Chapter XVII: Afterstorm
The rain began to pour down hard. Terra followed behind Locke and the others as they tried to avoid the oncoming pursuit of Imperials. Terra's bright spell presented her and her friends to the mass of the convocation. Otoshi tailed them, blasting out waves of amatru-ki whenever a few soldiers drew too close, and Terra began to wonder if the Vectors' powers had any limit, as the Espers' did. If an upcoming battle were to take place, it would important information to have.
However, for now they only needed to make it off the island alive.
Edgar and Sabin led them to alcove under a cliff on the eastern side of the island. Shrouded in darkness and sheltered from the downpour, they took a moment to catch their breath and regroup. They created a fire in the air to illuminate their surroundings, showing a large raft hidden in the darkness.
"This is where we shored," Locke explained. "We need to get out of here, quick!"
"How?" Terra asked. "Those can't get us out of here safely, let alone be able to outrun the Imperial ships."
Locke scratched his hair, gazing at the raft. They heard metallic clanking.
"Better figure it out quick, they're here."
"No they aren't."
They turned to see Edgar kneeling on the ground, the fire illuminating the metal instruments he was tinkering with.
"What're you doing?" Sabin asked.
"Trying to get something that can get us out of here."
Sabin looked down quizzically at the contraption his brother was frenziedly conjuring, with great skill and haste. Even when he devised something incorrectly, he was quick to fix or replace it, never losing concentration. Terra wasn't sure what exactly he was making, but was bulky and slender. He then pulled out three fat dagger blades, and handed them to Sabin, saying "Bend these, only a little, more curving, frontward to backward."
Sabin grabbed the blades and used his great strength to do just that, then handed them back to his brother. Edgar used a weak fire spell to heat the bunt end of the blades and forged them one by one into the bulky contraption, measuring the distance between each one exactly.
"Okay, help me tie this onto the back of the raft. Quickly!"
Once they finished tightly securing the motor to the raft, Edgar tested it and instructed everybody to get push it to the shore and jump on. The rain and wind continued as he revved the motor up and set the raft on sail, fast enough possibly, to outrun the Imperial ships as they sailed out of the docks.
News quickly spread about the revelation of Vulkrum's heritage, and his upcoming plans, and the size of his army. It also spread about theFalcon being shot down, and the fact that Setzer may very well be dead. But it couldn't be supported for there was no telling what had happened to the airship and its components.
Once again Dornim had to sit and watch his companions grieve a fallen friend, who he once again knew little about.
Setzer was much closer to them than Shadow had ever been, especially to Edgar and Locke.
Locke looked around for Terra and found she was on a balcony. He followed the stairs up to the terrace overlooking the ocean. She was standing there looking over, but not really seeing anything.
"Terra?" he said. "Are you all right?"
She looked down. "Not really."
"Is it about Setzer? Or Vulkrum, or Gau and Relm, or-"
"Shadow?" That had happened quite a while ago-months now-why was she just getting upset now? And most of all... why?
"It's hard to explain." She hesitated. "It's about something that happened a few years ago."
Locke remained silent for a few minutes, pondering whether to pry. Obviously, she had made the decision. "Four years ago, I think. After Kefka, after we celebrated, before we broke up. I met him, and we ate at his house, you remember, in Mobliz?"
Locke nodded. He remembered, Mobliz was where they had gone after their great victory to care for Terra. Shadow had requested a small house to himself.
"He talked to me, gently, like he never really did. Like on the ferry to Thamasa. He confessed that he felt...depressed, nihilistic, a bunch of things. He said he was on the edge of the will to live and only had one thing to think about."
"Baram." This was an old story, Strago had revealed it to them before dying a few years ago, though his reasons were a bit etchy.
"And the idea that he might have another ‘job' to do," she continued. "Like all the other times he avoided death. Then he talked about Thama and Relm."
She turned around to face him. He saw her tear up again. By the look in her eyes, he understood.
"You loved him."
"I fell in love with him. It was weird though; we never did anything. It all seemed like we both knew it, but never wanted to react. I thought I was in love with Léo. It was on the ferry with him, after we had a talk. Then I remembered, Shadow talked to me almost immediately afterwards. Then after he was killed, Lèo that is, I remember this feel of a great loss, like something was missing; that was also when we thought Shadow might have been dead."
Locke remembered the look in her face as they watched Shadow obliterated by Vulkrum. It was obvious now. She cried again. She had held it back, but Setzer had just snapped something inside."Please, don't say anything to the others."
He nodded again. He felt sorry for her. He knew how it felt...
Cyan was about to give a speech to the ranks of the Victory Returners. This time it was a full assembly in the big auditorium-like room. Edgar stood with him behind the stage.
"Are you ready? Know what you're going to say?"
He sighed. "Aye. I am ready as I shall be."
He turned around and stepped up. The assembly went silent. He cleared his throat.
"Ladies and gentlemen, thou may hath heard rumors of the enemy. About new plans of impeccable danger and a great army. Well, it is all true."
He expected a murmur through the crowd, but they were silent. "And it is also true what may hath been heard about the so-called ‘heir of Kefka.' We art not completely certain, though it is certainly a possibility." A slight shiver went through at the mention of his name.
"Alas that is not our issue-at-hand. What is at hand is the former. An army, an army with weapons, power, and yes I admit it, great strategically leaders. And of course, as thou have undoubtedly all heard, the grand magicite, which has been dubbed Megacite.
"But we cannot think of the enemy's advantages; we must find weakness. And that is our experience, our determination, and our greater power. But this is why am I speaking. After storm. That is what Vulkrum said the past day. That the Empire was going to strike in ‘a prevailing, larger-than-life after storm.' Well, we whilst see.
"I present to you, our new plans against an even more powerful enemy. A team of our best, our brightest. They whilst be our main defense against the said enemy. I present to thee...our new regime; which will hence-forth be called the Victory Afterstorm!"
So the Afterstorm was created. Cyan had seen to it that the best that could be spared where assigned to this team. Edgar was immediately signed in as the lieutenant commander under Cyan, as they had planned. Locke, Celes, and Sabin became captains; none having more power than the other officially, though everyone knew Celes was higher in status simply because of her experience.
Terra caught Cyan in the hall one day. "Good marrow to thee," he greeted.
"Cyan," she said ignoring the greeting, "I want to be in Afterstorm."
"Doth thee?" he asked surprisingly. But he seemed to understand. "That might be able to be arranged. After all, the power of the Espers hath helped thee."
She smiled. "Thank you, Cyan."
"Thanketh thee, Terra. We need more subordinates; not many are up to joining such a crazy scheme."
"What do you mean?" she asked. "It didn't seem anything like that to me."
"The point of Afterstorm," he explained, "is to do anything to keep the Empire at bay. There aren't enough of us to head an actual brigade of any sort, so we are to do anything to make sure that our main army can withstand. Doth thee understand now?"
"I think so," she said, still not quite understanding. Maybe she should ask Edgar.
Cyan noticed. "Well, maybe thee should wait until we make some more plans to understand. Perhaps I shall see thee then?"
"Yeah, probably. See you later."
Mog got up late in the morning, the longest amount of sleep he had had for a while. As it turned out, those thugs he had defeated the day before had been a bad street gang out in South Figaro and countryside that mugged and stole. They were feared in this area, though Mog could not digest how.
He knew he had to leave, to get to the Returner Island, to do whatever it was he had to do, but it felt so refreshing here. The sea, which Mog hadn't seen for three years, felt so nice and warm contrast to the cold harsh mines of Narshe. The light-hearted, peaceful ways of the citizens contrast to the gruff work ethic of the miners. Did he really want to rebuild that place?
He felt a tap on the shoulder. He turned to see the old port master David Harpoon.
"You're Mog right?"
"Yes sir. How are you doing, Mr. Harpoon?"
"Ah, don't worry bout me. I'm just getting older and fatter," he chuckled, and his fat stomach jiggled. "Anyway, the patrolman told me your problem. Sorry that I can't help with Narshe. But what I can do is," he leaned closer and spoke quieter, "I could take you on a private ferry to the Returner's place."
"You'd do that for me?"
"Yeah, you're an old member of the Band, 'aight?"
"I can't believe it." Mog started increasing the volume. "I don't think I've ever seen the Returned Isle! I-"
Harpoon clapped a hand over his mouth. "Shuttup!" he whispered. "The whole town doesn't need to know I'm taking a Moogle to a confidential island. Goodness, boy!"
He released Mog. "So when are we going?"
"Anytime, I have nothing to do right now."
"How bout now?"
They were sailing for a few hours before Harpoon talked to Mog.
"I forgot to tell you, the twins were here a week or two ago."
Mog looked up from a book he had been reading. It was also a common stereotype that Moogles couldn't read and weren't very cultured. "Really? Edgar and Sabin? What were they doing?"
"Just leisurin', I think the others were with ‘em too. They were chasin' after this cloaked... thing; I helped them catch it."
"Yeah. I don't know what it was." He scratched his head as if trying to recall. "It was reptile like, red eyes, black scales..."
Mog slammed his book closed. "It looked like some creature from the sea? Snakish eyes?"
"Yeah," Harpoon looked puzzled. "How'd you know?"
Mog was in thought. He had had a dream with this...creature in it. And it was here?
"I really need to see them..."