, no world. We must go back." Kefka smiled cruelly.
"Mwa-ha-ha! Not entirely true, Your Royal pain-in-the-patootie! It just so happens that part of the world did get transported, only perhaps not the part you would care to live in. There is a very nice rendering of the Empire. Impressive exteriors. Lovely, steel-floored interiors. Even a couple of Imperial soldiers. Isn't that so, my precious?" Kefka rubbed his hands and cackled in Terra's direction. Terra's eyebrows shot up, and she rushed to Edgar's side.
"I don't want to stay here with him! I want to go back with you!" Edgar stroked her golden locks and flinched.
"Not to worry, little Terra. No one's going to leave you behind. Why, you're the center of everything, my pet. None of us has a purpose without you. We shall all go back, you and I, and Kefka too. All of us. Our world can't work if even one of us is missing."
"No!" Kefka cried. "I don't want to! I like being tall. I like lipstick! You can't make me go! I refuse!" Setzer and Shadow each grabbed one of Kefka's arms.
"So, Edgar, how do we get back to our own world?" Sabin asked. Edgar shrugged.
"I don't really know, brother. Just jump in, I would imagine."
"Jump in where," asked Locke, his back to Edgar, his head surveying his invisible landscape. Edgar addressed himself to Locke's back.
"Into this thunderstorm," the King replied. Everyone was silent. Except Kefka.
"No-o-o-o-o! I'm not jumping into that! That lightning is worse than the Light of Judgment! NO! I'M NOT GOING, I TELL YOU, YOU CAN'T MAKE --" With a growl, Setzer and Shadow heaved Kefka into the storm wall, with Shadow quickly following him. Setzer turned to his friends, and with a grin and a thumbs-up, dove into the wall himself and disappeared. Sabin shrugged at his brother.
"Ready?" he asked. Edgar nodded, and smiling, offered his arm to Terra. The three walked together into the storm wall as though they were strolling through a park. Celes sighed.
"Well, my love," she said to Locke. "That only leaves us." Locke smiled out at his unseen landscape.
"See you in South Figaro, beautiful lady," he grinned. Celes dimpled.
"See you at the opera, my hero." The lovers clasped hands, and leapt into the storm ahead.
Emerald-haired Terra sweated inside her magitek armored shell as the snow crunched beneath her feet. She was all unsmiling business as Vicks and Wedge trudged alongside her, up the wintry mountain ledge. She couldn't have known that all was well, that her world had been restored, and history would once again play itself out as was meant to be. She couldn't have known, for she wore the slave crown, and couldn't remember anything at all, not even her own name.
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