Chapter Fifty- Finale
Terra suddenly gasped out and closed her eyes, collapsing to the ground on her knees. A loud shrieking rang out in her ears as she reached up and struggled to cover them and block the sound out, her body shivering all over.
Ahh…I just felt a powerful surge…Kefka is draining…no…expelling…magical power…
Terra blinked and opened her eyes, feeling as if she had been doused in cold water. She saw the faces of her comrades staring down at her anxiously.
"Are you ok?" Celes asked. "You just sort of blacked out there…"
"For how long?" Terra cried, climbing to her feet, her heart racing.
"Only five minutes," Locke replied, patting her shoulder. "It's ok now…"
"It's not ok…" Terra shook her head. "Kefka is doing something bad, I felt it. He just gave away a generous portion of his magic." Celes raised her eyebrows.
"Gave away? Who would he do that for?"
"I don't know," Terra shook her head. "But I imagine we will find out shortly on our own."
The team began to cautiously move forward, their surroundings reverting back to the ugly, barren wasteland of death they had first landed in. However, it was easy to tell that they were climbing higher in the tower. Looking down, Terra could see below them layers and layers of land that they had already crossed and explored, and in the very far distance, the badly beaten up Falcon. The hot air that had been whipping against their burned flesh was starting to get cooler and softer, and Terra even felt her ears start to pop a little from the higher elevation. Surrounding them now were higher peaks and crags of molten rock, bone, and various rubble and remains from whatever else it was Kefka had absorbed into his home. They had only one narrow path to follow that climbed up one of the bigger mountains of rubble towards a lone doorway erected near the top. Terra lowered her eyes to the path below her feet and continued walking, not saying another word. The steep incline the Returners had started to climb were making her calves burn, and the wind had suddenly picked up again, making her tattered dress flap against her scratched up legs. When she finally did look up again, she was disturbed to see that something big had appeared to block the doorway.
"What is that…?" Sabin whispered.
When the Returners had finally reached the ledge at the peak of their long climb, Terra realized that the thing blocking the doorway was one of the Statues. However, the Statue looked vastly different from the last time she had seen it. It had large chunks of stone missing from its outspread wings, face, and body, it was scratched everywhere, and it looked as if someone had carved its eyes out with a sharp sword. Suddenly, one of the wings from its back fell to the ground and broke into several pieces, a black, glittering dust rising in the air from the rubble.
"Kefka must have done this…" Terra shook her head. "He truly did drain every bit of power from the Statues...and left them here to die."
As the last words fell from her lips, the Statue's empty eyes began to light up a deep crimson color, causing Terra to gasp and step back. Celes withdrew Ragnarok, and Locke, Edgar, and Sabin braced themselves. The Statue began to tremble and shake, more shards of rock clattering to the ground. Black light began to shine out of the cracks and crevices, and at once, all the remaining stone burst away in a glittering black dust and revealed a tall, slender woman, with glowing red eyes, an impossibly pale white face, with black lipstick, long black hair that reached her ankles, and one black shining wing that extended nearly five feet from her right shoulder blade. Hanging from her waist was a scrap of dirtied blood red cloth that barely concealed her hips, and her long, sleek hair gently fell over her small, white breasts. Extending a black-finger nailed hand, she grasped Terra by the throat and lifted her nearly two feet up into the air, causing Terra to gasp out and kick her legs frantically to no avail.
"You are but a half Esper…" The woman hissed in a throaty whisper, tightening her hold. "You have no chance of defeating me, Doom, one of the Three Statues…" She violently tossed Terra away, watching as Terra's body bounced off of the ground and nearly rolling off of the edge of the platform. Edgar dove down just in time, grasping Terra's hands as she slipped over the edge.
"EDGAR!" Terra cried, tears in her eyes as she choked for lost air.
"Hold on!" Edgar groaned, moving back and struggling to pull Terra up. Celes, Locke, and Sabin turned to the Statue, Celes suddenly leaping into the air and slashing at Doom's shoulder, Ragnarok slicing through the flesh as Celes flipped and landed behind her. Black blood began to spray out, causing Doom to narrow her eyes and immediately counter, swinging around and smashing Celes with a black, crackling ball of energy. Celes cried out and slammed up against the door, her eyes rolling back in her head as she slid down and remained still, Ragnarok falling from her fingers.
Locke and Sabin took their turns, ambushing Doom from both sides with their weapons cutting into her and creating deep wounds that gushed more of the thick black blood down her stomach and thighs. Just as Edgar had managed to pull Terra all the way up, Doom countered with two amazingly fast twin Blizzaga spells, blurs of ice crystals and snow blinding the men as ice shards flew down from the heavens and sliced them every which way, causing them to collapse to the ground. Terra cried out at the sight and immediately changed into her Esper form, taking Doom by surprise by charging her in midair and slamming her up above the doorway Celes was collapsed under. Seething, Terra began to pummel Doom's face with blinding speed while one hand was wrapped firmly around her neck, pinning her against the wall. Doom's eyes widened more, her voice gagging and choking out as Terra decked her over and over again.
Meanwhile, Edgar had slipped beneath them, unsheathing his Holy Lance and taking a long, hard swing at Doom's abdomen. The blade sliced through cleanly, severing at the cut and causing Doom's lower half to fall to the ground in a bloody heap, oozing buckets of blood as the legs continued to twitch and struggle. The Statue let out an ear-shattering scream, her body going limp underneath Terra's hands in moments and her eyes closing. Terra gasped out as she released the rest of Doom's body, letting it fall onto the other half with a sickening "thwap" sound. A few seconds later, the blood and body parts disappeared in a burst of black dust, as if nothing had happened.
"Uh…" Celes moaned, opening her eyes slowly and looking around. "What's going on?" When she saw Sabin and Locke lying still and bleeding from a considerable amount of cuts on their bodies, she gasped out and crawled over to them, immediately chanting a healing spell.
Terra landed back on the platform and reverted back to her human form, her eyes wide from the sight she had just witnessed. Edgar cleaned the black blood off his lance with his cape and looked up at Terra nervously.
"Are you ok?"
"I'm fine now…" Terra shook her head. "It's just that…we just killed one of the Statues…A source of Magic…"
"We had to though…" Edgar walked over to Terra, putting a hand on her shoulder. "If we didn't, we all would have been…"
"I know," Terra sighed, and hugged herself, closing her eyes. "She must had been corrupted by Kefka…There was nothing else we could do."
After Celes had healed all of the wounded, the team wearily proceeded through the doorway Doom had previously been blocking. Inside, they found themselves in a familiar, wide corridor, with three different levels, three pillars at the end of each level. Gently reaching out, Terra was once again given a shock from the force field system she had a feeling was surrounding them. Looking up at the ceiling, Locke was surprised to see pure glass encasing them, something black, purple, and smoky swirling around inside. It almost looked as if it were a storm. Other than the lightening that occasionally flashed above the ceiling, the room was dark. As soon as she stepped upon the pillar at the end of their path, Terra felt a hot white light shine down upon her, like a spotlight. However, nothing else happened.
Setzer, Gogo, Cyan, and Gau had found themselves in what looked like another replica of the Magitek Factory in Vector. Walking down a long and empty hallway, they were surrounded by perhaps dozens of empty and shattered tall glass tubes, which had probably at one point been holding cells for Espers. The water that had been inside them had drained and was all over the floor, causing their footsteps to make splashes that occasionally broke the silence. The fact that they had not seen one enemy or monster was beginning to make everyone nervous, along with the fact that it seemed like someone had gone through and shattered most of the lights in the corridor, making it dusky and hard to see.
"I see a tube up ahead…looks like we're going to have to climb our way out of here," Setzer said, and the others nodded. Taking the lead, Setzer climbed in first, shuddering at the feeling of water dripping down into his coat neck and proceeding forward. The others followed behind him, and a few moments later they had all emerged into yet another factory-esque room, this one lit up a little better but still strangely empty. At the other side of the room there was a ladder, which led up to a small platform and an exit.
Suddenly, the lights all flickered and then dimmed, submerging the room in complete darkness. Cyan let out a little noise of surprise, but almost immediately, the lights flickered back on, causing everyone to sigh in relief. Stepping forward, Setzer's foot hit something hard. He looked down to see a pile of shattered stone and crystal at his feet, and frowned, knowing that they were not there seconds before. Gau whimpered softly and pointed up towards the exit, and the Returners realized they were no longer alone.
Sitting at the edge of the ladder was a long-legged woman. Her blonde hair was the color of pure-spun gold, and fell down her shoulders and body in soft, delicate curls. Her eyes were wide and blue, and her lips a delicate pink. Around her slender and elegant neck were layers and layers of crystals and diamonds, as well as around her wrists and bare ankles. She wore a simple yet stunningly beautiful white gown that gently wrapped around her curves and fell just above her knees in an uneven pattern. Her feet were naked, and the parting of the fabric on her chest revealed a snug valley of cleavage. Around her forehead was wrapped a golden headband, with one giant sapphire set in the center. Spotting them, the young woman leapt down from the top of the ladder, floating to the ground as if she had invisible wings. She approached the Returners, and suddenly, Setzer felt a little dizzy. He could have sworn that she was gazing right at him directly into his gray eyes. Cyan too, felt his pulse quickening, and thought that she were gazing at him. Gogo and Gau looked at each other suspiciously. They both noticed that the sapphire on her tiara had a particularly strange glow.
"Excuse me…" The woman finally spoke, her voice as clear and beautiful as the sound of a thousand bells. "I'm afraid I'm lost…" Setzer and Cyan nodded in unison, both stepping up to her and taking her delicate peach-colored hands.
"You shouldn't be here," Setzer replied, his voice suddenly a little off and lacking of his usual gruffness. "It's far too dangerous."
"Yes, M' lady, you must leave immediately," Cyan said, his gaze not leaving her face once. "Kefka will surely kill thou if he realizes you are here." The woman looked at both Setzer and Cyan, smiling and suddenly slipping her arms around their bodies and gently pressing them against her so that their cheeks rested against her round breasts. Gazing up Gogo and Gau, she smiled more, but her eyebrow twitched slightly when she saw that they weren't smiling back. Setzer and Cyan did not move an inch but to look up at the lovely woman's face.
"Kefka…he would not kill me," She said in a soothing voice, practically dripping with sugar and honey. "Kefka is my master. He could become your master too; if you wished it…and then we could be together forever, my loves…wouldn't you boys all want that?" Gogo smirked, and the woman blinked, faltering for a moment before going on. "I…I can promise you nothing less than the greatest pleasures your bodies and soul have to offer if you join me…"
At this point, Setzer and Cyan's eyes had slid shut, and Gau and Gogo gave each other a look. Something was definitely going on. The woman looked down at Setzer and Cyan, gently shook them to make sure they didn't move, and then suddenly turned violent. Slamming the two limp bodies on the floor, she glared up at Gogo and Gau and sneered.
"Why didn't you two fall under my spell! It has never failed on any man in the history of my existence! I know how to manipulate every weakness in the male psyche…"
"Well, that explains it," Gogo smirked, raising a hand. "Gau here is just an innocent boy…he doesn't care about the wares you are selling," The woman twitched with rage, and Gogo laughed heartily. "And I…well…that is a secret for another day…" The woman was red with anger now, and Gogo stepped forward, Gau following. "So why don't you just spare us your whoreish games and tell us who you really are?"
"I am Goddess, one of the three Statues that belong to Master Kefka," she spat. "And let me assure you right now, you will not escape from this tower with your lives."
"You are nothing but a puppet, now," Gogo snapped. "Before, a Statue would call no human their master. Wake up! Kefka has drained you and manipulated you for himself!"
"Lies!" Goddess screamed, swinging her hand that sparkled with countless jewels. "I will not take this from a cretin like you!"
"I'm not afraid to hit a girl," Gogo replied calmly. "I don't play by the rules."
"Gau not play by the rules either!" Gau snapped, and made a swipe at Goddess. She gasped and stepped back, shaking her head.
"You won't be fighting me," she hissed, and snapped her fingers. "But rather, my new subordinates. Boys!" Suddenly, Setzer and Cyan opened their eyes, both pulling themselves up from the floor and looking up at Goddess, their eyes locked dead onto hers.
"Destroy these fools and bring me their heads, so that I may present them as gifts for Master Kefka," Goddess sneered, and with that, turned and started to walk away. As she did so, Gogo quickly reached down and pulled out a small throwing knife, aiming and launching it right for Goddess' bare back. But without warning, Setzer suddenly dove in the way of the knife and let it plunge into his shoulder, rolling to the floor as blood started to drip from the wound. Gogo gasped out, and Gau wailed.
"Setzer! What the hell are you…?"
Setzer did not reply, but merely stood up and with a jerk of his wrist, removed the knife and threw it to the floor. Goddess turned around and smiled, blowing Gogo a kiss.
"Don't bother trying to hit me, you fool…you'll just kill your friends faster and keep me from the pleasure of doing it myself…They are my loving slaves now, and they will go through any length to assure that I am unharmed."
"Oh no…" Gau moaned. "Charm…Charm…"
Cyan withdrew his blade and approached Gogo and Gau, swinging it wildly back and forth. Gogo shoved something small into Gau's hands and told him to hide, turning to Cyan and pulling out a magic staff. Setzer launched a set of razor-bladed cards, but Gogo easily deflected them with the staff. Gau scampered back where he could be safe and took out what Gogo had given him, holding it high into the air.
"Whoa!" Gogo squealed as Cyan dove forward with his blade, flipping backwards and just narrowly missing another round of cards. Swinging low, Gogo smashed the staff into Cyan's feet, tripping him and causing him to fall down flat on his face. Stepping over Cyan, Gogo then bombarded Setzer, swinging the staff to knock away the rest of the cards in his hand and pushing him to the floor to pin him. As those two struggled, Cyan pulled himself to his feet and started to stagger over to Gogo, his blade raised high in the air…
"UNICORN!" Gau suddenly cried, and in a burst of colorful light and smoke, a galloping white horse with a shining golden horn appeared, leaping into the air and arching its body as it whinnied. A shining beam of sunlight burst from the tip of Unicorn's horn, washing the room in a warm and soothing glow and then disappearing in a flash of purple light. Goddess gasped out and raised her hand over her eyes so she could see through the blinding light.
"What was that!"
Cyan suddenly lowered his sword, blinking and looking around, and Setzer stopped struggling underneath Gogo, looking up and then looking back at Gau, a seriously confused look on his face.
"That was Unicorn, an Esper that heals all ailments of the mind," Gogo replied calmly, getting up off of Setzer and approaching Goddess once more. "An Esper that was once an innocent human you transformed and dragged into the War of the Magi." Goddess shook her head as Gau joined up with Cyan and Setzer, checking to make sure if they were ok. Gogo then suddenly reached in and grabbed Goddess by all her necklaces, pulling her close as she sputtered and gagged.
"No…you can't touch me…you can't!"
Without another word, the mime reached up, ripping Goddess' tiara from her forehead and dropped it to the floor, smashing the glowing sapphire in it underneath a boot. As soon as it had shattered, Goddess screamed out, collapsing to the floor in a huddled heap and covering her face. Her hair began to rapidly turn from golden to silvery gray, and her fine skin folded up into itself and created hundreds and hundreds of wrinkles instantly. Her soft hands transforming into knobby claws that now barely concealed her face, Goddess looked up, causing Gogo to shudder. Her skin was rotting and falling off of her face in peeled chunks, revealing parts of her white skull underneath. Her jaw bone swung up and down as she struggled to speak.
"Stop him…stop Kefka…" Before she could say anymore, her body burst into white dust, which settled into a little pile on the floor before being blown away by a sudden gust of wind.
Setzer rubbed his freshly healed but tender shoulder, moaning and shaking his head.
"Oh man…we were really under her control?"
"Uwaoo," Gau nodded, and hugged Setzer and Cyan. "Gau glad you are safe!"
"I am sorry to let you down," Cyan hung his head, and Gogo came over.
"It's not your fault, her magic was just too strong," Gogo assured him. "She was under Kefka's control…"
"Let's get out of here, ok?" Setzer asked. "Before one of the other Statues decides to come in and join us…"
"Very good idea," Cyan replied, sheathing his sword.
The party proceeded up the ladder that Goddess had been sitting upon, pushing open the door before them and coming into a dim room. Above them, shining in the center of the room was a spotlight shining down on the figure of a girl, and even further above her was a glass ceiling with purple and black clouds rolling around behind it, a threatening sound of thunder echoing in the distance.
"And you can have this for dessert!" Relm snapped, casting a Thundaga spell on the hunk of scrap metal that had once been The Guardian. After the spell crashed down upon the smoking machine, it made one last static cry and broke down, all the lights on its unit fading to black. Relm gently kicked at it and smiled.
"That was fun!"
"We did not fight that thing for fun; we fought it so that we could get through!" Strago cried. "And you, young lady, needed to stay out of the way! What if you had gotten hurt?"
"I'm not apologizing for being a badass, Gramps," Relm sighed, and adjusted her hat. "Right guys?" She looked over at Shadow, Mog, and Umaro, who decided it was best not to reply.
"Whatever, we must continue on," Strago said, grabbing Relm by the hand and dragging her forward. "The others are surely waiting for us, and probably did not have to fight Guardians of their own."
"I think monsters are just attracted to us, kupo," Mog sighed as they exited the hall they were in. "It seems like we've gotten into sooo many battles…"
Once again, the Returners found themselves in what would have been considered "the outside courtyard" Kefka had provided for his tower visitors. They were so high up that Mog would get dizzy whenever he looked down. One empty, twisting path was ahead of them, the only thing that gave them the slightest inclination of where they needed to go. After scaling the tall, jagged path, the party emerged through a darkened entryway and stepped into a sweltering chamber.
The walls were aglow with blazing red light, more skeletons melded into the stone and magical fiery substance. Relm, shivering a little, gently clung to her grandpa's cape. For the first time, fear could be seen behind her wide eyes. The path soon became very narrow and even more jagged, sharp rocks protruding from the floor and crystals that looked as if they had been doused in fresh blood. On each side of the path was a gaping black pit, which appeared to be bottomless. Steam and something with a foul stench rose from the bowels below.
Shadow, much to everyone's surprise, was insistent on leading the party and shielding the others from anything that might try to stop them. After safely crossing the steaming pit, they emerged into another open area, a scream ripping out.
"Be on your guard," Shadow hissed, and Relm and Mog gasped, clinging to as many Magicite shards as they could hold in their hands.
Another scream rang out, and the sound of beating wings could be heard. A rain of stone and ash began to pour down over the group, everyone crying out and covering their heads as the stones smashed against their hands and cut into their knuckles. The flapping noise became louder, and a hot wind cut through Shadow's black suit as a figure landed in the path of the group.
She was short, with flaming red locks that were so slick and smooth; they shone despite there being hardly any light in the chamber. Her hair hung down to her mid-back, and she was outfitted in a somewhat elegant black dress, the sleeves hanging off her shoulders and the hem first cutting off at her thigh and then trailing down to her knees in a smooth cut. Strapped on her legs were knee-high leather boots, fastened with shining silver buckles that matched the one on the crimson choker around her neck. In one hand, she held a sleek, tall onyx staff, and folded on her back were a pair of black, bat-like wings with little claws extending from each line of bone. Her sharp green eyes flashed angrily as she looked over the Returners.
"Who are you?" Shadow growled. Before she could reply, he reached out, grabbing her by the hair with one hand and holding his knife to her neck with the other. The girl, hardly so much without a whimper, kneed Shadow in the stomach and promptly kicked him away, holding her staff in front of her.
"Do not speak to me in that sniveling tone," the girl hissed. "Not in my realm."
"Do you work for Kefka?" Relm asked nervously, and the woman's eyes flashed again, glaring down at the little girl.
"It does not matter, none of this matters," she hissed. "I am Poltergeist, one of the three Statues. I felt the weakening of my sisters' auras, and I must find them!"
"What…?" Relm blinked. "The other Statues are here? So you must be being held by Kefka…let us help you find them!"
"SILENCE!" She cried, raising her staff and bringing it down over Relm. Before Relm could even scream, Shadow dashed out from where he was laying and pushed her down, shielding her as the head of the staff smashed down onto the ground. When she lifted it back up, the Returners could see that where it had hit made a deep crack.
"GRRR!" Umaro growled, lowering his head and starting to charge. Poltergeist quickly side-stepped and Umaro ended up crashing into the side of a rock wall, bouncing backwards onto his back and moaning. Smirking, Poltergeist tapped her staff to the ground and disappeared, teleporting behind the Returners and waving her hand.
Green, bubbling ooze began to boil out from the ground up, forming huge bubbles around each Returner and filling their lungs with toxic gas. When each bubble popped, the person within collapsed, gasping for breath as their face tinted a light blue.
"Just lay there, let the poison feed on your strength, and die, ok?" Poltergeist smiled. "I promise it should only take a few moments. You don't look very strong." As she started to cross into the next room, Shadow pulled himself up to his knees, reaching down to his belt and throwing a poison-tipped star.
It sliced through the air, flying into the Statue's back and cutting through her chest in less than ten seconds. Letting out a short choking noise, Poltergeist stumbled and fell over, hitting the ground and crumbling away into a pile of dust and ash, the only thing remaining her staff.
"Ugh…" Mog moaned, dragging himself up to his feet and starting to do a weary, slow dance. His eyes were rolling into the back of his head, and just a few seconds in, his feet were starting to feel like lead weights.
"Mog, don't…" Strago moaned. "I'm sure I can find some Remedies…"
"Ku…oh…!" Mog suddenly fell flat on his face, his breathing labored as he mumbled into the ground. "Harvester…!"
A soft, green sparkling light began to gently float around the Returners, settling on their skin and sinking in, their bodies glowing white for a few moments before fading back to normal. Relm opened her eyes, slowly sitting up and gazing at her hands.
"Mog, you did it!"
"Yeah…guess I did…" Mog mumbled, his eyes closing. "But I'm sleepy…"
"Grrrah…Moooog…" Umaro cooed, lumbering over to the Moogle clumsily and scooping the little guy up in his arms. "Goooood….Mooooog…"
"You get your rest Mog, we'll carry you the rest of the way!" Relm smiled, reaching over and petting his head. But the exhausted Moogle had already fallen asleep.
"That woman was a real bitch," Shadow muttered as they started to continue on. "But, it wasn't a hollow victory, I suppose."
"I feel sorry for her," Strago said, using his staff as a crutch now as they started to climb up another ledge. "Obviously she was possessed by Kefka; I could sense the aura of darkness around her. I imagine her sisters were too, and that they were sent after the others. I'm sure all of the Statues have been destroyed by now."
"But…" Shadow looked at him.
"Yes, that means Kefka probably possesses all of the Magic that remains in the world," Strago said. "And there is no way to transfer it back to its source. After we destroy Kefka, there is no doubt left in my mind now that Magic will die with him."
"And Espers…" Relm trailed off. "Terra…!"
"Urrrr…" Umaro moaned sadly, covering his eyes with one giant hand.
Voices could be heard echoing through the next darkened entryway, but Shadow led them inside without hesitation. They were all shocked to see the other Returners waiting for them, Terra and her group standing on a higher raised path, and Setzer and his group on the other side of her. As Relm, the last person in the group stepped through the doorway, it suddenly slammed shut behind her, and the sound of others doors slamming shut rang throughout the room.
"You guys!" Locke called, and let out a short scream as their path started to shake and rumble, slowly descending down until it was level with the other two. After a loud thump, the rumbling stopped, and a fine dust rose out of the ground from where it had landed. The Returners all gathered together in one group, the same topic all on their minds- The Statues.
"It seems that my assumption was correct," Strago sighed after a few moments of conversation. "The Statues were sent out by Kefka to kill us, and as a result, they are now gone."
"What do we do now?" Sabin asked worriedly. "We've all been led here, at an apparent dead end."
"I think the pillars have something to do with our exit here," Terra said, looking back at the three short pillars in the back of the room. "When I sat on one, a light shone down. If we do all three at once…"
"But where else can we possibly go?" Edgar asked, looking at the glass ceiling above them. "It looks like we've reached the top, and we've been in here for hours, it seems…"
"We HAVE been in here for hours," Sabin said. "It's surely past nightfall by now…"
"It doesn't matter, we have to keep going," Terra said firmly. "We can't turn back. Let's try the pillar idea…maybe the lights will show us a way out of this place." She walked up to her pillar and sat down upon it, the light she spoke of before snapping back on instantly and shining down on her. Shadow took a seat on the far right pillar, and a light shone down on him also. Finally, Setzer took a seat on the far left pillar, and a light shone down on him.
At first, there was dead silence. Then, slowly, the lights above each person tinted a blood red, and a loud clap of thunder erupted. Terra gasped, her body slowly being lifted into the air, followed by Shadow and Setzer.
"I…I can't get down…" Terra gasped, kicking her legs and going up higher. "It's pulling me up…"
"Noooo…Shadow!" Relm cried, dashing out and taking a leap, grasping onto Shadow's leg. To her surprise, she found herself being carried up with him. What followed next was a bizarre chain reaction- the other Returners dashed toward the light to try to pull down those floating in the air, but ended up getting caught in its spell and lifted up too. Terra looked up, only to see the glass ceiling inches from her face, and let out an ear-piercing scream.
I…I'm going to be crushed…!
A flash of blinding light suddenly burst in her eyes, and seconds later, she felt her boots hit a solid surface with a soft "click". Opening her eyes, she could see a few tall, rocky peaks, set against a black and violet bruised sky. Bursts of pure white lightening exploded every few seconds, and a cold wind ripped through and blew Terra's ponytail into her face. Turning around, she saw the others behind her, gaping at the sight silently.
Terra gasped and turned back towards the peaks, her heart nearly stopping.
Floating down in a shimmering rainbow triangle of energy was none other than Kefka. The man looked as if he hadn't aged a day from the last time Terra saw him- His yellow hair was still slicked back and pinned with an abundance of feathers and jewels, his make-up still caked on with perfection, his eyeliner sleek and black, and his robes as flamboyant as ever, layers of bright green, red, yellow, and purple flapping in the wind. His face twisted into a crooked smile when his eyes fell upon Terra's form, giggling happily and clapping his hands together.
"Kefka!" Terra hissed. "So you've shown yourself at last!"
"I should be saying that to you, my dear," Kefka smiled, his laughter ringing out like the sound of broken glass. "But…I knew that you'd make it here, I hardly doubted you for a second…So I've prepared suitable entertainment for you all!"
"Shut up!" Celes snapped, pushing forward, her hair whipping in the wind. "How long are you going to let the destruction continue?" Kefka' smile twisted more.
"General Celes Chere! Oh, I'm sorry…Ex-General Celes…how are you? How did wandering the world looking for your lover boy work out? I guess not very well, if you ended up here! Mwa ha ha ha ha!" Celes' face turned blood-red, and Locke blinked.
"Stop it," Terra demanded, clutching her fist. "This is going to end now."
"But the fun has only just started!" Kefka smiled, snapping his fingers. "I have tapped into the ultimate power…observe!" Kefka raised one hand, causing Locke to fly off the ground and levitate in mid-air, upside down. Glaring at Kefka, Locke didn't breathe a word, but he did slip him a silent sign with his right hand as he bobbed up and down in the air.
"Such magnificent power!" Kefka laughed. "You are all nothing but insects to me!" Lifting his other hand, Gau suddenly flew up into the air as well, spinning around in circles and wailing out as Kefka squealed mercilessly. "I will exterminate everyone and everything!" The wind started to pick up harder now, rousing the passed-out Mog and nearly knocking Relm off her feet.
"People will keep rebuilding the things you take from them!" Edgar shouted over the howling of the wind. Kefka stuck up his nose and dropped his hands to his sides, letting Locke and Gau crash into the rocky crags and roll to the ground. He then shook his finger at Edgar menacingly.
"Then I'll destroy those too. Why do people rebuild things they know are going to be destroyed? Why do people cling to life when they know they can't live forever? Think how meaningless each of your lives is!"
Terra shook her head, feeling herself get angrier and angrier with every word that fell from his lips. Oh, she knew that he thought they were meaningless. She knew that Kefka thought she was nothing but a worthless puppet when he abused her powers, robbed her memory, and trained her to be a soldier of the Empire. But now, finally, Terra knew the truth: the truth that had been taught to her, one person at a time, one emotion at a time, one revelation at a time.
"It's not the net result of one's life that is important!" She cried, stepping up closer. "It's the day-to-day concerns, the personal victories, and the celebration of life…and love! It is enough if people are able to experience the joy that each day can bring!" Kefka, pausing for a moment, floated down closer to Terra so that their noses nearly touched. She didn't flinch as his cold eyes bore deep into her body, dragging up to her eyes and piercing them.
"And have you found your "joy" in this nearly dead world of ours?" He asked softly, sending chills up her spine. For a moment, his voice had lost its normal high-pitch and screech. For just one second, Terra thought it sounded…human. Regardless, she would not back down.
"Yes," Terra hissed, and Kefka raised his eyebrows, backing off a little. "I now…I now know what love is."
"And I have learned to celebrate life…and the living," Locke said softly, stepping up to Terra's side, his lip cut with a hard bruise forming on his cheek from falling. Terra smiled at him gratefully, and reached down, squeezing his hand.
"My family lives on inside of me!" Cyan suddenly exclaimed, stepping up to the other side of Terra and glaring up at Kefka.
"And I know what friendship is…and family…" Shadow trailed off, walking up next to Cyan.
"It is my dream to build a kingdom where I can guarantee freedom and dignity," Edgar said, moving up to Locke and pushing back his cape.
Sabin approached Edgar and put his arm around him. "I have come to experience anew the love of my brother!"
Celes reached down in her pocket, clutching to a ragged piece of cloth in secret. "I've met someone who can accept me for who I am."
"I have a special little Granddaughter," Strago smiled, hugging Relm to his side.
"And I have a brave Grandpa who will stand by me through it all."
"This is for my friend's airship…" Setzer grinned, "And her love!"
"These are my friends!" Mog squealed, hugging onto Umaro, who grunted some sort of reply.
"You my friends! I uwaoo all of you!" Gau exclaimed. Gogo smirked and merely raised a hand towards the Returners.
Kefka threw down his hands in disgust and rolled his eyes.
"This is sickening! You all sound like chapters from a self-help booklet! Prepare yourselves…for my next trick…I will make you all…DISAPPEAR!"
"Kefka, stop, you don't know what you're doing!" Terra screamed. But it was far too late. Kefka raised a hand, and suddenly a familiar sharp beam of white light shot out from his palm, disappearing in the blink of an eye. A few moments later, a tremendous crash erupted, and the Returners could see smoke and flames rising in the horizon. Terra suddenly realized with a shudder that the sky above them and their surroundings was the roof of Kefka's tower. The dark, trembling sky and the blackened lands were the sky and lands of their planet. It wasn't some sick magic trick. It was all real.
And Kefka was finishing the job he started with the good ol' Light of Judgment.
More thunder rumbled in the distance, and all of a sudden, sheets of rain began to pour down from the sky. Terra could only watch in horror as Kefka cackled, floating over to a quivering crag that was beginning to rise higher in the air. Terra and Locke looked at each other, nodding, and dashed off towards the other crags that were rumbling and starting to grow.
"I command the greatest power in the universe! You are all helpless before me!" As Kefka rose higher, Terra and Locke clung to their crags, flying up after him with the wind and rain whipping in their faces.
"I will destroy everything…I will create a monument to non-existence!"
"Life will go on!" Terra cried, and Kefka gasped, spinning around to face her. She clung to the peak for dear life with one hand, the other slipping down to her belt. "Life will go on…there will always be people, and dreams!"
Kefka reddened and stuck out his hand, another light beam shooting out and crashing a few moments later on another coastline, more smoke and ash shooting into the air in the far distance. When even that didn't daunt the fire in Terra's gaze, Kefka reddened more and started to throw a hissy fit.
"NO! I WILL HUNT THEM DOWN! DESTROY! DESTROY! DESTROY!" He laughed manically, clutching his stomach from cackling so hard and nearly doubling over. "I mean…come on…what is the fun of all this destruction if no "precious" lives are lost?"
"We will not allow you to harm another living thing," Locke said, his voice grave and dark. As Kefka turned, he reached out and grabbed Locke by the collar of his jacket, lifting him high in the air. As Locke gagged and struggled, he titled his head back and managed to call "Terra! Now!"
"What did you just say, you bumbling idiot?" Kefka hissed, throttling Locke harder. "WHY WON'T YOU JUST DIE—AHHHHHHHHHH!"
Kefka immediately dropped Locke back to the ground and screamed at the top of his lungs, swinging around and smacking Terra, who had flew up behind him in Esper form. She cried out and hit the crag behind her, sinking to the ground with a smile on her face.
Kefka continued to writhe around ecstatically, finally managing to reach back…and rip out the bloodied Atma weapon that had been plunged into his shoulder blade. Hissing at Terra, he tossed the blade away and raised his arms, the ground shaking so hard that rock began to tumble down the crags. Heaving for breath, Kefka spread his arms and caused the triangle energy around him to burst, his blinding smile contorted on the side of his face.
"Oh, but it hasn't yet begun! And I'm giving you all a FRONT ROW SEAT!"
At that moment, Terra felt something hard and sharp hit the back of her head- and everything went black.
It was very, very cold out that night. The snow flakes were so fat and thick, they stung your cheeks a little each time they touched your flesh. Terra's eyes suddenly snapped open, blinking and looking around, her bangs matted to her forehead by the cold snow. She couldn't believe she fell asleep! She looked up slowly, to see if the others had noticed. However, right then, they stopped, so immediately she pulled down on a lever, the clunky armor churning and coming to a halt. However, it still hummed and bounced underneath her.
"Hey Wedge, there's the town..." One of the soldiers said, in a bold and deep voice. He looked away from the town to his fellow armored partner. Wedge sneezed and rubbed his nose.
"Hard to believe an Esper has been found intact in there, 1000 years after the War of the Magi..." His voice trailed off, almost as if he were afraid. He looked at Vicks, his partner, and let out an obvious squeal of fear. Wedge had always been the less brave of the two friends/partners, but he was smarter, being the information officer. Vicks smirked.
"Think it's still alive?"
Wedge nodded. "Probably, judging by the urgency of our orders."
The wind picked up right then, the cold piercing right through their armor. Vicks and Wedge cried out, but Terra didn't make a sound, and she was wearing far less protective clothing then them. Vicks could not believe it.
"And this woman, this...sorcerer. Why's she here? I heard she fried 50 of our Magitek Armored soldiers in fewer than 3 minutes." Vicks looked to Wedge who shrugged.
"Not to worry. The Slave Crown on her head robs her of all conscious thought. She'll follow our orders." Wedge stared at the girl as he said this.
Terra blinked, but said nothing. She watched them carefully, and although her mind was trying to put together anything resembling a thought, she was failing. She felt like her mind was a radio broadcast, and that someone was changing the channel every five seconds.
"Haven't I done this be…Ah…These people…Ouch…" She shuddered and closed her eyes tightly, trying harder. "This town…I know this town…AHHH"
Terra screamed out and reached up, holding her temples. The two guards looked back at her, shocked.
"Narshe!" She babbled, shaking her head and squirming in her armor. The two guards then stared at each other.
"How did she know this was Narshe?" Vicks questioned. "No one told her, right?"
"She's not supposed to say a word!"
Terra moaned out and slumped down in her seat, struggling to remember. She saw a tall man, with sandy brown hair and a pretty blue bandana, reaching out for her hand. She saw herself standing in a grand palace, speaking to one of the most handsome men she had seen in her life. She saw herself on a ship at night, looking out at the sea and standing in the shadow of a man dressed all in black. She saw herself standing in a house filled with children, talking to a tall, pale blonde woman.
She then saw a creature of white flesh and fiery red eyes, raising a blue, glowing blade and plunging it into the back of the man in front of her. Terra gasped out, her breath quickening.
"This is me…and these are my memories…" She could feel someone reaching in her armor and un-strapping her, tugging her away. She struggled against the cold hands, crying out and opening her eyes.
NO! THIS ISN'T REAL! THIS HAS ALL ALREADY HAPPENED!
Terra suddenly sat up, her heart pounding and a cold sweat dripping down her forehead. Looking around, she saw that she was in a dark, empty place…with soft, misty clouds floating underneath her body. The others were with her, looking just as confused as she did.
"You guys?" Terra asked, sitting up and slowly climbing to her feet.
"Terra, you finally woke up!" Edgar walked over to her. "It looked like you were having a nightmare, but we couldn't wake you…"
"It's ok, I'm fine now," Terra said, shaking her head. "But…where is Kefka? Better yet…where are we?"
"It seems to be some sort of alternate dimension…" Strago trailed off. "Something Kefka created, no doubt…it is brimming with Magical energy…can you feel it, Terra?"
Terra nodded, closing her eyes and taking a deep breath. "Yes, I can…I think it was the Magic that put me in my trance…"
At first, no one else noticed, but the clouds and mist had begun to raise higher and higher, swirling about and then disappearing up into the darkness. Terra looked up and bit down on her lip, reaching up and gently touching one of the clouds. Surprisingly, it felt solid between her fingers.
"The clouds…" She trailed off. "They're all going up…"
Sabin looked up as well, narrowing his eyes. "I bet Kefka is…"
"Come on," Terra said, grabbing the next cloud as it floated by and climbing on, starting to soar up into the air. "Kefka is up here!"
But something else was waiting for them first.
It was a massive, gray-skinned, thickly-built monster, with hands as big as three feet across, long, shining claws, and a face completely contorted and twisted with muscle. Out of its back were entangled, slimy tentacles, which ran up through a thick burst of clouds above the team and disappeared from sight. Some of them were a pale red color and so robust, they looked as if they were about to burst. Emerging from its head was a crown of horns, in the center a giant ruby that was chipped, battered, but still shining. The beast opened its fang-ridden mouth and let out a tremendous roar, so loud that it made the clouds beneath the Returners quiver. Before it had a chance to attack, Celes took a wild swing with the Ragnarok and sliced off one its horns. The creature countered by slashing at her with a clawed, gnarled hand. Taking another hard swing, Celes made short work of that by severing it off.
Terra was a little surprised. If Kefka had sent this after them, he had made a poor choice. The beast seemed to be attached to something, if not the slithering tentacles, and could only move by swinging its arms or head. But what happened next was so fast; it nearly made her head spin.
Locke and Shadow were throwing stars and knives from afar, and some of the others had yet to still float up to the battlefield. Just as Locke launched a knife into the beasts' mouth, its right arm shot out, stretching further than anyone could have possibly imagined. It seemed to be a reaction getting a knife in his throat, but that reaction turned into a fatal attack. As his arm shot out, it struck Locke, Cyan, and Gau off their clouds. Gau fell off, screaming out and just barely missing Relm's outstretched hand. Cyan tumbled after him, but got a nasty blow from one of the wild stray tentacles, cutting his cries short but knocking him out. Terra could only stare after them, her eyes wide and her heart beating a million miles a minute. Locke gasped out for breath and managed to pull himself back onto his cloud, panting out and clinging for dear life.
Cyan and Gau disappeared completely from their sight, being swallowed by the darkness. At the same time, the monster had started to gag and cough out blood and bile, Locke's knife lodging deeper in its throat. A few moments later, its tentacles stopped writhing and its head drooped, the body motionless.
"GAU! CYAN!" Edgar called out. Everyone was now silent as they strained their ears to hear a reply.
However, there was nothing, and their clouds were beginning to break through a chilling layer of mist. There was no turning back. Terra lowered her head and closed her eyes. It was unbelievable. She took a slow breath, opened her eyes again, and stared up at the sky above…which had actually seemed to turn a shade lighter. However, she could see something tall and looming in the distance. Clutching to the cloud, she silently urged it to go faster. As they came closer, Terra took in a deep breath, feeling her heart drop into her stomach.
Oh Gods…Not something else…
The "something tall" turned out to be a five feet thick column of twisting, writhing bodies, all fused together in awkward positions. It wasn't just human bodies either- man of them appeared to be Espers, with horns, extra limbs, claws, and crippled wings. As their clouds started to float by the column, the creatures started to lash out and grab at the Returners, and others started to launch all sorts of different spells.
"Look out!" Terra cried, struggling to grab her cloud and make it dodge out of the way. However, whatever they were riding on had no prerogative when it came to keeping it's passengers safe, and haphazardly floated wherever it pleased, starting to circle around the column.
"Just fight back!" Shadow grunted. "There is no way we're going to survive otherwise."
"Espers!" Sabin yelled. "Use Espers!"
In a burst of light, over a dozen Espers erupted onto the battlefield and charged the column of enemies. Shiva, Ifrit, Ramuh, Maduin, Alexander…defying gravity itself, they launched all of their most intense elemental blows, while defensive Espers Carbuncle, Fenrir, and Golem protected their party with special barrier spells. At first, things seemed to be going the Returners' way: the Espers weren't letting up, the columns' arms, legs, and and claws were slowing down, and Terra found herself steadily climbing higher and higher away. But then, suddenly, there was a grand explosion, and the sound of screams.
One of the Espers trapped in the column had released a massive Thundaga spell that struck down at all the lower clouds. Terra looked down just in time to witness the horror before her eyes: Gogo, Umaro, and Relm were falling fast, plunging into the darkness below as their clouds broke away in small silver puffs before fading away.
"FLOAT!" Terra screamed, thrusting out her hand and nearly falling backwards. As a shooting star of golden light shot down to try to catch up to the fallen, another creature within the column growled and cast Wall, causing the spell to bounce backwards and fly off into space. Terra gasped out and tried to jerk her cloud to make it turn around, but it steadily rose up without regard to what she wanted. Her hand still outstretched, Terra cast another spell, but over and over again, they bounced back. Another explosion sounded, this time, coming from the Returners, and the entire sky lit up an electric green.
Celes had cast an Ultima spell, which had exploded upon the column like a miniature nuclear bomb. Bursts of glittering stars and debris flew out everywhere, and the creatures started to whimper and twitch, falling over dead as the column began to turn gray and hard, petrifaction taking over. Soon, the column stopped completely dead, and the Returners cut through a thin veiling of mist and stars.
Terra felt like her nerves were already on edge. She could hear Strago in the background, calling out for Relm, the others calling for Gogo and Mog crying out for Umaro. Terra moaned out and turned back around, lowering her head and closing her eyes.
First Cyan and Gau…and now Gogo, Umaro, and Relm…Why is this happening! We're fighting together…we shouldn't be able to just be taken away from each other just like that…It's not supposed to work like that…
She couldn't bear to think about what could have possibly happened to them. Unfortunately, she didn't have time to anyway. Nearly one minute later, a soft growl sounded, and the Returners were greeted with another "heavenly" visitor. Perched upon a throne of twisted stone, metal, and tentacles was an Esper that greatly resembled Maduin, his skin a light blue and his long, gold hair tied back in a rich ponytail. His chest was an array of muscles and bulging veins, and his lower half was covered with a rich royal blue cloak that gently flapped in the non-existent wind. On each of his sides was a blazing torch, and high above the throne floated a haunting stone bust of a woman, her eyes closed and her long hair frozen forever frozen over her shoulders. Terra thought it was one of the creepiest things she had seen in all their adventures. The Esper opened his eyes, which had been closed as if in a peaceful sleep, and gave the Returners a slick smile.
"So, you've made it this far…I commend you."
"Who are you?" Locke asked, and he chuckled.
"Why, I'm an Esper, of course…can't say I have a name yet though…I am what you humans would call a newborn."
"What?" Edgar blinked. "A new Esper?"
"Freshly created by my Master, who has been experimenting as of late…" He laughed. "Since the Statues aren't around anymore, somebody has to do it…"
"Kefka is creating his own Espers!" Terra cried. "No…it's just like The War of the Magi…"
"Exactly, my dear!" The Esper laughed. The stone bust above him continued to hover menacingly. "But as much as I would like to chat with you all, I have been waiting here for a reason…Kefka doesn't want to be disturbed while he builds his new Esper army."
"You can't stop us!" Sabin protested. "Kefka won't win."
"Well, you're right; I probably can't, not with these numbers…" The Esper smirked and snapped his fingers. "Let's make these odds more even."
The stone bust above him suddenly quivered, the eyes sliding open and glowing an eerie sharp blue. Her mouth opened, and a piercing noise filled the room, causing the Returners to all cry out and cover their ears. Gold and blue sparks shot out from her eyes, encircling some of the party members and yielding disastrous results.
Mog and Strago were turned into Kappas, the little green Imps of legend. They flapped their big blue beaks making meaningless cries, and flapped their green arms, frightened. Before Terra or Celes could cast a counter-spell, they both lost their balance off their clouds and tumbled off, squealing out and flapping their arms down through the misty clouds below.
Setzer and Sabin were enraptured by Freeze spells- turned into statues of ice that immediately tipped over off of their clouds and knocked from the battle. Everyone else was blasted by a weakening spell, and Terra could feel her strength draining out from her as if she were a leaking balloon. Feeling around in her pockets, she fumbled for an Esper as their enemy cackled, reaching up and popping his knuckles.
"Mmm…now, I think that makes this fight a little fairer…What spell shall I use to finish you all off…? Since I am more merciful than my master, I will try to think of something quick and painless…" The eyes on the stone bust began to glow again, and Terra knew they were running out of time. Pulling out an Esper, Terra lifted it up to the miniscule light she had and realized it was Crusader, the Esper sealed by the Dragons. It was supposed to be the most powerful Esper ever created…she decided there was no more appropriate time to use it than now. Holding it up over her head, she closed her eyes and cried out:
"Crusader! Please! Heed my call!"
The background and mist surrounding the Returners suddenly turned a deep, menacing crimson, and began to ripple, as if being viewed from afar in a tremendous heat wave. First, bursting from a cloud of black smoke above the Returners was a golden-armored waif of a creature, with violet flesh that was revealed only under its golden helmet and smoke-like wings fluttering behind it. It seemed to be balancing on a gold and ruby flying carpet, and in its raised right hand was a sleek, thin blade.
Appearing right in front of Terra was a massive version of the gold waif, a huge armored hulk of a beast with a pulsating violet globe on its chest and its helmet pulled all the way over its head lashed out, sharp, gleaming claws slicing through the empty air as it growled deeply. Finally, a third creature appeared…a wiry, dirt-orange reptile with a long, twitching tail and black samurai armor. In both twisted claws it held double-bladed swords, swinging them so fast that they were a blur to the naked eye. Without warning, the three suddenly began to screech, growl, and hiss at each other, diving in different directions with weapons, claws, and magic flying.
However, Terra began to realize that something was terribly wrong with this Esper, or rather, these three Espers. Instead of directly attacking the enemy, they were attacking each other as well…and when Terra tried to call them back, they ignored her. Deciding to take advantage of the enemy Esper being distracted by Crusader, Celes rode in on her cloud and thrust her sword towards him. What she didn't see was the double-bladed sword coming at her back, and by the time Locke screamed her name, it was too late. The blade plunged through Celes' back, causing her to stop absolutely still, drop the Ragnarok, and let out a little surprised choking noise before plunging over the edge of her cloud and disappearing. The now stained-red cloud began to break apart into little clouds and then mist, floating away. Terra's scream was stuck in her throat, and Locke could only stare, which was a mistake. One of Crusader's Espers shot out a random Fira spell, striking Locke in the chest and knocking him backwards. Edgar and Shadow tried to race over to protect Terra, but were both caught in the crossfire, getting attacked by spells and swiped away in one easy blow by the biggest beast. Terra whimpered and started to bang on the back of the biggest Esper's armor, shaking her head and starting to get hysterical. Her breath came out so fast; she thought her heart was going to burst.
"Stop it, stop it! YOU'RE KILLING MY FRIENDS!"
However, Crusader wasn't done yet, and the enemy Esper made the same mistake as the others, getting in the way. Over and over again he was struck by blows, weapons, and magic, one of the double-bladed swords slicing through the stone bust and crumbling it into hundreds of pieces. The smallest Esper dove in, and in an attempt to slay the reptile, accidentally stabbed the enemy Esper right through the abdomen and shrieked at the mistake. The enemy, on the other hand, let out a horrible cry and slumped over on its throne, bleeding to death. Seeing that they had indeed killed the thing they were called upon to attack, the Crusader Espers decided to give things up for now, and in a flash of light, disappeared. The background began to fade back to a normal color, and Terra felt her cloud rising in the air again. Only, this time…she was alone.
My friends… Terra closed her eyes, shaking her head and shivering. How am I supposed to survive alone…? Where are you?
As the lone cloud rose, Terra could feel something warm and gentle on her back, almost like…light. Looking up, she could see the mist above her was gently illuminated, although by what, she did not know. Her face was smudged with blood and dirt, her clothes torn, her bangles cracked, and one of her earrings was missing. Even her ruby pendant felt heavy on her neck. Blowing away the loose strands that had fallen from her ponytail; Terra closed her eyes and prayed that maybe the warm glow above would bring her some sort of mercy. She felt her cloud break through the warm mist, but then suddenly disappear from beneath her. Her knees hit something solid, and soft, and something bright was stinging her closed eyelids.
Slowly, she opened her eyes, and was shocked to find herself in a beautiful, sunlit area, with puffy clouds everywhere and the golden sun itself risen high in the sky, beams of light pouring everywhere. Below her were more clouds, but they were soft and yet solid enough to walk on. Gently taking a few steps forward, Terra looked around and did the first thing that came to her mind- call out for her friends.
"Locke…? Edgar?" She walked more, and called out a little louder. "Sabin?" She paused, and bit down on her lip. "Where am I?"
"Life…Dreams…Hope…Where did they come from?"
Terra shuddered, feeling as if a chill had just run through her body. Turning around, she saw that no one was there, but she was positive that she had heard someone speak.
"…Where are they headed?"
The sound of something breaking against the wind rang out, and Terra saw a shadow pass over her body. Turning to her left, she saw a figure with bulging muscles, violet flesh, and three angel wings flutter down from the sky, its gaze intently on her. A crimson, silk toga was wrapped around its body, and it had blonde, shining hair similar to the Esper Terra had just fought, along with…a gathering of prominent feather plumes.
"These things…I am going to destroy!"
"Kefka!" Terra cried, taking a step back. "You…You've…"
"I'm just like you now Terra…an Esper…" Kefka trailed off. His voice was calm, not at all shrill like it was normally. Calm, bordering on…serene, and happy. "Will you join me now? We are equals, no…we are blood! Your friends have abandoned you, and left you for dead…"
"They did not leave me, you MUDERED THEM!" Terra screamed. "But as long as I am alive, and still standing, I will defeat you!"
"Go ahead…you have no weapons, and you have no strength…" Kefka shook his head, laughing softly and fluttering his wings. "I guess I was wrong before…we are hardly equals. You are nothing but a half Esper, and a half Human…which makes you a waste of existence."
"KEFKA!" Terra became enraged, and without realizing what she was doing, charged him. As she ran, she began to mutter under her breath, casting an Ultima spell. However, before she could finish her spell, Kefka merely lashed out and smacked her across the face, sending her flying backwards and hitting the clouds. Her cheek throbbing, Terra pulled herself up to her feet and charged again, getting smacked on her other cheek and being sent flying again. Panting out, she pulled herself up to her knees and started to chant again, but Kefka interfered with a Meteor spell.
Hot, flaming balls of rock began to soar down from the heavens above, striking Terra and causing her to scream out and curl up, protecting her head. Every rock that struck against her body sent her through searing, burning pain, the fire instantly eating through her clothes and burning her naked flesh. Just when she thought she couldn't take a second more, a final meteor smashed just inches away from her head, and Kefka came over to her, reaching down and grabbing her by the ponytail. He yanked hard so that she was forced to look right at him, a thin trail of blood trickling down her cheek from where he had first slapped her. Without a word, he smashed her down into the clouds, which had turned as hard as pavement. He smashed her face in over and over again, and Terra barely managed to reach up to cover her nose, hearing the bones in her fingers snap which each new impact. Finally, Kefka grew tired of his game and lifted her up again, this time completely off the ground, and gave her a hard toss. Terra bounced off the ground before rolling to a stop, her body completely still and her eyes closed. Kefka began to laugh manically, the sound coming from deep within his abdomen when he realized what he had just done. At last, after all this time consisting of little more than foolish mind games, and annoying interruptions, Kefka had defeated the Returners. Each and every single one of them was now nothing more than a crumpled mess of bones and bruised flesh. Cackling louder, Kefka shook his head and gazed up at the shining sun. It was…so beautiful.
Ahhh…it hurts so much… Terra closed her eyes tighter, feeling her body throb and ache in places she didn't even know she had. So this is what it feels like to die… Her left hand was a mess of blood and broken fingers, although the pain there had started to get so bad that it was actually going numb. She could still feel the burning flesh on her back and legs sizzling, and her head felt so heavy, she couldn't even think about lifting it a centimeter. She could hear Kefka's laughter booming in the background, filling up her senses, suffocating, and drowning her. Her pulse starting to slow, Terra let out a tiny whimper and felt salty, burning tears gather underneath her closed lids. Even though her eyes were closed, she could see Locke and the others, standing right there in front of her, smiling and extending their hands. Terra wanted to reach out so badly and grasp those strong, calloused fingers, and be held and embraced by a warm body. Despite all the glaring sunlight around her, she was starting to feel cold.
I'm sorry you guys…
I'm sorry children…
I'm sorry Mother…Father…
…I've failed you.
Terra flinched as something cool and slick rolled against her right hand. As she gently, delicately ran her fingers over it, her heart started to beat a little faster, and her face felt hot with realization. Slowly, painfully opening her eyes, Terra looked over and saw that she was grasping the hilt of Atma Weapon.
But…how? Terra blinked and gripped it tighter, although barely a sliver of blue blade appeared. I thought Kefka got rid of this while we were in the tower… Kefka's voice began to fade away, and Terra closed her eyes again, moaning. But it doesn't matter…I don't have an iota of strength to wield it...
Terra opened her eyes once more, looking up and gasping out. Standing before her was a woman with long, beautiful blonde hair swept up into a ponytail, wearing a soft white blouse and long, elegant red skirt. Of course, Terra instantly knew who she was.
"My Terra…" Madonna smiled, kneeling down and gently stroking back Terra's blood-matted hair. "Look at how you've grown…and look at how beautiful your father's pendant looks on you…" She reached down and gently touched it, sending a warm shudder through Terra's body. "Are you ok, dear?"
"I think I'm dying Momma…And if Kefka hears me…he'll come back over and make sure I am finished off for good…"
"You have to fight Terra…your friends are waiting for you."
"My friends…" Terra felt her eyes water more. "My friends are…"
"Shhh…" Madonna cooed softly, stroking her hair more. "You have to fight. You have to remember who you are."
"Who I am…?" Terra blinked and looked up at her. "I know who I am…I'm the daughter of a human and an Esper…and an ex-weapon of the Empire…"
"You have to remember," Madonna repeated, standing up and starting to back away. "Think back Terra, and draw your strength from your friends." In a flash, Madonna disappeared, and Terra whimpered, clutching Atma tighter.
Kefka's ears perked up and he whipped around, narrowing his eyes. Was that little rat not dead? He saw something glimmering by Terra's right hand, let out a soft growl, and started to approach her.
Terra bit down on her lip and racked her brain, trying to possibly remember what her mother was telling her to remember. At the same time, she could hear Kefka approaching, and she realized with a sunken heart that she had been found out. When she closed her eyes, she could see her friends again, smiling and calling out her name. Others began to enter the picture…the children of Mobliz…Arvis…Banon…all calling her name and urging her to come to them. As Terra's gaze drifted over each of their faces, her heart suddenly skipped a beat, and she came to a realization.
Kefka smirked as he saw Terra struggle to sit up, grasping whatever she had in her hand close to her chest. He wondered how he was going to kill that little witch once and for all, letting out a whistle as he got lost in all the spell options that ran through his head. He didn't see Terra climbing to her feet, and he most certainly didn't notice that the blade of Atma had become blazing blue and long. Terra closed her eyes and transformed into her Esper self, her ruby eyes blazing as she clutched the sword and approached Kefka with the same pace that he was approaching her. When Kefka finally focused in and saw her, he let out a little gasp, and Terra made her move. Launching off the clouds and flying towards him at a blinding speed, Terra thrust Atma directly into Kefka's chest and heart, glaring at him as he could only stare at her, a little choking noise escaping his lips. As the blood started to trickle down the wound in his chest, Terra opened her mouth, and Kefka was shocked to hear that it wasn't just her voice that was coming out- but the voice of all fourteen of the Returners…combined.
"Perhaps you have heard this story," Terra began, her eyes narrowing more as she gently gave Atma a little twist. "Once, when people were pure and innocent, there was a box they were told never to open. But one man went and opened it anyway. He unleashed all the evils of the world: envy... greed... pride... violence... control... All that was left in the box was a single ray of light: Hope." Kefka let out a strangled gasp as Terra continued to push in Atma, reaching up with her now healed left hand and grabbing onto Kefka's hair, forcefully pulling his head back. As he gagged and struggled to form words, blood dripping down the corner of his mouth, Terra reeled back and pulled Atma out of him, the blood pouring from the open wound as she dropped the sword to the ground and kneed Kefka in the stomach. Stumbling backwards, he fell flat on his back, and Terra stepped over him, her voice still contorted.
"We are that last ray of light, the world's only hope." Her eyes flashed, and then suddenly, her voice was back to normal again. Kefka croaked out and rolled his eyes back, reaching up towards the heavens and whispering.
"The end comes…beyond chaos…"
Slowly, it began.
First, Kefka's wings began to break away and fade into little grains of stone, the petrifaction traveling up his back and shoulder blades to his head, and then sweeping down throughout the rest of his body. Some stone pieces fell through the clouds, and the others burst into colorful sparks and disappeared into thin air, leaving tiny trails of smoke. All that remained was the beautiful pink feather Kefka had worn in his hair. Terra reached down to touch it, but gasped as it suddenly combusted into flames, and burned away into a pile of ash. Suddenly feeling weak and overwhelmed, Terra fell to her knees, and the clouds underneath her gave away. Closing her eyes, she felt her body falling, falling, falling…but the whole way down, she was smiling.
"Terra! Wake up, please!"
"We can't wait for her! Someone is just going to have to carry her body!"
"Ugh…" Terra opened her eyes, flinching out in pain as she looked around. She was back in Kefka's tower, somewhere deep within, apparently, since there was no sight of the world outside. She heard footsteps, and saw Setzer running up a flight of stairs, waving his arms.
"It's breaking up! We HAVE to get to the airship NOW!"
"Setzer…!" Terra cried out, suddenly sitting up and forgetting all about her aches. As she looked around further, she realized that everyone was there, safe and sound, and staring at her. Feeling her eyes water, Terra jumped to her feet and started to run towards the group. "Everyone! You're ALIVE!" She felt as if her heart were about to burst with joy. "But how…"
"Yes, we're fine!" Locke exclaimed. "But there is no time to explain right now! The airship is just ahead! You defeating Kefka started a chain reaction!"
"Come on, everybody!" A perfectly healthy Celes barked. "We're gonna have to work together!" Terra nodded, and still morphed in her Esper form, began to fly forwards. However, she suddenly collapsed and hit the floor, crying out as three Magicite shards flew from within her, bursting into glittering dust in the air and disappearing. Magicite shards also flew from the other's pockets and pendants, disappearing and raining glitter over the Returners. Celes ran over to Terra, holding her up. "Terra, what's wrong?"
"The Magicite…" Terra gasped. "Magic is disappearing from this world…"
"The Espers…they no longer exist…" Edgar trailed off.
"You mean Terra too?" Celes cried. Terra moaned and stood up, shaking her head and then starting to float.
"Come with me," Terra smiled some, her voice calm. "I can lead you all out with my last ounce of strength."
As the Returners began to make their way out of Kefka's collapsing tower, it soon became obvious that Celes was right, and that teamwork was going to be necessary on the way out just as it was on the way in. They broke off into separate groups only when they absolutely had to, but their paths always ended up crossing again so that they were reunited, if only for a short time.
"Oh no, I'm stuck!" Edgar cried. The moving staircase the party needed to use to get down the jagged crags had suddenly stopped. Looking back, Edgar gestured towards Cyan, the only other person with him. "Cyan, you think you can handle that switch?"
"Machines…" Cyan moaned, climbing back up and feeling around for the switch. "I HATE MACHINES!" He started to bang his fists on the walls, jumping up and down. Finally, he hit the switch, and the staircase started moving again, causing Cyan to beam.
"Well…I guess you just have to show technology who's boss!"
"Which door do we go through?" Celes gasped, looking between a left and a right door. Setzer looked at her and then winked, pulling out a coin and flipping it in the air. The coin landed closer to the left door, and he started to lead the group towards it. Suddenly he paused, pushed the others towards the right door, and let out an excited yell as the left door suddenly exploded outwards, metal and bolts flying everywhere. Celes shook her head, and Setzer laughed, giving a shrug.
"Sometimes in life, you just have to FEEL your way through a situation, you know?" Celes ignored him and pulled the others that were with them through the right doorway. Setzer laughed a little more and then sighed, smiling as he started to walk through himself, leaving his coin behind. "Daryl…I'm starting to sound just like you."
Edgar and Sabin, now together with Relm, Strago, and Mog, had come to a locked door. As Edgar began to fiddle with the lock, a beam suddenly came crashing down from above. Diving in with plenty of time to spare, Sabin easily caught hold of the beam and laughed, tossing it in another direction. Edgar chuckled, hardly ever noticing his brother's enigmatic bouts of strength anymore, and continued working on the lock uninterrupted. Sabin looked over at his brother, taking a deep breath.
"Big Brother…Listen. I didn't abandon the kingdom. I knew you would be the better King. I trained hard knowing I might have to help you one day, and now I know why I have these crazy muscles!" Edgar finally undid the latch, knocking the lock off and turning back to his brother, smiling some.
"Sabin…I know you didn't abandon us. You know, the whole time you were away…I knew that somehow, you were still looking out for me."
"Coming through, kupo!" Mog squealed, pushing between the brothers and through the doorway, effectively ruining the moment. The Figaro brothers shared a laugh, and then ran through after Mog, Relm and Strago right on their heels. In the next room, there was a set of stairs and a platform that both led to the other side of the room. Mog dashed across the platform since he was so small, while the others took the stairs. Suddenly, the platform collapsed beneath Mog, and he cried out, grabbing onto the edge and kicking his tiny limbs.
"Someone! HELP!" Edgar looked around and got an idea, climbing up to the top of a crane and plopping in the driver's seat. Pulling on a lever, the crane started to hum and came to life, and Edgar lowered it until he came to Mog's body. Gently plucking Mog as if he were a prize in a UFO catcher machine, Edgar laughed as he pulled Mog all the way over to his side, and deposited him on the floor.
"The hair kupo, you didn't watch the hair!" Mog cried, and Relm stared at him.
"You were about to fall to your death, and yet you are screaming about your hair?"
Umaro, Gogo, Locke, and Celes were racing through a series of corridors, when they suddenly came to a dead-end. Celes reached out and tried to find a latch, but realized that the latch that had been there had rusted off and was no where to be found. Umaro grinned and did a little pose, letting out a mighty roar before ramming head-first into the dead end, causing the "hidden" doorway to burst open with ease.
"Thanks, Umaro!" Celes smiled, and leaned in, giving him a quick kiss on the cheek. Umaro grinned and started jumping up and down, banging on his chest and almost forgetting to follow the others as they ran through to the next room. It was two floors, and at the top and bottom corners were switches. Celes went up and switched one on, but nothing happened.
"I think we have to do it simultaneously," Gogo suggested. "I'll mimic you Celes."
In a flash, Celes and Gogo both ran up the steps at the same time, pressed their switches together, and then bolted back downstairs to turn on the bottom switches. It activated a platform that stretched out from Celes' side over a pit to their exit, and as Celes ran over the platform to get to the door, Gogo forgot to stop miming her and promptly fell into the pit. Celes gasped out and bent over, laughing a little as she reached down for Gogo's hand.
"I am not climbing all the way down this," Relm sniffed, crossing her arms over her chest. She and Gau had ended up at the top of a very tall, rocky slope, and they knew they needed to be on the path below it.
"Mmm…Gau find shortcut…" Gau scratched his head, sniffed around, and found a giant, flat rock. Grabbing Relm by the hand, he pulled her onto the rock with him and let out an excited cheer as they slid down the mountain, Relm screaming and grabbing on tight to him the entire way. As soon as they had slid onto the path, Relm jumped off, screaming and cursing, and Gau dusted off his pants.
"Gau find shortcut!"
"We're almost there!" Terra said, elegantly soaring across a long, narrow platform. "Right Setzer?"
"Yes, the airship is right up ahead." Setzer said, crossing the platform after her by foot. Next Edgar crossed, and then Locke, and then finally Celes. However, as she was crossing, she felt something slip off her wrist, and looked down to see that she had dropped Locke's bandana.
"Come on, this floor is about to break apart!" Locke called back at her.
"Shit," Celes muttered, and turned around, quickly bending down to grab it. The platform gave a violent shudder, and just as she grasped it, it collapsed from underneath her. Crying out, Celes grabbed onto the ledges, closing her eyes and still clutching tightly to the bandana. Locke gasped out and dashed back across, bending down and grasping Celes' hands in his own.
"Locke!" Celes cried, and Locke moaned, starting to pull her up.
"I will not…let you go. I promise…"
"Locke…" Celes closed her eyes, feeling her face get hot. After he had pulled her up, he immediately dragged her to safety, just as the rest of the platforms collapsed and crashed far, far below. Clutching Celes to his chest longer than he intended, Locke leaned his head on hers and whispered.
"You almost ate it trying to pick up that silly trinket…"
"It wasn't…silly," Celes said softly, pulling away and tying the bandana back onto her wrist. As soon as Locke saw what it actually was, he quickly closed his mouth, his face and ears turning bright red. As Celes looked back up at him, he quickly grabbed her hand, turned around, and pulled her away so they could continue to follow the others.
The next room was reminiscent of the tubes in the Magitek Factory. Ironically, more Magicite suddenly exploded at this point, and while it self-destructed, another piece rose out from within Terra's body. She stopped flying for a moment, gazing up at it and sniffling.
"Terra…" Maduin began, his voice deep with sadness. "We must part now…We Espers will disappear from this world…forever."
"Father…" Terra bit down on her lower lip. "Then that means I will be seeing you soon…"
"Terra, please listen to me carefully," Maduin said. "You are still but a young woman…and now you will have a future that is solely yours, and not controlled by anyone. It is my belief that if the human part of you is very strongly attached to something or someone…you will probably be able to continue on in this world as a human being…"
"What…?" Terra gasped out, feeling her heart pound faster. "Father…!"
But Maduin had expended his energies…the Magicite burst a few seconds later, raining glitter and crystal upon Terra's head. She stared up at the empty space where it had been for a few moments, contemplating what Maduin had told her. However, a hard quake suddenly ripped through the lab, causing more of the tube to shatter and collapse around them, waking her from her trance.
"Come on Terra!" Celes cried, tugging on her hand. "We have to keep going!"
"Right…Sorry…" Terra trailed off, and gestured for the others to continue following her.
It is my belief that if the human part of you is very strongly attached to something or someone…you will probably be able to continue on in this world as a human being…
Relm, Strago, and Shadow were crossing more rocky paths, Shadow running ahead to make sure there were no dangers, and Relm and Strago taking conveyer belts because it helped them go faster with less extenuating effort. However, Strago was going a little too fast, and accidentally ran into Relm, causing her to tumble over.
"Grandpa! Stop goofing around!"
"Sorry, dear…" Strago whimpered, and Relm glared at him.
"If I hear one peep out of you, I'm gonna…I'm gonna draw your portrait!" She pulled out her magical paintbrush, and Strago gasped, shaking his head.
"No, please, anything but that!" Relm smiled a little and put it away.
"Well…I would really like to do your portrait sometime…on canvas, of course." Strago smiled, feeling as if his heart had just melted. But the sound of crashes and explosions brought him back to reality, and he shook his head and gave Relm a gentle smack on her hat.
"How can you think of painting at a time like this?"
"Relm!" Shadow suddenly barked, causing Relm to jump and look over. Near the end of the conveyer belt, Shadow was waiting. She jogged up to him and hopped off the belt.
"I want you to go ahead, it's safe," Shadow said, gently pushing Relm out of the way.
"Oh, ok…" Relm blinked, shrugging and passing through the doorway. Strago jumped down and hit Shadow with his staff.
"Damnit, what did you do that for?" Shadow snapped, and Strago glared at him.
"You just sent Relm out there alone!"
"I told you, it's safe," Shadow snapped, and put his hands on his hips. "Now, cast the memory spell."
"W-W-What!" Strago exclaimed. "I didn't agree to do it!"
"I need you to do this," Shadow said, his tone softening just a little. "I…I need this, really bad. I need time alone to repent…besides, the spell is reversible if you want it to be, right? No harm done?" Strago shook his head.
"You make it sound simpler than it really is…manipulating the memories of so many people just for your selfish needs…manipulating Relm's memory…it's not right." Strago glared up at him. "Are you truly willing to give up everyone in this world who cares for you?"
"It's a necessary sacrifice," Shadow sighed, looking away. "Please…I don't know what I can say to make you understand…that this will be the least painful for all…not just me. I…I'm not being selfish like you think I am." Strago stared at him for a few moments, while the trembling of the walls and ground surrounding them gradually worsened. Something in Shadow's eyes flickered right then, something that shot to Strago's heart and made him realize Shadow might have been actually telling the truth. Before he could change his mind, Strago spat and pointed away from him.
"Go…stand over there."
Shadow stood to where Strago was pointing, and Strago tried his best not to look at him, silently chanting an ancient Blue Magic spell that had been passed down in his family for generations, his eyes closed tight as he made various motions with his left hand.
"Let loose the bonds of burden,
Close your heart to mind of thee,
Allow, by thy hand forevermore,
The cessation of Memory."
Strago opened his eyes, and looked up at Shadow.
"That's all there is to it. But are you going to find your own way out, or come out with us?"
"I'll find my own way out," Shadow grunted, and gave Strago a wave. "Thanks, Old Man…I won't forget this."
"Yes…and neither will I," Strago said a little coolly, and started to go after Relm. Shadow sighed softly, feeling the tremors get worse, and heard a familiar barking.
"Interceptor!" Shadow blinked, opening his arms as his puppy ran to him and jumped up, licking Shadow's mask and yipping happily.
"I…" Shadow gave the dog a quick hug, closing his eyes and then quickly setting him down. "Get out of here Interceptor…" Interceptor tilted his head and barked again, jumping back into Shadow's arms. Shadow moaned painfully and hugged the dog close, kissing the top of his forehead and trying to ignore the stinging behind his eyes. "Stay well…and please…protect her." With that, he gently pushed Interceptor away; reaching down in his belt and grabbing a small bone. He tossed it in the doorway Strago and Relm had entered, and Interceptor cheerfully ran after it, yipping all the way.
Shadow looked away and felt the tremors getting really bad now- almost knocking him off his feet. Taking a short walk over to a part of the path below a shaking tower on the ledge above, Shadow sat down. He closed his eyes and listened to the sounds of the rocks above him crumbling and rolling down the slope, knowing the tower would cascade down at any moment.
"Baram…I'm going to stop running. I'm going to start all over again…Please wait for me!"
As Strago and Relm continued to run ahead, they could spot the others and the airship coming into view. A loud barking noise erupted, and Relm turned around, gasping in surprise when she saw Interceptor bounding up to them.
"Interceptor!" Relm exclaimed, pulling the puppy up into her arms. "Goodness, were you hanging out in here the entire time!"
"Relm, please, we must hurry," Strago sighed. "Please carry Interceptor so that we do not lose him."
"Yes Grandpa," Relm replied, being obedient for once. She quickly looked back, and paused, causing Strago to turn back around and throw his hands up in the air.
"What are you waiting for, a monster to come and force us aboard the ship?"
"No…I…" Relm blinked, looking down for a moment and clutching Interceptor close to her chest. "It's weird, for a minute, I thought that someone else was with us. But then I remembered it was just you and me." Strago's face softened a little, and he walked up to her, pushing back some of her curls. Relm suddenly made a face up at him and jerked away.
"Ew, don't get all sentimental now…"
"Right…sorry dear," Strago smiled some, and Relm bolted ahead, screaming out at the others who were already at the airship.
"Come with me!"
Terra had soared over the deck of the airship, watching and silently counting to herself as the others piled on.
Me, Locke, Edgar, Sabin, Celes, Relm, Strago, Gogo, Umaro, Mog, Gau, Cyan, Setzer…All thirteen of us are here…Good.
"Come on baby, you gotta start up for me…" Setzer moaned, crossing his fingers and attempting to start the engine. The Falcon sputtered but then slowly started to purr, revving up higher and higher until the engines kicked on full-blast, everyone giving a cheer. As the ship started to move up towards the direction Terra was pointing, another piece of Magicite they had between them raised up into the sky, and vanished.
"That was the last piece!" Edgar cried, and Celes called out to Terra.
"Are you ok!"
"Fine…" Terra coughed some, holding herself. "I'm fine…"
"Hold on to your panties folks!" Setzer called, pulling back on the steering wheel hard and following Terra's lead out of the same hole The Falcon had created when it crashed into the tower. Just as they pulled out, Setzer turned to see the entire tower start to collapse in on itself, first the roof caving in, and the rest following through like a stack of dominos. A huge cloud of dust and smoke erupted as it all collapsed to the ground, blowing up over the deck of The Falcon and creating a curtain of dust around the Returners. Yet, even through all the dust, Celes was watching Terra, and Terra was coughing and clutching her body, sinking lower and lower.
"Terra, your power is fading!" Celes screamed. "Get on the ship!"
"Celes…I can't hear…you…" Terra moaned softly, a loud ringing in her ears. Closing her eyes, she felt that familiar feeling from just after she defeated Kefka…the feeling of falling…only this time, the wind was a bit stronger against her body.
I have to hold on…just a little longer…I just remembered…Katarin should be having her baby soon…Duane will be so proud…
Celes gasped out as Terra plummeted past the airship, and ran up to Setzer, shouting directions. The Falcon took a sharp dive, and the rest of the Returners clung to the edges of the airship, amazed at what was already occurring before their eyes.
All of the brown and yellow that had once made up their world's landscape was becoming green again. With every lap of waves upon the beach shores, the water was becoming clearer and bluer again. The sky had completely cleared away the storm clouds that had haunted it before- it was now a dazzling sharp blue, and the sun was raising high in the sky…dawn had just broken a few hours ago. A flock of white doves suddenly burst by, some of their soft feathers gently drifting onto the deck of The Falcon. Setzer suddenly jerked the airship into a thick cloud, and the air became foggy and damp for a few moments. After pulling up out of it, Locke pulled himself to his feet and looked around.
"Where is Terra?"
Celes started to run around the deck frantically, checking behind everybody and everything. Just as she was about to freak out, she saw Terra, curled up at the very front of the airship, in her human form. Running over to her, she kneeled down, gently shaking her shoulders and whispering.
"Is she…" Edgar trailed off, and suddenly Terra opened her eyes, coughing a little and reaching up, feeling her hair and face.
"…I'm…I'm human…" Terra blinked and then burst into a huge smile, surprising Celes with a hug and then leaping up to hug Edgar. "I'm human!" Edgar laughed and swung Terra around as the rest of the Returners cheered. Jumping down from his arms, Terra then ran to Setzer, throwing her arms around his neck and kissing his cheek.
"Thank you, Setzer!" Setzer blushed and laughed, shrugging it off with a wink.
"Didn't I tell you before my dear? This is the world's fastest ship!" Terra couldn't stop smiling and laughing. She went around to everyone, giving and receiving countless hugs and kisses as Setzer pulled the ship up higher and higher, going at max speed. Celes joined the group at the railings, staring out at their new world and feeling like she was finally home again. Locke slipped up beside her, and silently, their fingers entwined. Edgar and Sabin were trying to spot Figaro from high up, and Mog, Gau, and Umaro were trying to catch birds. Gogo stood in the corner, watching silently with smirking eyes, while Strago, Cyan, and Relm admired the beautiful view that was unfolding before their eyes. Smiling to herself, Terra slipped away and moved back to the front of the deck.
Listening to the others chatter behind her, she allowed herself to slip into her own little world, just for a few moments. She couldn't wait to go back to Mobliz to see Katarin's new baby and teach the kids how to garden. Then, she decided she would propose them coming to Narshe with her, and helping her rebuild the city back to its former glory. She was sure Locke and Edgar would help too…she was so excited just thinking about it! All of a sudden, "tomorrow" meant something.
Terra closed her eyes, enjoying the feeling of the summer wind beat against her newly-restored body. However…there was one thing that didn't feel quite right. Reaching up, Terra gently tugged at her hair ribbon, the wind immediately sweeping into her emerald green locks and blowing them back like a proud banner. Letting out a happy sigh, she let go of the ribbon, letting it flutter away in the wind and disappear from sight.
She knew right away that even though she was now human, Terra would not miss her magic powers or her abilities as an Esper. She was sure that just standing on the deck of The Falcon, knowing that her dear friends were safe and had a "tomorrow" with her…was what it truly felt like to fly.
This story is dedicated to all of my fans, who encouraged me to keep going until the very end...Je t'aime.