Something To Live For
An FF6 fanfiction work by: email@example.com. Final Fantasy VI and all characters involved are copyright of Squaresoft.
Author's note: This story takes place before the start of FF6.
He heard the shopkeeper shouting after him, and grimaced. A couple of years or so ago if someone told him he'd be stealing food off merchants in South Figaro, he'd laugh in their faces. He was a different man then, with different worries. The man he was today couldn't be bothered to think about such things as honor or ethics. He was too busy thinking about food, and money. And his research of course. He had to do his research. What did it all mean otherwise? The months of living off stolen food and money, moving from place to place, robbing scholars and merchants alike, living as a thief. Damn, he said to himself. These aren't the thoughts to be having while being pursued by Imperial Troopers.
"Hurry up, Biggs, he's getting away!"
His somewhat stout companion was lagging a step or so behind him, adjusting his brown helmet. But he couldn't afford to slow down and wait for him, he thought as he saw his quarry turn right into the next alley. This had been the chance they were waiting for, a chance to prove themselves to their superiors. He sped up the chase as his prey knocked down a couple of merchant stalls in his haste to get away. He looked around and tried to figure out where his target was heading. Biggs was still right behind him, panting, but still running. He had known Biggs since they were kids back in their hometown, and had dreamed of becoming Imperial Generals. He looked back at him and shouted an unnecessarly rough command.
"Biggs, he's headed for the west side exit! Get the Guards to cover that side!"
Biggs nodded at Wedge words, and turned down the next corner to alert the Figaro Guards on the west side. He was a bit miffed at Wedge' tone. They were, after all, of equal rank, having been Sergeants in the Imperial Army for, what, two years now? His mind flashed back to the time he and Biggs were promoted, how happy they were that they were one step closer to their dream. He remembered that dream and forgave his friend's words. He was merely excited after all, since this capture would undoubtedly lead to a promotion. He caught sight of the Figaro Guardsmen at their post, and stepped up his running a notch.
Damn, he's still right behind me, the object of the soldiers' attention said to himself. He was a pretty fast runner, but this guy was hot on his tail. He looked back at his pursuer as he jumped down the steps from the rampart to ground level. He looks young, he thought to himself, probably hasn't even been in the service five years, a private or a sergeant at most. He considered stopping and pulling out the dirk in his belt, as the guy probably wouldn't stand a chance. But he hated killing, and avoided it whenever he could. Besides the guy just needed to hold him off for a few minutes before the Guard could surround him. No, I'll just stick to the plan -- out the west side wall and off to Narshe. He turned the corner, stopped and fell back as he caught sight of the seven or eight Guards at the gate, with an Imperial Soldier commanding them. Oh well, it was a bad plan anyway. He looked back to see his the other Soldier about to pounce on him. He drew his blade and parried just before the sword cut off his left arm.
"Hey, take it easy! I'm a thief, not a murderer!" Not yet, at least.
"Hmph. I know who you are." Wedge made a feint, hoping to fake out a counterattack. "We've had reports of your activities in this area for some time now. And your time is up." When his opponent failed to counter, he followed through, hoping to catch him in the right shoulder with a quick thrust.
"Sorry, kid," the thief said as he knocked the incoming blade to the side. "But there's no way I'm letting myself get caught here." He turned around quickly, letting the man's thrust slide harmlessly behind him, and proceeded to knock him down with the hilt of his blade. He heard the soldiers coming before he saw them, so he started running again as his opponent fell to his knees, hands massaging the back of his neck.
"Wedge, what happened?!"
"Don't worry about me, just go get that guy!"
As Biggs attended to his defeated partner, the thief looked back to see seven Figaro Guards in hot pursuit. Damn, I guess I'll have to go out the other side. I guess I'll hiding in a cave again for a couple of days. He changed his mind when he saw the guards gathered at the east side entrance. He sighed to himself as he turned and ran up the stairs to the ramparts. Why did I always come back to South Figaro anyway? South Figaro was well-manned, both by Figaro Guards and Imperial Soldiers, mainly because most of the trade between the Empire and Figaro passed through here. That meant a lot of merchants to steal from, but it also meant you had a hell of a time escaping. Uh oh, he muttered as he saw the two Imperial Soldiers who had chased him earlier right in front of him. He looked around, jumping off the rampart was out of the question, there were three guards on the ground level just waiting for him. And the other four were right behind him. He stopped, shrugged, and turned to the two Troopers, a despondent look on his face. It's not like he was worried about getting captured. After all, he'd been captured before, and he would probably be out again in a couple of days. What bothered him was that the chase was over. That was all he really lived for these days, the thrill of the chase. That and his...research of course.
"I guess you got me."
"Like I said, your times up. By order of the Imperial Magistrate, you are under arrest, Locke Cole."
Biggs produced a pair of shackles and Wedge grabbed Locke, pinning his arms behind him. He was about to snap on the shackles when the Figaro Guards came up to them.
"Release this man to our custody," the Guard Commander said to the two Troopers. "He's wanted by the King of Figaro for crimes against the nation of Figaro."
"What? This man is wanted under Imperial Law, and we came here specifically to bring him to the Emperor's justice." Wedge said. Although officially, they were just stationed here as part of the "diplomatic envoy" to Figaro, they had taken it upon themselves to prove their abilities to their superiors by catching a notorious thief. "it is our duty to bring him back to the Imperial Capital for summary execution."
Execution? Yeah, right. Locke wasn't worried about that. He felt a bit miffed though, being fought over by two sets of soldiers.
"I'm sorry, Sergeant," the Guard Commander said, emphasizing Wedge's rank. "But this man was captured on Figaro territory, and the King's Guards get first crack at him. We're allies, yes. But that doesn't give your Imperial Army authority in these lands."
He was here again. It seems he was here every night. Wherever he was, his dreams almost always brought him back to this place. A place he hadn't visited for little more than a year now. Kohlingen.
It seemed only yesterday he was living in this quiet little town, an aspiring treasure hunter. He used to love this place. He wasn't very well off, but he had a house here, a cozy little place he had inherited a long time ago. He loved the people here, the atmosphere, and the scenery. And Rachel. Of course, there was always Rachel.
"Don't be silly Locke," Rachel had said to him as they sat at their usual table at the town's only restaurant. "You've been in those caves a million times. What makes you think you'll find anything new today?" She always needled him about his 'job', or lack of it as the case may be. But she loved him. Of this he was sure. He would never be able to provide for her in the way her parents wanted, but he knew he loved her as well, and that he would always take care of her.
"Just a feeling I got," he had said with his usual air of confidence. "There was an unusual cleft I saw the last time I was in there. I'm pretty sure that there are other artifacts in there like the last one." He had found an ancient spear in the cave before, and a scholar had verified for him that it was indeed an artifact, from the War of the Magi perhaps. Which was why he wanted to explore the caves more. Rachel always worried about him, and he hated worrying her. But a few more artifacts like that, and the two of them could probably be set for life.
"No good will come of these 'artifacts' you know," had Rachel said in her most lecturely tone, "the War of the Magi ended a thousand years ago, and digging up long-forgotten weapons won't help the peace any. Who knows, one of these weapons you excavate could catch the interest of the Empire. What would happen to Kohlingen then?" Rachel's father was a scholar, a historian who studied the War of the Magi. So her father always told her of the horrible struggle that ended a thousand years ago, and how they should all learn from history's mistakes. She smiled at him, "After all, if something were to happen to our little town, where would we live when we got married?" Locke's face went red at the memory of her smile.
Locke woke up to the sound of a voice from the other side of his cell wall. Oh well, he said to hismelf. I've dreamed the same dream a thousand times anyway. The voice behind the wall repeated itself.
"What?" Locke said to the wall.
"Hey, you're awake. I heard the guards talking about you. Is it true you're Locke Cole?"
"Yeah, what of it?" he responded cautiously.
"Wow! I've always wanted to meet you! You're my hero! I've heard all about your 'jobs' back in the Empire!"
Locke sighed. It's bad enough he was a thief. Now he was a famous thief. With an enthusiastic fan. He curled up and tried to get back to sleep. "You're thinking of someone else, just let me sleep."
Apparently his excited prisonmate hadn't heard him. "I'm Lone Wolf, the pickpocket. I mean, I'm just a pickpocket now, but someday I'm gonna be a famous thief like you! So, when are you planning to escape? You are planning to escape, right?" Another two-bit crook, Locke figured. They were being held in the prison in the basement of Figaro Castle. The Guards had taken him here after a rather heated argument with the two Troopers. He figured he'd stay for a couple of days, if only to take advantage of the free food. But his 'friend' behind the wall didn't need to know that.
"I'm not gonna escape. Just go to sleep."
"What? You can't be serious! I mean, they probably won't execute us like the Empire would, but--"
The voice trailed off at the sound of the far doors of the prison creaking open, something eerily noticable in the darkness. A couple of guards walked up to his cell, one of them carrying a candle. Behind them, Locke could see the silhouette of a tall, robed man.
"Locke Cole?" The robed man turned to the guard for confirmation. "The King wishes to see you."
Locke wondered what the King of Figaro would want with him as the Guards opened his cell and brought him to his feet.
"Be strong, man!" His unseen friend spoke out to him again, albeit in a more subdued voice. "You can get out of this!" He never heard from that guy again.
Edgar Roni Figaro, king of the small nation of Figaro, was in his throne room. You'd think someone who was royalty would be surrounded by servants willing to do his every bidding. But Edgar didn't really like servants hovering around him, except for the occasional pretty servant girl perhaps, but not today. Today, there were greater concerns to be met.
The king of Figaro was conversing with a bearded old man standing in front of his throne. If not for the throne, one might think Edgar actually deferred to the old man, instead of being the king that he was.
"Are you sure about this, old friend?" Edgar asked the old man.
"He would be a great help to us, I'm sure," came the reply, "and you know we need all the help we can get."
"How can you be sure he'd agree?"
"Just leave it to me." The old man smiled knowingly.
The Chancellor of Figaro, wrapped in his flowing red robe with golden trimmings, strode into the throne room. "Beg your pardon, your majesty, but the prisoner is here."
"All right, bring him in." Edgar nodded briefly to the old man, who then moved conveniently to the shadows in the far wall.
The two guards nudged Locke into the throne room. He complied and walked into the room with no hint of awe or majesty at Figaro's throne room. It was majestic, yes, worthy of a king, but nothing he had not seen before. The guards brought him before the throne.
"Kneel." The guard gruffly ordered, and Locke felt his head pushed to the ground.
"Get up, you know I hate that." Edgar said. The guards complied, lifting Locke back to his feet. Locke looked up at the king of Figaro. He's younger than I thought, Locke said to himself, what does he want with me?
Locke looked around the room and took note of any means of escape. There were six other guards, aside from the ones holding him, and two more outside the door; the fat old chancellor who had taken him out of his cell; and an old man standing to the side, trying to remain unnoticed. Who is he? Some sort of servant?
He heard the king speak again and focused his attention to the throne. "Thank you for bringing him here, Chancellor. Please leave us, I wish to speak to him in private."
"But your highness," the Chancellor started, a bit ruffled, "we can't leave you alone with this--"
"It's alright." Edgar looked at the guards. "And please remove his shackles."
The guards looked at one another before complying. Locke felt the shackles come off, and rubbed his wrists to warm them. He saw the king nod to the other guards, and they accompanied the chancellor out the throne room.
"With all due respect your highness," Locke finally said, "you sure you wanna be alone with me? I'm a dangerous thief you know."
Edgar smiled. No respect for authority in this one, he thought to himself. He looked to the shadows on the wall, and the old man stepped forward. Locke finally got a good look at him, although he still couldn't recognize the man. The old man spoke.
"Yes, we know all about you Locke Cole. A very daring thief, who has conducted various operations throughout the imperial domains and beyond over the past few months."
"You've got quite a reputation you know," Edgar said, looking directly at him, "You're wanted for about twenty-seven charges of theft, breaking and entering and evading arrest in Figaro alone. You're lucky we don't execute thieves like the Empire does."
"The Empire..." Locke thought a bit before speaking again. "Listen, I don't know what dirty work you and your allies want me to do, but I don't care. I may be a thief but there's no way I'm doing Gestahl any favors!"
"Well said." The old man spoke again. "Just what we would have expected from you. And just what we wanted." He paused before going on. "We are not the Empire."
"What are you talking about old man? Figaro's practically Imperial territory with all those soldiers running around and your king bowing and scraping to that old dog of an Emperor--!"
"Hey, hey," Edgar interrupted. "The king of Figaro doesn't bow or scrape to anyone. The Empire and Figaro are allies, yes. Equally? No. They forced this alliance down our throats, knowing we had no choice, but Figaro will never bow down to the Empire."
"So what are you doing here, then?" Locke sneered, "Hiding in your desert castle while Imperial Troops harass your people and tax your merchants."
"Allow me to explain," the old man said. "Edgar here, king of Figaro, and myself, are members of a small underground group working to destabilize the Empire."
"Rebels?" Locke said incredulously. "You've got to be kidding. There's no way Figaro's army could stand up to the Empire. They've only used a fraction their power to dominate the Southern Continent, and even the King of Doma is having a hard time against them!"
"That's exactly why Figaro is still openly an ally of the Empire." Edgar explained. "We have no intention of meeting them in war, as that would only result in a bloody loss. But once Doma falls, it's pretty certain that Figaro will be their next target."
"We have no means of fighting them, really," the old man continued, "Except with our hearts and with our minds. We have supporters scattered throughout the Empire, waiting for our word. We have people disrupting Imperial supply lines, sabotaging their machinery. We may not be able to topple them today, or anytime soon, but we will eventually. But we need help. We need more people."
"People like you," Edgar said, looking directly at Locke.
"What do you think I can do?" Locke said, "I'm just a thief. I can't do anything against an Empire!"
"'A small stone may make a ripple at first, but someday it will be a wave.'" Edgar said, "An ancient quote."
"You are no ordinary thief, Locke Cole." The old man said, "You were once the best treasure hunter in Kohlingen. We need someone like you, someone who can work their way through Empire lands, disrupting their communications and supply lines, providing and gathering information. And most importantly, to contact our allies. It has become increasingly dangerous for me to meet with our allies like the king here."
"If the Empire finds out we've been meeting with our allies in secret, it's hard to tell what they'd do." Edgar said, "Especially since some of our contacts are deep inside the Imperial hierarchy. What do you say? Not much pay, but you don't really do these things for the money do you?"
Locke paused for a while. These guys knew him inside out, and his conscience begged him to help them out. But there were other things he had to do, something else he was fighting for.
His memory flashed back to that fateful day. He had wanted to show Rachel the buried ruins he had found in one of his explorations up on Mt. Kolts. With all the artifacts there, he was pretty sure they would be pretty much set for life. It had taken him a while to convince her to come with him, but he eventually got her to agree.
"Don't worry, I'll watch over you every step of the way." He grinned at her as they strode up the mountain path.
"I'm sure you will," Rachel replied, "the same way you were watching over that bar girl the other night, eh?" She smiled at him teasingly.
"Hey, I told you, she looked just like my cousin!" Locke smiled right back at her. "The cave's just beyond the next bridge."
"We'd better hurry," Rachel said, pulling close to him. "If my parents find out I've been gallivanting with you--"
"--they'd chase me out of Kohlingen, right. Don't worry, I'll just show you what I've found, and have you back in Kohlingen before your father can give you one his trademark lectures." Locke stopped and faced her, made a stern face and started to mimic her father. "I don't know what you see in that Locke fellow! He's a regular rapscallion, that he is! He'll do you no good, you hear!"
Rachel laughed at him and slapped him lightly on the chest. "Knock it off, okay? I can see the bridge already."
Rachel had stopped at the summit just before the bridge. She looked off into the southward horizon, at the small town seemingly a lifetime away.
"South Figaro looks so...small from up here." This was the first time she had ever climbed a mountain, and the natural beauty she could see amazed her. "I could see for miles...everything is so...pristine..."
"C'mon Rachel, you're the one who told me to hurry!"
"Oh...yes." She said, hurrying over to him. "I would be a little more excited if you maybe told me what it is we're going to see."
"You're not gonna believe what awaits us up here!" Locke said as he crossed the bridge. "Come on, it's worth a fortune!"
Everything else had seemed to happen in slow motion. It was a moment he had relived time and again. His footing had been wrong, and he had felt the bridge begin to give way. He heard her shouted warning, but had been caught unawares when she threw herself at him. He had been so surprised that he wasn't able to put up any resistance. He had felt himself pushed back to the far end of the bridge. He had stumbled clumsily, and his instinct took over as he jumped clear of the collapsing bridge. He had looked back, and she was not there. He ran to the edge of the ravine, shouting her name without hearing anything. He had climbed down after her, and everything else was a blur. Rushing her back to her father's house, the worried looks on her parent's faces, the relief when the doctors said she'd be fine, and finally, that blank look on her face when she woke up to him. No gleaming eyes or bright smile. Simply an unrecognizing stare, as if she had never seen him before.
Her parents had been outraged, but he had just sat there, not knowing what to do or say. He tried to speak, but Rachel's father wouldn't even hear of it. He was chased out of Kohlingen by nightfall, nowhere to look or turn.
He couldn't remember how he had wound up in South Figaro, or how long he had been there. He didn't know how he was able to survive, living off food he found or stole off the streets. Somehow, he found himself under the care of an old scholar who had retired to South Figaro. The weeks of desperation had taken their toll on him and he was bedridden for several days. But he had found comfort with the old man who listened to his story, the only one he ever told it to. He had poured his heart out, sometimes with tears running down his face, as he recounted Rachel's tragedy. Luckily, his newfound friend had with him a glimmer of hope that brought him out of his stupor.
"I can't be sure about this, you know," The old scholar had droned in his monotone voice, "But I seem to recall an old chap a while back who had done research on this sort of thing...memory loss and recovery, I believe." Locke remembered how his face had lit up when he realized what the old man was saying. A cure? Rachel's condition can be cured?
"Well, as I said, it's somewhat of a long shot," the old man said, "but I think the old chap was one of the Empire scientists." And so his hunt had began. After thanking his benefactor, he had set off for Imperial territory, determined to find a cure for her recovery. He lived by stealing off merchants and Imperial officers, travelling throughout the Southern continent, asking scientists and researchers about this so-called cure.
And all for what? Locke asked himself as he considered the offer being made to him. He had been searching for almost a year now, with not even a single clue. He was wanted for numerous crimes throughout the empire, but he couldn't even sneak into the fortress at Vector to question their scientists. Maybe, this job was the right thing for him to do? No, he decided. He had already devoted too much time and effort to what he was doing, it all had to mean something, he had to do it, for Rachel.
"I'm sorry," He replied to Edgar and the old man, "I understand your needs, but there are some things I just have to do, some things that are more important to me."
Edgar frowned a him. "I don't think I have to remind you that you're a criminal under my jurisdiction." He looked straight at him, "I hold your life in my hands."
"Is that supposed to be a threat?" Locke said mockingly, "I've escaped worse fates than this before." He stood there defiantly, as if daring Edgar to strike him.
"Now, now, no need to be hostile to each other", the old man said soothingly. The two backed down a bit. He looked at the young king. "Edgar, no need to be rough with him, is there? I'm sure you can arrange a 'pardon' for this young man, can't you? So that he can consider our offer." He turned back to Locke. "Please take the time to consider it, you don't have to decide now." The old man looked at Edgar, "Well?"
"All right, tell you what," Edgar sighed resignedly, "I'll tell some of the guards at the night shift to take an early break around midnight, okay? Just don't hurt any of my guards."
The old man nodded and turned back to Locke. "We can't force you to help us, that isn't our way. But please think about it. If you wish to contact me, talk to Arvis of Narshe, I'm sure you know him." He smiled at Locke. "My name is Banon."
"Or, you could just get yourself caught again," Edgar grinned as he went to call the guards back.
Locke nudged his chocobo to go just a bit faster. He was anxious, and at the same time worried. He hadn't been back to Kohlingen for the past year, but he needed to go back now. He needed to reassure himself that he was doing the right thing, to remind himself what he was fighting for.
His conscience had been bothering him since the guard brought him back to his cell. He had wanted to catch a couple of hours sleep before midnight, but he kept thinking about what it is that he was he was doing. He was on a wild-goose chase, he could recognize that, for some cure that may or may not exist. But he had to do it, because he owed it to her, to fight for her. To protect her. But now, he had turned his back on people who needed him, people he could help, to pursue this unknown cure. Had he met the right choice? He would know when he saw Rachel again.
Sure enough, the guards left around midnight, and Locke had been the only prisoner awake. He had looked around warily, still not sure what to make of the situation, but then started to work on the cell's lock. Nothing too difficult, he was out of the dungeon in three minutes. He had promised not to hurt any of the guards, but he had to knock a couple of them unconscious and steal a chocobo.
And now here he was, just a couple of miles to Kohlingen now, and he would see her again. He didn't need to talk to her, just to see her. To remind himself of what he was doing, and why.
Off the horizon, in the direction of Kohlingen, he sighted a thick pillar of black smoke rising from the ground. Worried, he kicked his chocobo into high gear.
The sight was disturbing. The slightest traces of dawn had begun to appear, and the rays of light seemed to grotesquely outline the destruction that had happened here. Several houses were burned to the ground, some had collapsed on themselves, now simply a heap of wood and rubble. As Locke rode into the city and through the empty streets, he could feel several eyes looking out of the houses that were still standing.
"What the hell happened here?" Locke pondered for a moment before his heart took over again. "Rachel!"
He got off his Chocobo, and took a shortcut down a narrow alley. Looking around, he saw that most of the brick-and-mortar houses here had survived whatever it was that caused this carnage, so he figured Rachel and her family would be alright. His stomach turned as he saw the remnants of their house collapsed on the ground like a random pile of rocks. He stood there gaping for several moments before he heard someone call out to him.
"Master Locke!" Seymour, Rachel's family's manservant, came running up to him. He was a skinny man in his late forties, and he was often sympathetic to Locke and Rachel's relationship even when his master didn't approve.
"Seymour!" Locke said in relief, "What happened here? Where's Rachel?"
"It was the Empire, sir!" Seymour spilled, as he stopped in front of Locke, gasping for breath. Even though he was almost fifty, he had always insisted he was healthy enough to run a marathon. "They came through here last night, saying 'Imperial enemies' had been hiding here." He looked around. "They burned down and destroyed houses and buildings with some new weapon they had. MagiDuck, or something such, sir! A ghastly meld of monster and machine, a weapon of destruction..." He looked at Locke, "It's good to see you again, sir, despite the circumstances..."
"Rachel!" Locke almost shouted, "Where is she? Is she alright?"
Seymour hesitated before replying. "Best you go see for yourself sire, she's at Largo's right now."
Locke nodded, and hurried off. "Thanks, Seymour. Get some rest, you hear?"
Putting aside his concerns for Seymour's health, Locke made his way to the herbalist's shop. Old Largo, the medicine man of Kohlingen, had done many good things for him back when he was still climbing mountains and all. Hopefully, Rachel would be alright.
He had been sitting on this bench for half a day now. He felt so useless. All his efforts, all his sacrifices to find a cure for Rachel, and what happens? He's not there for her at the time she needed him most. Largo had told her what happened, how their house had collapsed on top of them. Seymour and the others had dug through the rubble, expecting to find only their dead bodies. Rachel's parents didn't make it. But surprisingly, Rachel did. She had been holding something in her hand when they found her, gasping for breath, bruised and battered all over. She had been delirious and weak as they carried her to Largo's for treatment, mumbling all the way. Once they laid her down on a bed, she had promptly collapsed and had not awakened since. She had dropped whatever it was she was holding, a small pendant which had given her something to live for, which Largo had seen fit to give to Locke.
He fingered the small pendant Largo had given him, and opened the locket, the same way he had been doing for the past few hours. The picture inside was a bit burned at the edges, but he could nonetheless see their faces so clearly. Locke and Rachel. They had taken this picture several months before the accident, and she had promised to treasure it forever. He closed the locket and slammed his fist into the ground as he recalled Seymour's words. "She was mumbling your name all the way, sir, even before we found her in the rubble, and up to the time she fainted."
"So bloody useless," he muttered to himself, "What the hell have I been doing this past year, what the bloody hell has it all been for?"
He remembered Largo telling him about her condition. He said she was in bad shape, and that it was a miracle she survived. He had given her some medicine to keep her from the brink of death. But that was the best he could do. He didn't know whether she could be revived in any way. The herbs would keep her like this, in a form of suspended animation, for a long while, but that was the best he could do. For all intents and purposes, it was as if she were already dead.
Bloody useless, Locke repeated to himself. What could he do now? Raise the dead? A slight rain began to fall.
"Master Locke," he heard Seymour's voice behind him, "You should get some rest. And get out of the rain, sir."
He ignored him for a while, and eventually Seymour's voice vanished from his hearing.
The next dawn found him still in the spot, staring lazily at the herbalist shop across the street. The rain had stopped a few hours before, but he was still quite drenched. He felt his eyelids starting to fall, for the umpteenth time now, and snapped himself awake. He heard footsteps behind him.
"I'm sorry." The voice was the old man's. The one he had met in Figaro Castle. What did he say his name was? Oh yeah, Banon.
"I came up here as soon as I'd heard." The old man sat down beside him. "We knew of your history with the girl here in Kohlingen, and we knew that was why you didn't want to join us. Too bad things had to be like this."
Locke's silence disturbed him but he went on, "Listen, about the offer..." Banon wasn't sure what to say, but he decided to press on, "...we understand if you choose to decline. After all it must be a difficult time for you ri--"
"I'll do it."
"--ght now. Eh?" Banon turned to him in surprise.
"Rachel would've wanted me to help you guys, I guess," Locke said resignedly, "She always said the Empire would someday threaten Kohlingen. I never really listened to her."
"Don't worry about me. I've had a long time to think about things. I sacrificed a lot of things trying to bring back the Rachel I knew, only to have the Empire take her away again. I owe it to her to fight for the ideals she believed in. I have to do this now, or else, it all has no meaning."
The old man nodded. "Very well. I'll be staying at the inn. When you're ready, just look for me there alright?"
Locke nodded. He stood up and looked down at himself. "I guess I should clean up a bit, huh? Maybe Largo's awake already." He started towards the herbalist's shop.
"Oh and Locke," Banon started to say.
Locke looked at him questioningly.
"Welcome to the Returners."