|Shards of Memory - Table of Contents|
Terra leapt backwards, the lightning blast crackling against the moon dust and dissipating in her wake. She landed in a crouch as Golbez leapt up into the air, bringing a hand back over his shoulder. He flung his hand out, a wave of dark energy flying through the air. Terra lifted her hands and flung a fireball, the projectile slamming into the energy and exploding. Golbez landed and ran forward, an orb of darkness in his palm. He let out a cry and flung it forward. Terra jumped aside as the orb flew past her, and felt a rush of air on her neck. Golbez appeared behind her in a flash and slammed a second orb into her back. Terra let out a scream, the attack exploding and knocking her forward. She landed and had only a second to register where before the first orb exploded under her stomach, sending her flying. She landed heavily behind Golbez, and let out a groan.
"My patience has already reached its end," Golbez said, turning. "Do not push me further, or I'll be forced to do the same." Terra pushed herself up into a kneeling position, grimacing at a sore spot in her legs. "I'll give you a free opening, if it will encourage you to cease this charade," Golbez offered. Terra looked over her shoulder, giving Golbez a glare, and climbed to her feet. Golbez let out a sigh. "Very well." Golbez slammed a hand into the ground, a burst of darkness flying along the ground, a small fissure in its wake. Terra jumped out of the way, and brought her hands up to her chest. "I tire of this!" Golbez charged up towards her, another orb of energy in his hand. Terra flung out her hands, a large fireball launching from them. Golbez's eyes widened as the fireball hit him, knocking him back through the air. Golbez slammed into a stone spire rising from the ground, shattering it into rubble and landing behind it.
"About time, I was getting bored," Golbez muttered. He stood up and looked across the lunar landscape at Terra, standing poised. "Perhaps you do have a warrior's spirit within you after all."
"You've no idea."
"Then give me one."
Terra made a face, then ran towards Golbez, magical energy gathering along her arms. She flung her arms out and sent a barrage of white orbs forward. Golbez let out a small grunt and drew his cape over his chest, vanishing. Terra turned as he reappeared behind her and held out a hand, a bolt of lightning arcing towards her. Terra held her hands, a shield of energy rippling up from her feet. The energy crackled and sparked against the barrier, and Golbez narrowed his eyes. The attack stopped, and before Terra had time to react, Golbez rushed forward and pushed an orb of dark energy into Terra's chest. The orb exploded and sent her flying upwards. As she turned in the air, Golbez came into Terra's field of view, floating towards her with his arms crossed. Terra concentrated, wind whistling past her ears. Golbez neared her and drew back a hand over his shoulder.
Terra opened her eyes as a massive tornado surrounded her. Golbez was caught in the vortex and was spun over her head, flying through the air above her. Terra redirected the force of the winds and sent him spiraling backwards though the air. Golbez snapped his hands to the sides and righted himself in the air, looking up at Terra. Golbez noted that the young woman was now floating in the air before him, her posture more relaxed than he would have expected.
"Your powers are greater than before. But I sense you still hold back," he called.
"I don't want to hurt you," Terra said.
"A pity I'm not giving you a choice."
Golbez flung his hands together and fired a larger blast of lightning through the air. Terra held out her hands, and let out a cry as the lightning arcs towards her palms. The electricity snapped and crackled in the air, and Terra gritted her teeth and pushed, a ripple of magic shooting down the bolts. Golbez drew back his hands and charged forward, the lightning sparking off his armor as he pushed through the attack. He let out a shout and flung his hand up, knocking Terra upward. An orb of dark energy formed in the air, and Terra scream as a beam of yellow magic shot out, slamming her down to the ground.
Terra began to get up, when there was a flash underneath her stomach, and she rolled as a plume of dark fire burst up from the ground. Lying on her back, Terra held up her hands and concentrated as Golbez descended from above, fingers crackling with dark energy. A gauntlet-covered fist descended, and Terra erected a barrier over her head. Golbez's fist sent out a wave of darkness over Terra as it stopped an inch from meeting its target. Golbez raised his other fist, an orb of darkness collecting and growing in his palm. Terra narrowed her eyes and held back her right hand, an orb of blue magic appearing in a flash. Golbez punched, and Terra slammed her hand up through the barrier.
Blue magic met black, and Golbez was knocked backwards as the two spells exploded. He let out a groan as he slammed into a cliff, rocks and boulders shattering as he flew above them. On the ground, Terra crouched and leapt up after him. Golbez took a breath and lifted his hands above his head, stopping his flight. The rocks and boulders flying through the air in the wake of his impact reversed course, and floated up towards him. A rock hit Terra in the back, knocking her forward towards Golbez. Hands held out to the sides, rocks, boulders and dust whirled around him in a focused tornado. Terra let out gasp after scream as the rubble bombarded her from all sides, caught in the middle of the spell. Golbez pushed out a hand, knocking Terra back into the air. Dazed and bruised, Terra turned in the air, her mind slowly registering Golbez's actions. The largest rocks circling Golbez shattered into smaller pieces, until a small meteor field was surrounding him. With a final roar, Golbez drew his hand over his shoulder and flung it forward, his cape whirling behind him.
The rocks around Golbez ignited in orange and red fire and zoomed through the air. Terra's eyes widened, but it was too late to dodge or defend. The flaming meteorites pummeled her mercilessly, and her concentration broke. Terra fell through the air, driven back by the barrage. She hit the ground heavily, bouncing backwards to lie on her side. The remaining meteorites dug into the dirt around her, raising a cloud of smoke in their wake. A moment later, the spoke cleared, the ground underneath and around Terra burnt black. Terra lay still, her body aching. She licked her lips, tasting blood, and spit a clot of blood on the ground. A shadow loomed over her, and she angled her eyes up.
"You have been defeated," Golbez said, looking down at her. Terra didn't respond and turned her eyes down. "If I were less benevolent, you would be dead right now."
"I guess…thank you, then," Terra whispered.
"Do not thank me. It is out of pity, not mercy, that I spare you," Golbez warned. "As you are now you cannot hope to defeat Kefka. You are too weak both in body and in heart. You've crippled yourself with your fear, your doubt and your cowardice."
"I've good reason to be afraid."
"Do you now?" Golbez thought for a moment, then kneeled beside her, placing a hand on his knee. "What could possibly have happened to turn such a tenacious soul like yours into a cowardly little girl?" Terra didn't react to his words. "Even on the brink of death, you will not give in to your instincts and use your full potential. Is the Esper truly that horrifying?"
"You've no idea," Terra replied. Golbez was silent, then reached out and laid a hand on Terra's head. The reaction was immediate, and Terra tried to pull away. Golbez tightened his grip and held her still. "Don't," Terra said.
"You are not in a position to oppose me. You do not have the strength to block me out, not without killing yourself," Golbez said.
"I know. That's why I'm asking," Terra pleaded. Golbez locked eyes with her, and focused. Terra's eyes fluttered, and her eyes drifted shut.
"Forgive me for what I must put you through," Golbez murmured to the unconscious girl. He bowed his head, closed his eyes, and called upon his psychic abilities. A moment later, Golbez's body went slack, and he and Terra lay still on the floor of the Red Moon.
"Wha…what is this?"
Terra shifted slightly. An odd scent assaulted her nose, and the wind rushed past her ears. She turned around, feeling ground under her feet.
"Why can't I open my eyes? Where am I?"
"We are in the depths of your memory."
Terra turned at the sound of the voice and tried to open her eyes. It didn't work. She stumbled forward and held out her hands. It only took a second to find the speaker, and judging from the two spikes she felt between her fingertips as she touched cold steel, it was fairly obviously who was here with her.
"Why can't I open my eyes?"
"There is nothing to see, not yet. I have not yet found the destination I seek."
"…destination? What are you talking about?"
"Search your heart. You know better than I why we're here."
Terra was confused, and brought her other hand up to feel out Golbez's shoulder while her right hand kept its grip on his lower arm.
"There are moments in our lives that we can never forget. No matter how long we live or how hard we try, those moments stay preserved in our hearts, and shape the foundation of who we are. These are the moments that define us, that change our lives, for better or worse, in a split second. Moments that alter our fate in ways we cannot anticipate, and send us down a new path."
Terra suddenly tensed, and Golbez turned his head down to look at her.
"You know where we are going."
"…I've an idea, yes."
"Then open your eyes and explain to me what it is we see."
Terra hesitated, and slowly cracked open her eyes. Her heart sank, and she spun her head away.
"Do not dare turn from this!" Golbez roared, clamping a hand on her shoulder. "I may have brought us here, but it is your own heart that told me where to go. You will bear witness to this." Terra slowly lifted her head and turned. The smell in her nose now made itself known – snow, freshly fallen, and mingled with the distant scent of burning coal. The cold wind rushing through her hair and around her ears made sense now. Terra lifted a hand to her chest and watched with detached fascination and horror as the specter of her past self stepped up and placed a hand on the block of ice on the bluff.
"Explain," Golbez commanded quietly.
"That is Valigarmanda," Terra said, watching her other self caress the frozen Esper's prison. "It is an Esper, frozen in ice a thousand years. It was found in a backwater mining town, and I was sent against my will to take it. When I first met it, it freed me from the Empire's mental control. The second time…" The wind picked up, and Terra watched as her other self tilted her head back, pale blonde hair turning bright green like a wave from her scalp.
"When I made contact with it, its mind was still active after all these years. In the space of a second, we shared a lifetime's worth of information. But even before I spoke to it, I knew the truth." Terra looked down and lifted her hands. Tendrils of pink flame emanated along her arms and palms, bathing her face with an eerie glow. "I wasn't human. I didn't know what I was, but I knew I was different. I knew I didn't belong, that there was something wrong with me."
"Wrong?" Golbez asked, turning his head to look down at her. "You consider your duality unnatural?"
"I'm the only Esper-human hybrid in the world, maybe in all of history," Terra replied, setting her mouth in a line. She clenched her hands into fists, the pink aura of energy evaporating in wisps. "I'm a creature born from two worlds, but I don't belong in either. My powers distanced me from humans. My human weaknesses made it clear to any Esper we met that I wasn't like them." As Terra spoke, the other Terra at the frozen Esper transformed in a flash of light and streaked into the sky. "No matter where I went, what I did, I never felt truly accepted." Golbez frowned.
"So you say," he said slowly. "But I sense doubt in your voice. This is not entirely true, isn't it?" Terra closed her eyes.
"I…I…yes, there was…" Terra opened her eyes, and let out a soft gasp. The scene before them had changed. Terra watched her other self, her hair now bright green, trudge along the dead earth underneath, her boots making impressions on the dust. The memory Terra licked dry lips and kept walking, her arms hanging limp. The sun was hot on the horizon, beaming down with all its intensity. All around Terra was nothing but dead wasteland, a sea of dust, bones and dead and dying trees and grass. The rotting husk of a world that had had its life carved out from it slowly over a year by an insane god.
"How long did you endure this wasteland?" Golbez asked.
"Three days. I was hungry the entire time, since I'd left Tzen and headed north-east to look for some hope I wasn't the only one of our band still alive," Terra said. "I didn't have any money for supplies so I had to go without food. I had to use my magic to purify the water from the rivers to be good enough to drink, but I never found anything to eat, not even monsters. I was so weak I could barely keep moving, but I didn't dare try to sleep because I had no idea what could be out there waiting for that chance to kill me."
The memory Terra blinked in the heat of the sun, and lifted a hand to shield her eyes. Golbez turned his head to where she was looking – a shape on the horizon. The memory Terra swallowed and lowered her hand, picking up the pace. Terra watched her run off in the distance, when the landscape suddenly whirled past them. The shape loomed up as a small, ruined village near the ocean.
"Mobliz…" Terra whispered. Golbez crossed his arms. The village was full of small children, looks of confusion, fear and despair dotting their faces. The main group of them were sitting and playing in a garden on a hilltop.
"We're running out of supplies."
Terra turned her head to the young man walking up the hill. At the top of the hill, a young girl waited for him and smiled as he stopped beside her.
"How much longer can we hold out?" the girl asked.
"A week, maybe a week and a half. All the crops are gone Katarin, we have nothing left."
"So what do we do Duane?" Katarin asked. Duane ran a hand through his hair and sighed.
"I don't know…if we could hunt and kill some of the monsters around here, or find a way to purify the water, we could try and pull through a bit longer, but we need something long-term. It doesn't help we have to use resources to nurse that woman back, we've barely enough food to feed ourselves without taking on a charity-"
"Duane!" Katarin cried, pointing. A few of the children turned at the sound of her voice, and Duane looked where she was pointing. The memory Terra stood at the doorway of one of the few remaining houses.
"I don't want to be a burden," she whispered. "I'll go, if you want me to."
"Don't be silly," Katarin replied. "We're just in a bad place right now. We're low on food, all the village wells have dried up. We need to find a new way to take care of ourselves, and soon." Terra was silent for a moment. Then, she spoke again.
"I think I might be able to help you."
"I was so weak I felt like I was dying." Terra felt her eyes force themselves shut as the memory faded. "They saved me, took me in when by all accounts they couldn't even take care of themselves."
"And in return, you saved them," Golbez said, analyzing the memories being whispered in his mind. "You used your magic to heal wounds and illnesses that were slowly killing them. You hunted monsters for food, taught them to fish, purified water for them to drink."
"I was going to try the same with the farms outside of the town," Terra picked up, "see if we could try to grow food again if I cleansed the soil. The town and its people would have perished, if I hadn't arrived when I did. I found out fairly quickly none of my friends had passed through. By all accounts I should have moved on. But…they needed me. They couldn't survive without me, Katarin and Duane said so themselves. If I left, they would die."
"What right was it of yours then, to leave to pursue your own selfish desires and leave their village to wilt?" Golbez nodded.
"It wasn't like that," Terra said, shaking her head. "I was going to leave, I was planning on it. Store up a bit more food and water for them, teach Duane and a few of the older children to hunt, work harder to build up a better stock. Help them as best I could and move on to the next town. But…something changed. I'd been there two weeks…"
Terra felt her eyelids loosen, and opened them as another memory appeared before her. One of the younger children was lying against the wall of a ruined house, her leg stretched out before her. Her face was red, and she was crying. The memory Terra knelt down and pushed down the fabric of the girl's sock, revealing a large red cut from an exposed piece of wood.
"It doesn't look that bad," the memory Terra said. "Here." She held out her hands over the wound, and closed her eyes. The girl sniffed and watched as the cut glowed a bright blue and closed. Terra reached out and wiped off the small bit of blood left, revealing perfectly healed skin. "There, that's better."
"My mama never did that," the girl said, smiling at Terra. "She always put a piece of cloth over it, but it had some sort of icky stuff on it and it made me tingle."
"What happened to your mother?"
"She went away when the light came and hasn't come back yet."
"The Light of Judgment," Terra whispered. She had heard tales of it, the beam of magical energy Kefka fired from atop his tower to burn towns. Duane and Katarin had told her the light had come not long after the world was ruined. Most of the adults had died trying to get their children to shelter, and the few survivors had perished from wounds.
"Hey, if you can make me better, can you be my mama?" the girl asked suddenly. Terra let out a small gasp and blinked. "She's gonna come back, but until then, could you be my mama for me? In case I get hurt again?" the girl repeated. Terra hesitated for a moment, and nodded.
"Alright," she said. "I can be your mama for you."
"I really did want to leave the village. But, once she called me that…something changed," Terra said, closing her eyes willingly as the memory dissolved. "I don't know if it was me or them, maybe a little of both. But there was a new hope in the eyes of the kids. Eventually almost all of them were calling me that. A little while longer, and the looks in their eyes were different. There was something there, I didn't know what it was then but I knew how it made me feel. It made me feel wanted, I felt like I belonged at last for the first time I could ever remember. How could I leave that? So I stayed. I tried to understand that feeling, and the feelings they had begun to have for me. I buried my Esper, buried it so deep I almost never thought about it, and I tried to avoid using my powers at all unless I had to. I pretended I was just a normal human, and for so long, it worked. I think I almost forgot what I really was, until that day…"
"How long did you stay?"
"Almost full a year, when my friends found me. I was so happy, they were alive, a full year later and they were alive! They told me amazing stories…" Terra smiled as she remembered sitting at the table with Celes and Sabin in the back room of the underground sleeping room for the children, talking well into the night while the cup of tea in her hands grew cold. "The world wasn't dead, it was full of life still, and that life wasn't going to be destroyed. Towns were rebuilding, people were finding new purpose and new places. And they were seeking out the members of our band to strike back and destroy Kefka. I knew, if they had survived, surely everyone had. That meant there was hope, not just for the village, for the entire world. Hope that if Kefka was killed, the damage he had inflicted on us could be undone. But…" Terra's smile faded.
"They asked me to go with them, but I refused. I couldn't leave yet, I was still trying to understand what was happening to me. I couldn't fight, not when I had spent so long trying to repress the Esper. Sabin was angry, but Celes, when she looked at me I saw it in her eyes. She knew before I did was I was going through, she understood. She hugged me before they left and told me they'd be back when I was ready." Terra took a breath. "They came back two weeks later. They had a new airship, they had met Edgar and Setzer, and rescued more of our band from around the world. I was happier than ever, they really seemed to believe they had a chance to win the battle. Then, a demon attacked the village. Humbaba was powerful, too powerful. He nearly killed them. I watched from the shadows as they tried to kill him, and that was when I realized it. If they failed, we were all dead. All of the children would die, unless I helped them. Unless I protected them. I had to fight, to save them."
"For the first time in months I felt the Esper well up. And I let it. It was the first time the transformation had overwhelmed me since I had made contact with Valigarmanda, but I wasn't afraid, I welcomed it. I let go myself and gave in to the Esper. The bond, the power I felt…I had tapped into the Esper before, but this was different. I stayed transformed for longer than I had ever done before, but I was in complete control. The Esper and I worked together, we killed Humbaba. When the children came out after the battle, they were terrified to see me like that, they had never seen me transform before. But somehow, they knew who I was. I was so relieved to see them safe. That was when I knew. The reason I didn't want to leave, the reason I had felt accepted. The look in their eyes that they gave me, the reason I was able to seize control of my Esper to protect them. I understood what was happening to me."
A tear slid down Terra's cheek as another smile graced her smile.
"I loved them. I loved them like my own children, and they each saw me as their mother and loved me like one. I understood it all now. For the first time everything made sense, I made sense. They knew what I was and they weren't afraid of me. But I also understood what was happening in the world around me. Humbaba was just one of thousands of demons and monsters in the world that Kefka had unleashed or created himself. And until he was defeated, the monsters would keep running wild, trying to hurt more people. As long as Kefka lived, the pain and suffering that the children had struggled through would endure and inflict everyone. How could I stand back and let that happen? How could I watch the world rot around me along with everything I cherished, and not fight to protect it. So I left. I rejoined the battle, to try and bring some semblance of order back to the world. And it worked. The world we had lost, we got it back. I got it back for them."
"Indeed. And now you must get it back a second time."
Terra felt her body begin to tingle, and opened her eyes. She lay back on the surface of the moon, the ground around her still smoking. She tried to move and cried out, collapsing onto her back.
"The healing you experienced was only within your mind. Your physical form is still in great pain," Golbez lectured from her side.
"No kidding," Terra muttered. Golbez stood up and lifted his head to look out over the lunar landscape.
"I understand now, the trials and struggles you have been forced to endure. But your journey is not yet over, in more ways than one. I have learned much from seeing your thoughts and memories. But you still have a critical lesson to learn yourself."
"I know of the fate of your world. When Kefka was vanquished, the essence of magic vanished. What happened to you?"
"I lost my magic, and I nearly died. But my bond with the people of Mobliz, my love for them gave my human half the strength to survive as a normal human. I returned to Mobliz to continue to rebuild the village, to live a normal life at last."
"How peculiar…" Golbez mused, lowering his head.
"What is?" Terra asked. Her body feeling stronger, she put her hands down and pushed her torso up into a sitting position.
"You rejected your powers, you saw your Esper form as a curse, you claim they isolated you and made you feel unwelcome. And yet, here you are, carrying that burden again."
"Cosmos offered me the chance to regain my powers to fight Chaos. I would have been an idiot to refuse that sort of power, if it meant I could…" Terra trailed off, a stunned look on her face.
"You accept the powers you once rejected, only to reject them again," Golbez nodded. "As I said. Peculiar."
"I had no choice," Terra said. Golbez was silent, then lifted his hands to his head. Terra looked on as Golbez grasped the sides of his helmet, and slowly pulled. The metal slowly slid off his head, and Golbez blinked as he pulled it off. His eye caught Terra's gaze, and he turned to her. Golbez's mouth was set in a line, the faintest hints of wrinkles beginning to tug on the corners of his mouth and eyes. Long gray-white hair fell down his neck, the tips brushing against his shoulders. His eyes were a surprisingly vibrant shade of violet. Golbez held Terra's gaze for a moment, then looked down at the black horned helmet in his hands.
"When I took to Chaos' side, I choose to don this dark guise again. The same armor I had worn near twenty years ago when Zemus controlled me. I loathed it, and now still do. To wear this dark guise is to wrap myself in my own shame. But I knew that Cecil would still see me as a brother, and not a monster. I am indeed his brother, and his friend and ally, same as you. But for him to save his world, he must fight and defeat me in battle. I thought it easier for myself and for him, if when that time come he looked upon me as the villain who tried to end his life, rather than the brother who saved it."
"How are you his ally?" Terra asked.
"I have the ear of the goddess Cosmos. She has vowed to restore the Lunarians and me to life when the worlds are returned to their true state. All she asks in return is that I help her find a way to end this cycle of conflict and give Chaos his ultimate death."
"The cycle," Terra breathed. "You mean Shinryu." Golbez recoiled slightly, surprised, but nodded.
"Yes. If this war carries on too long, Shinryu will awaken and reset the balance. As a warrior on the side of darkness with a heart of light, I can stop this. I can speed events that before would take too long to complete. I can sabotage Chaos' plans, assist Cosmos' warriors along their paths. And thus far, it has worked. Terra, this cycle, if we work together, will be the last. Chaos will not revive, Shinryu will remain sleeping, and the eternal battle between harmony and discord will conclude. We cannot let this chance go wasted. That is why you must continue onward and defeat Kefka. Unlike your comrades in years past, if you decline now, there will be no second chances from me. The time is now. Learn my lesson and you will prevail, I promise you."
"What lesson?" Terra cried. "What are you trying to tell me?" Golbez lifted his helmet and slipped it back over his head.
"Absolutely nothing. I suspect as much, but you know the answers to this question better than I. Why would you embrace the Esper again after you worked so hard to be rid of it?"
"Because…I needed it," Terra protested, standing up shakily. "I needed that power, I needed that magic back."
"But you spent so long trying to suppress it," Golbez reminded. "I find this hypocrisy disturbing. You martyr yourself for carrying a burden you chose to carry after being rid of it, after years of wishing to be rid of it, and-"
"So I was wrong!" Terra shouted. Golbez crossed his arms. Terra's hands shot up to cover her mouth, her eyes wide.
"A normal life. That's what you said," Golbez said softly. "Is that really how it went?" Terra shook slightly as she lowered her hands. She had tried to deny it and make herself feel better, but it hadn't worked. She slowly shook her head and licked her lips. The next words from them came slowly.
"No," she whispered. "I was a normal person…but I didn't feel normal at all. I had less energy, I slept longer, I couldn't move as fast, I couldn't heal wounds or fight as easily. I felt like a stranger in my own body." Terra closed her eyes. "Just two days after when I returned to Mobliz, I tried to heal one of the children. I…I held my hands over the wound for near five seconds before I realized nothing was going to happen. Yes, the Esper and my magic were burdens. But they were burdens I had lived my entire life with. Without them…I felt so empty. Part of me was just gone. I never told them, I lied to myself, but…I didn't feel like myself, anymore. I was accepted at last, but it didn't feel like it was really me…I wanted that back…" Terra sucked in a shaky break. "I wanted to feel powerful again, I didn't want to feel weak and alien. I wanted to feel like myself and not like some fraction of who I used to be…"
"I took my powers back…because I wanted them back. Because as much as a monster as it is, the Esper is as much a part of me as the human."
Terra almost collapsed after her confession. It almost hurt now, to say the words aloud. But they were true. She had accepted Cosmos' offer to feel like her old self, to get back the Esper she had once hated so much. She had wanted to change a mistake she had made years ago. She had lost her powers, and let them go willingly. And discovered that for her, a normal life as a normal human was anything but. As much as she tried to deny it, she was an Esper and a human. Not a human sharing a body with an Esper. Both at once. To forsaken one…
"Would just be to deny what I really am…" Terra whispered. "I'm not afraid of the Esper…I'm afraid of myself." There was no monster in her mind, clawing to get out. There was no Esper fighting her for dominance. There was no struggle for control. It was her mind and her power. The berserk beast that had slaughtered Humbaba that day years ago was no Esper. It was her that had killed Humbaba, not an Esper. She had reined her powers in to protect her children and her village, and they had obeyed. Obeyed her and her alone, her will and her heart. She had fought, and won, on her own.
"I did it once…" Terra realized, her heart swelling. "I can…no. I will do it again! I'll figure it out somehow. I don't have my father to help me, but I don't need him! I can do on my own!"
Terra lifted her head, not entirely surprised to find Golbez was gone. In his place swirled a dark portal.
"Can you really?"
Golbez's voice boomed in her head, and Terra nodded.
"I will…I may not have my father's guidance…but Kefka doesn't have the Warring Triad anymore either." Terra smiled and stood up a bit straighter. "He isn't backing down. And neither will I."
"I will not."
"Come on, pick one."
"It doesn't matter which one I pick, either way you'll throw out some sort of spell, and knowing you they'll both explode or set something on fire."
Sephiroth let out an annoyed grunt and pointed. Kefka looked between his two clasped hands for a moment, and opened his right one. A small orb of blue energy flashed and floated up into the air, gleaming and exploding. Kefka opened his other hand, and three fireballs leapt out and slammed into the wall, leaving smoking black dots.
"Heeeey, you were right!" Kefka laughed. Sephiroth let out a breath and lifted a hand to his temple. At least when he had stayed at the Chaos Shrine there was intelligent conversation to be had. Passing the time with Kefka was a trial in patience to say the least.
Sephiroth turned to see a dark flash further down the catwalk. Mateus marched out of the portal, his eyes narrow.
"Hey Empy! Pick a hand!" Kefka offered, holding out his fists. Mateus glared at him.
"What is it?" Sephiroth asked.
"Two more Crystals have been seized," Mateus said lowly. "The Cloud of Darkness has been vanquished. The Onion Knight has escaped his prison and fled. We cannot locate him."
"Who else?" Kefka asked, all traces of joking gone.
"Jecht was defeated by Tidus, and his Crystal taken, but the boy was too sentimental and allowed him to live. It doesn't matter though, the damage is done."
"That is five of our number left, then," Sephiroth stated.
"Indeed. Garland and I have spoken to Chaos."
"You?" Kefka muttered. "You actually saw Chaos yourself for once?"
"Yes," Mateus nodded. "It ends now, you're both out of time. Sephiroth, can you control Cloud yet?"
"I'm almost ready, just a few more nights and I can-"
"Almost is not ready," Mateus interrupted.
"I only need a few more days," Sephiroth said. "I've been guiding him to a place of my choosing. I believe there, his mental defenses will be at their weakest, and I can overwhelm him. He'll be there within a few days and it will be done."
"Too late. Kefka, Terra. What's your status with her?"
"Blondie has been keeping her grounded," Kefka shrugged.
"Your Crystal, does it still hold sway over her powers?"
"As much sway as ever," Kefka said, snapping his fingers. The black and red Crystal appeared floating in the air in front of him.
"Then use that sway. By tomorrow, I want to return to hear that Cloud Strife is dead."
"But I'm not-" Sephiroth began to protest, raising his voice.
"You had your chance!" Mateus snapped. "And you failed. It's Kefka's turn now. Kefka, I am trusting you, I'm loathe to do it but I find myself too short of allies to care about trivialities. Take care of the situation."
"Aye aye, chief!" Kefka nodded, snapping a salute. Mateus vanished, and Sephiroth whirled around to glare at Kefka. Kefka dismissed the Crystal and held up his hands. "Sorry guy," he muttered. Sephiroth gritted his teeth.
"You will listen to him then?" he asked lowly.
"You heard him, direct order from Chaos," Kefka shrugged. "Hey, I'm not happy cutting this short either. But meh, gotta do what ya gotta do." Kefka turned and headed off deeper into the tower, muttering to himself under his breath. Sephiroth watched his go, silently seething at being trumped by the one being he couldn't afford to defy.
"I cannot allow this," he said to himself, watching Kefka's cloak vanish into a darkened corridor. "I won't."
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