Fade To Black Chapter 1

By Xyris

Little had changed since the World of Balance slipped into ruin some five years ago. The world continued to decay. Plants and animals still succumbed to an eroded will to live. Its human complement was no better off. The monuments which at one time had housed evil stood skeletal alongside a bitter-cold horizon despite the sun's grip on the land.

"You're getting soft," Celes Chere thought to herself as she made her reflection. Atop the foot of a large precipice amongst the Narshe mountains, she went on practicing her Imperial stratagems for no apparent reason.

Holding her black robe tight against her weatherbeaten body, she looked out through the lines of strain on her face, sensing an unusual aura about the air around her. Trees stopped rustling in the wind. The southern coastline became vacant of its crashing waves. As bizarre as her conclusion was, it was true.

She was not alone.

The sixth sense she had acquired through the Empire told her that it was something other than another Leafer. The former general dropped to a swordsman's guard with her Runic Blade. Any of her old comrades would be a sight for sore eyes right about now.

But a friend was the last thing it would be to her. Even as she was left in utter speculation, the shade was establishing an appropriate means of disposing of her. Its progress to her was discreet, almost non-existent as it became one with her shadow. Only then could she espy just how cold she was feeling aside from the air around her. It got to the point in which her hands began to numb from the lack of heat. Bundling up did no good as she felt her whole body begin to paralyze.

‘You will regret ever having to cross me,' came a dark voice in her head.

Here, she was launched into the air so swiftly that no one could have prepared for such an ejection. Finding her composure, she looked up and saw a man who had absolutely no distinguishing features, just a living, breathing entity of dark matter. She swung her fist at him. It snagged her arm, parried inward, and broke it in half at the elbow over its own shoulder.

Celes screamed in agony, yet amassed her strength into her right arm, making a try with her Runic Blade. Its mind worked in a mysterious and sickly twisted way, but prophetic above all. His mind saw the jagged end of the blade coming first, and her attempted blow was again countered. The demon tore her arm to the ground, simultaneously cracking her kneecap in half with a thrust kick that wielded pinpoint accuracy.

As her suffering lingered, Celes could see countless instances of her life flash before her eyes, and all of them were painful ones. She was viewing her days through the vision of this solemn demon. It was like an exorcism, only more vivid and horrific. Her Returners were there, just as the Espers and countless Imperial soldiers that had died under her command.

None were forgiving to the crimes she had committed against humanity.

"Forgive me! I'm sorry!" she cried, on her knees before the wraith.

And the hardened warriors had been reduced to a helpless recreant. Only the Shadow of Rivalin of Rivalin could hear her pleas to be spared, and it was not about to spare her. The psychological breakdown of the mind of Celes Chere abruptly ended with a swift yet violent twist of her neck, accompanied by the sadistic laughter of her killer.


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