The Gathering Chapter 5
The Best of All Worlds
The World of Balance. Three years have passed since the Returners had delivered the Esper world from annihilation and much has changed. Feedback turned the people's speculation to sadness, with King Edgar Roni Figaro succumbing to the sleep of eternity as well as Cyan Garamonde, who both perished in battle while trying to protect their stagnant kingdoms.
As the gossip spread, rumors of a new fighting force began to circulate. A legion that had long thought been extinguished since the days of Ba-bil and Mysidia. The former Order of Light was thought to be cropping up by way of a cryogenic project which the Empire kept secret even from Vector.
While she was left wondering as to whether or not the legend of these warriors were true, Celes Chere had only recently awoke in her room at the inn of Thamasa. Missing her close friend Locke Cole, the one who had taught her trust, she agreed that it was best not to spend any more time rotting in a place that was only her home once. With that in mind, she gathered up her supplies, veiling her Runic Blade in her sheath and her Enhancer equipped with her bare hand. Marching down over the stairs, she noticed that Darrek was particularly busy with a handful of drinkers at the pub. So, she'd keep her farewell short and sweet.
"Darrek?" she said, waving to Amy to his right. "I've decided that it's time for me to leave, but I just wanted to say thanks for all that you've done. Things haven't been that easy since the Returners disbanded, but you made life for at least one general that much more easier."
"Yeah, well, you're welcome," he said, being the first to offer a handshake. "Take care of yourself, okay, and who knows? Maybe we'll meet again sometime."
"Maybe," she assented, shaking his hand, then turning to leave. "If fate allows it."
From her pocket, she produced a large, two-tailed coin. She flipped it into the air, caught it and open it in her palm.
"Looks like we're heading to Figaro, Locke," she said to her black chocobo.
Mounting herself in a courtly manner, Celes and her steed were off into the morning sky.
Meanwhile in Nikeah, a dirty blond-haired treasure hunter dressed in leathery clothes had once again shelled out for another night in their room, his only guest being a sylph from the Land of the Summoned Monsters. Ever since he had located some golden disk from Temple of the Magi, she just wouldn't go away, as if she had some unfinished business with the artefacts he was uncovering. At least when she was asleep, nothing vexed him.
Emotionally, that is.
Tonight, however, was the only exception to that rule of his. He sat awake at a desk in the room with a note in his hands. It kept him up last night and the night before as well. It was the first he had heard of Edgar's death but also that Sabin would be crowned the new king soon and that all the former Returners were invited to bear witness to his coronation. Disdaining the chancellor's lack of sympathy, he wakes Kyria from her sleep.
"What's up, Locke?" she said, wearily fighting against her exhaustion.
"We have to get going! I have a promise to keep to an old friend."
"Who is it?"
"So, we're going back to Figaro again. We just came from there."
"Granted, but we never visited the chancellor, and Sabin has only just returned and he's going to be king soon."
Kyria, looking uneasy, humbly acknowledged. The two of them packed up their belongings and headed out into the harbor to look for the next ship leaving for the continent of Figaro. Old friends of Locke's, Jared and his daughter Driel, were there, ready, willing, and able to assist them in anyway they could. And so, they were off for the Kingdom of Figaro. Unfortunately, no one, other than Kyria, could have predicted the stormy weather which ran ramped along the waters of the world.
In one piece once again, Setzer and his associate Gogo managed to salvage the original Falcon only a year after it crashed from the raid at Kefka's Tower. The wind flared Setzer's white hair back in invisible cyclones that also sent his long trench coat wide open (though his traveling companion was perfectly content in his eccentric, spectrum-colored duds).
That's why it felt so good to own the world of above once again.
They had, as of late, received word that another branch of the Empire had recently sprouted up, breathing life into the most evil generals to hit the land since Gestahl and Kefka: Sasha and Akfek. That's when he made it a #1 priority to find his old allies and try to build some kind of Township that would keep them together in case they would ever be called to arms again.
Gogo had been with Setzer since the celluloid gambler had been able to bring the Falcon back, but whoever the master of the simulacrum was, that person was indefinitely very quiet. But Gogo was still great with fixing the ship to working order. Everything that Setzer did to one side of the ship, Gogo did to the other. The person was a great help.
"Daryl would be proud!" he said to himself as he looked down at her tomb from the sky.
"Yes, she would," Gogo anwsered in a rather feminine voice.
Setzer spun around, stunned at the tone of the unknown. He recognized that voice.
"It can't be!" he exclaimed, beginning to approach Gogo. "Daryl?"
All Gogo did was stare at him in a confused sense.
"I guess the skies can start doing things to your brain when you haven't been in its presence for so long. Sorry, Gogo."
Gogo just nodded and turned back to the side of the ship. The master of Mimic was still working to get the interior hull of the Falcon repaired. It had suffered a major gash as a result of going down at such an altitude.
"Ok, so I know that we have to find all of our friends." Setzer finally spoke up after managing to tear himself away at the sight of the world below him.
That's when Setzer remembered the deck of playing cards in his pocket.
"Care to play a little game of poker, Gogo?"
Gogo gave him no audio acknowledgment but nodded to indicate yes.
"Then, it's settled. We'll play some poker and the one that gets the best of 3 games decides where we'll first go to find everybody."
In the end, Gogo would go on to win the poker bouts, and with that, the mysterious person with the strangely familiar (yet scarcely used) voice began to pilot the ship to the northeast part of the world with the greatest of ease, in which Narshe waited for them, as did someone else.
What everyone else believed to be legend, Terra discovered was fact. The Order of Light was a reality. After all, she had been sitting in Kohilegen hours ago actually talking to Cecil, Edge, Golbez, Cyrill, Rydia, Rosa, and Edward. They were a nice group of people to get along with and she was quite interested with the tales they had involving their past adventures. But when they asked her of what she had to talk of, she drew a blank. There was nothing she didn't remember, but there wasn't anything in her mind that she wanted public either.
"My past isn't a very stable one," she admitted, sipping her drink. "There's a lot I don't want anyone to know."
"Just like myself and Anna?" Edward said, wrapping an arm around her shoulders.
"I was used by the Empire to seek out and destroy the Returners as well as recover others of my...I mean, Espers! One thing leads to another, I turn on Kefka, and with the help of my friends, we took him out."
"Doesn't sound any different from our little excursion," Golbez commented, being taken back at the time he was possessed by Zeromus.
"Possessed..." Terra began, feeling her head. "Aw...I feel strange."
"I think you should get some rest," Rydia said, taking her by the arm and leading her out of the saloon and to the inn.
Before they got there, the pain in her head pushed her to the point in which she simply blacked out. With Rydia at her side, Terra's mind became enveloped into a realm in which a female voice kept telling her that she was the One. Why, then, was Figaro still burning...
The world of Corondor was slowly falling into peril. The Floating Isle was being ravaged by an attack at the hands of the Sengirs. The Baron realized that this particular outpost posed a vital threat to his occupation of overthrowing Kjeldor, in that its artifacts were next to superior to all of the Baron's armies. It was up to the Kjeldoran infantry to fend them off long enough for Gustha to cast a protection spell on the island. Meanwhile, Baki, Gustha's apprentice, made the best of his newfound abilities and gave those Sengirs the bloody lip.
METEOR SHOWER! LIGHTNING BLAST!
Bolts of electricity and stones of fire rained down from the heavens, vanquishing the isle's aerial foes, the Sengirs Vampires. When Baki saw ground troops coming towards him, he pulled out his saber and took them on, keeping in mind the skills in which Gustha taught him. The first few tried to make away with his head and slashed several times horizontally. But Baki dodged them feasiblely and counterattacked with a few upward swipes. His third adversary, on the other hand, would prove to be a much more respectable challenge.
It quickly took advantage of the offensive and went for Baki's left arm but his sword found it and held fast to it, with Baki forcing them upward so that they could see each other eye to eye. Then, Baki pushed him away and charged. He had anticipated his opponent to spin out of the way and try for Baki's skull. With that, Baki stopped his blade, swung it to the ground, and gave him an elbow to the face. With the rival now off-guard, Baki just went ahead and ran his enemy through with his saber. Baki found it increasingly easier to just slain his enemies these days, knowing that there was no room for mercy in the heat of battle.
"I sure hope Gustha was able to cast that spell in time."
He started to run in the opposite direction as fast as he could, not even knowing where he was headed. Suddenly, as he turned to find refuge from his pursuers, he found himself frozen in his tracks, face to face with the Baron Sengir himself.
The Baron was a tall immortal, almost 8'2 and had pale white skin with neutral yellow eyes and slick black hair which surged down the back of his head in a tight braid. His attire was a navy blue robe trimmed with cardinal red lining and a white dress shirt. His neck and wrists were encrusted with multiple jewels and gold chains and bracelets.
Baki should have been afraid, since this was his first up close and personal with the Baron himself, but, in fact, yearned for this moment ever since he knew what kind of a threat he was.
"I've waited for this for a long time." he said, reaching a hand back to his waist and held his sheath, preparing to pull out his sword.
"Do you really think you can take me on, pipsqueak?"
"I'm sure as hell going to try!"
But before he had his rapier in his hands, he felt a tight grip on his shoulder. It was Gustha.
"Gustha? What are you doing here? I thought you were supposed to cast a Shimmering Effect on the Floating Isle."
"I can't let you fight the Baron before your time, Baki."
"How did you even know I was going to face him?"
He answered by tearing his overcoat open, revealing a Vision Charm on his neck, a relic that allowed its bearer to see into the future.
"I've seen what is to come, Baki. You can't fight the Baron before I do. Here," he concluded, taking the charm off his neck. "Take this and leave the Floating Isle for the freedom of Kjeldor. The king and queen need you, as does the princess. Protect the artificers. They will help us in the end."
Gustha then unveiled a cutlass and ran to the Baron, but he knocked the blade out of his hand and grabbed him by the neck, lifted him high into the air, and slammed him down against the cobblestone pulpit. The Baron morphed into a Sengir Bat and flew out of sight. The Floating Isle started to vibrate violently but Baki didn't care. His longtime protege was lying on the ground, dying.
"It's okay, Baki. The first step into death is the hardest. It's all down hill after that, kid."
With that, Gustha laid his head down to rest.
"The first step into death is the hardest." Baki said to himself. "Maybe it's about time I put my best foot forward. Where has the time gone?"
Most of the inhabitants of the Floating Isle perished once the Baron's head mage Shauku cast Desert Twister on it. The resulting explosion ultimately destroyed the entire island, with only a handful of others making it off the doomed landmass. Baki could only see a lone airship in the distance. Therefore, there was no guarantee that the ship survived at all, nor was there any way to determine who was on it. He made it off the island on an Armored Pegasus. That was two weeks ago and Baki had since found his way back to Kjeldor, where King and Queen Darien, as well as the princess, awaited his return which had been tonight.
"I'm sorry, Daphne. Gustha's demise was my fault, but I shall make right this wrong by defending your kingdom. As for you, Gustha," he said, looking into the Vision Charm on his neck and seeing himself facing the Baron. "You will be forever missed and avenged. I give you my word."
Baki knew that he would have to do this for the benefit of himself and for Corindor's future. That night's reflection had been very long but meaningful, and after a good night's rest, he awoke to find a rolled-up piece of paper in his hand. It was a page torn from the Jayemdae Tome, which contained an inscription of eight simple words. Who could have given him this? Was it Daphne? The king? Zur perhaps? Whoever it was, he or she wanted Baki to find the legendary artifact known only as the Mox Jet. All he had to do was make his way over to the Everglades and recite this spell.
After careful consideration, however, he decided not to do it.
By the time Baki awoke, it had been morning, a gloomy one at that. The atmosphere had been plagued by dismal, gray clouds and a heavy rainfall had enveloped the land. A bad omen, he thought, and jumped as thunder and lightning complemented the weather conditions. This was not going to be his day.
As Baki reasserted himself into reality after his tranquil nap, Zur and Daphne entered his room and concerned looks proliferated their faces.
"Ah, Daphne and Zur. To what do I owe your presence?"
"Only your loyaly, Baki," the princess spoke up.
"The Order of the White Shield is standing by for your guidance through the mountains to the north. The castle of the Baron awaits you," Zur added.
"One thing first. Which one of you tore a page from the Jayemdae Tome and gave it to me while I was sleeping?"
The two of them looked at each other, confused.
"Don't look at me. I locked the door last night," the princess responded.
"That's strange," Baki said bemused. "Oh well, let us make our way to the northern mountains."
Baki was given a suit of the finest gold mail and a steel lance. Then, after finding a steed of his own, he proudly lead the Kjeldor's order out into the mountains towards Castle Sengir.
Once Zur was sure that they were all out of sight and mind, however, he stood at the castle's gates, threw his arms to the skies and said:
With that, Kjeldor's Bubble Matrix disappeared from its position right above the gates. The king, the queen, and the princess appeared dumbstruck and rushed out to Zur's position, demanding answers.
"What is the meaning of this, Zur?" King Darien asked him furiously.
"Just earning my fee, old man!" Zur retorted deviously.
"Zur, how could you?" Daphne asked, panicky, while witnessing the people of Kjeldor run amuck, beside each other with terror as the sky turned red with fire. "My mother and father trusted you."
"Shuddap!" he yelled and slapped her in the face.
"That, I'm not going to tolerate!" the queen vocalized.
And, upon yelling that, she dove for Zur and grabbed him by the arms but could do no more, for she was now at the mercy of another one of Zur's dreaded spells.
Following that outburst from Zur, Queen Darien's flesh turned a pale blue and she fell back, screaming in pain.
"What's happening to me?" she managed to get out.
But the king and his daughter could only watch in horror as her scream abruptly cut off. Her eyes then rolled back in her head and her skin peeled away. Within seconds, her bones dropped to the ground, the remaining flesh reverting to ashes.
"Zur..." Daphne uttered, her cheek still throbbing with pain from his smack.
"We are the people of Kjeldor no more," he answered.
He laughed a grim laugh and then gave the red sky its significance.
Fire and brimstone rained down from the air and shattered the castle of Kjeldor into a million pieces, sparing no one. Should Baki's Vision Charm have out of the confines of his suit of Holy Armor, he probably would not have hesitated to turn back around and counter Zur's spell of destruction but it was not his fault. No. It was not his fault at all.
I can't find a rhyme in all my reasons
I've lost sense of time and all seasons
I feel I've been beaten down
By the words of men who have no grounds
'What If' by Creed