Disclaimer: I do not own FFVI, as much as I wish I did, so I could have made it this way. I don't make any money from this either. It just eats up my time and humors me.
Content Note: This is an epic retelling of FF3/6, delving further back into the past than the "present" game action is (the flashbacks do hit on it a little) and focusing on Kefka for the whole first half. This is an exploration of his character, before the experiments on him caused him to crack. I am using the game material, guides released by Square Soft and Nintendo Power, as well as the Final Fantasy Wiki in order to get more information on the characters and events, even if I am not going strictly by them. I am also taking a darker bent on the events of the game, as is my habit. But it's what I love, so yay.
Character Note: I am making a major change to the storyline of FF3/6, which you will all quickly realize. I am making Terra and Celes both men, for story purposes, and to open up a few new avenues. This will also add some humor in places later in the story, which will no doubt become quite obvious.
Title Note: The title I am using is coming from one of the moves Kefka has during the final battle of the SNES USA release of FF3. That translation calls it Heartless Angel, and it fits all too well with this story. When I was brainstorming for names "Dark Souls and Man Poles" was the first thing to pop to mind, which totally killed my brain. I just recently managed to come up with something serious and uncracky, though it will always be Dark Souls and Man Poles to me (and Chaos).
Warnings: Morbid topics, violence, mental illness, unethical practices, general darkness, explicit sexual content, yaoi, etc. Specific warnings will come at the top of every new chapter.
Author's Note: Sorry there is so much setting up this story!!! Every chapter will not have this much, I promise, but those notes are necessary in setting this up, I feel, because this is not a crack-fic, even if it is slightly AU, if barely. There will be notes on music where it is more important (I'll never include lyrics in the fic, but it helps for the background and mood, like in a movie).
Pairing Notes: There will be a lot. I'll deal with them as they come up, in the warnings.
It was dark in Vector, thick clouds hanging perpetually over the imperial capital. The mere sight of the city had brought smiles to many of the troops' faces, something which had not been seen since they set out in the first place. The battlefield was not a place for smiles, even if they had all come back. It had been another decisive victory for the Empire, with a bare minimum of casualties. War was still war in the end, though.
Ahead was the towering mass of the Imperial Palace, only illuminated by faint points of yellow light here and there. That, for the past two years, had been like home to him, his small, mostly bare quarters a refuge. By now he knew most of the halls and winding back corridors, metal staircases and bizarre machines. His steps grew firmer, more resolute, as he ascended the grated metal stairs leading to the grand front of the palace where banners with the Emperor's crest fluttered in an artificial breeze.
Out of habit, Kefka compulsively straightened his green uniform before stepping through the doors of the palace, smoothing a hand over his neatly tied back blond hair. Cool blue eyes flicked over the entry hall, taking in his surroundings. They were more festive than he had been expecting. People stood on either side of the hall, smiling, clapping, banners streaming in the wind generated by fans at the top of the vaulted ceilings.
Kefka turned around on a deft heel, brows knitting together. The soldiers had no doubt turned off down the road, to head for the barracks, stranding him in the middle of this. Pursing his lips, gaze locked on the lavish red carpets, Kefka hurried onward, trying to ignore the boom of applause all together. It was difficult to do, echoing as it was through the entrance hall, seeming to follow him through the back passage ways to his small room.
The loud bang of his door closing muffled the sound, Kefka leaning back against the patchwork of metal with a sigh. Clicking the latch into place, Kefka pulled his flail from its holster, hanging it over the small desk at one end of the room. There was no need to change from his uniform. Judging from the committee greeting him, Kefka could tell there was going to be a banquet.
There should not be one. He could have done it better. There could have been fewer lives lost.
A victory was a victory, and as usual, the Emperor would praise him for it, decorate him with more medals, perhaps promote him from field commander to general. His second in command, Leo, had done a great deal as well, but no one would notice. Perhaps he would point it out.
With a frown, Kefka sat on his cot, staring down at the floor. Under his breath, he counted down. He started at ten, and, just after one, a knock sounded. He did not move to unbar the door. "Yes?" The word was low, the faint coloring of worry present, despite the fact that he knew exactly what this was about.
"The Emperor requests your presence for an honorary dinner tonight, Sir."
Of course. Kefka flexed a calloused hand, staring at it for a moment before responding. "I will be there." He would do anything for the Empire, now and always.
The hour passed slowly, trickling by without any further interruptions, but also without anything interesting. Kefka could hear the palace buzzing beyond his locked door, the people scurrying about to make sure everything was ready and perfect. Perfection… Kefka closed his eyes, dashing thoughts of said notion from his mind. Now was not the time.
When the time came, he knew. He could feel it, like the whole palace was holding its breath, the sudden cease of noise outside more than enough evidence. Tugging gloves over his rough fingers, Kefka unlatched the door, emerging into a transformed hallway.
Even a place like this, in the back recesses of the palace, had been decorated, various banners and lights giving the metal corridor life. Kefka blinked at the sudden brightness, frowning. His strides were quick once his eyes had adjusted, leading him this way and that, down this staircase, up this one, around a corner, and he found himself at the door of the food hall, long table already glistening with foods from the regions already under the Empire's control, even if that was only part of the southern continent. For now, at least.
Everyone stood at his entry, which was almost too much; at least they left off on the applause. Chewing lightly on his lip, Kefka finally walked forward, reading to take his usual seat when the Emperor's hand waved at him not to, instead pointing at the seat directly to his right, which had always been empty to Kefka's recollection.
All of the color must have drained from his sun-kissed face, because the Emperor laughed, putting on a merry smile. "This is a position you deserve. Come now. I'm starving."
He dared not hesitate, walking around the long table, finally coming to sit down, slowly, gingerly as though the chair would dissolve if he took it too eagerly. Kefka did not have to glance around much to notice the envious stares he received, nor did he really want to.
The Emperor sat, everyone following in suit. Kefka swallowed nervously, taking a sip of water the moment his chalice was filled.
Kefka ate in silence, hoping that if he finished his meal quickly, he could gracefully duck out of the revelry. That was not the case. As soon as he finished his plate, the Emperor ordered someone serve him more. Kefka's quick refusal was silenced by the growl of his own stomach, ravished by battle, and he began eating again, growing more and more self-conscious of the eyes upon him with every bite.
Quickly, he set down his fork. The plate was only partially finished. He could eat no more, not with so many people staring at him. When the Emperor laughed, Kefka knew why. The aging man, blond with thick streaks of grey through it, lines creasing his round face, leaned over, speaking lowly, but not lowly enough, to his ear. "Go on, give us a speech. That battle was amazing, from what I heard. Surely you have something to say."
His throat dried immediately, tongue feeling as though it was made of lead. Kefka swallowed to no effect, taking another sip of his water. Everyone else had laid down their forks, even Kefka's second in command, all eyes trained on him expectantly. The excitement in the room was palpable.
Shakily, Kefka stood. He regretted it at the sight of the many grins greeting the simple gesture. This was going to be ruinous. Kefka opened his mouth, nothing coming out. Thinking better of it, Kefka moved to sit back down, the Emperor putting a hand on his lower back, stopping that with a 'no, go ahead' which Kefka would have rather ignored. Instead, he lifted his untouched glass of wine, raising it. "To the Empire."
Each glass in the room was lifted, everyone taking a deep drink. Kefka took the opportunity to sit back down, having successfully avoided a full speech.
The second round of dessert trays was being cleared, people finally bidding their farewells, leaving. Kefka stared at the empty place before him, eyes tracing the patterns in the metal surface, shifting uncomfortably on his intricately welded chair. The racket of the room calmed down quickly, the unpleasant hums of chattering voices drifting away down various corridors. The quiet was peaceful.
Kefka stood, pushing in his chair after edging carefully around it. The Emperor was still finishing his third helping of the second dessert, no longer caring about anything but the food before him, which was perfectly fine. It was his empire, after all. Kefka would never question him.
His retreat from the room was cut off by a voice he knew all too well, foot hovering above the ground before he moved back, turning. Leo was smiling from ear to ear, bronze tanned skin alight with something like joy. Kefka did not get it.
"Congratulations." Extending his arms, Leo stepped up, pulling him into a warm hug. Kefka returned it awkwardly.
"It was hardly deserved." Kefka pulled back, glancing quickly over Leo's shoulder at the Emperor. "The revelry in general. I did not—"
"Shh." Leo did not stop smiling, a hand lingering on Kefka's arm. "You are an amazing man, all the more so since this fame isn't going straight to your head."
Kefka looked away, a dusting of pink creeping onto his prominent cheekbones. He chewed his lip nervously, something Leo did not seem to miss.
"I'm being serious. Everyone looks up to you. I look up to you."
The flush only deepened, Kefka stepping away from the hand still on him. "Thank you. But, as I said—"
"Oh, so what, you aren't absolutely perfect, but you do a lot better than anyone else. Minimizing enemy casualties is brilliant, and a very noble thing to do." Leo nodded, as though agreeing with himself.
That was the last straw. "I could do better for the Emperor, and we both know it." Kefka turned, striding swiftly from the room, away from Leo. The further he went, the more the warm, fluttering feeling in his stomach lessened, and soon he was back in his room, with the door bolted, alone once more.