Chapter 21Chapter XXI: The Battle Plan
Whilst the Returners mourned, Vulkrum felt a sensation of confidence. His army had now grown much more powerful and had had a nice addition. Anrolio Shimit, owner of the Colosseum and long-time Kefka Fanatic, had quit and devoted himself to his idol's heir. This was greatly appreciated, seeing as Anrolio was one of the most powerful and wealthiest men in the world. This wealth was willingly given to the Empire for whatever they might need, even to help pay Klee'on Rama's mercenaries.
He thought of the small rag-tag, militia-sized force he had started out with as he looked at his fierce army of hundreds, and at how little time it took to transform it. He walked down the main hallway of the palace when Vector walked up next to him.
"Well now, Commander, is it about time to address thy new forces?" he said with a smile on his face. "Hm? Maybe a little congratulations to the ones who successfully executed your ambush tactic at Narshe?"
Vulkrum sighed regretfully at the thought of having to get back into the "Kefka suit."
"I despise that getup. I'll ne'er find how my father did it."
Vector chuckled. "Well, Kefka was a very odd man."
"Majesty," Vulkrum squeezed out respectfully. "Please do tell me a bit about him."
Vector glanced sideways at him. "What is there about him you couldn't read up in a textbook? ‘Tis Kefka Palazzo. I mean, what is there not to know? Or that you couldn't simply look up in that mini diary of yours."
"You kidding? For one he had terrible handwriting. For another, he didn't seem to keep this for most of his life, from what I can tell. It's all from just seven-or-so years ago. Just notes he wrote about all his enemies-‘cept you of course-nothing about himself at all. Not even anything about Mom or me. Besides, you knew him unlike others did."
"Alright, alright," he said almost reluctantly. "I didn't know him all too well, though. He was just some arrogant rich kid whom Ministroa Gestahl picked up to be his left-hand man, gods know why. I'll tell you one thing about him, though: Ministroa, Léo; all of us were scared of him more than anyone else I can think of. Obviously with good reason too.
He took a swig from a hip flask he was carrying around. "Anyway, that's about anything you shouldn't already know. Not much, but like I said, I never got to know the bugger ‘til he went mad."
Vulkrum nodded. That wasn't quite what he wanted to hear, but that was probably the best he was going to get.
"I guess I should go and talk to the mercenaries about money now."
"Wha's that, chief?"
He didn't even notice that at the end of the hall which intersected with another, Klee'on was standing there waiting for him, covered in bruises and with a swollen eye and lip.
"I believe I'm yer ‘uckleberry," he said smugly.
Vector nodded in greetings and walked off. Rama walked up beside Vulkrum who looked at his face and snorted. "Fall down some stairs?"
Rama glared at him. "Yeah, some damn big stairs they was, too. Say ‘bout a hill's size, ‘specially after being thrown by a two ‘undred fifty-pound man. Like t'see you come out any better, boyo."
"Remember, it's not a good idea to insult your employer," Vulkrum reminded him.
"Well, anyways, sir, I think I made a good blow. Two o' their big shots are gone now."
Vulkrum smiled. "Oh really? Who?"
"Dunno, one old guy who seemed very importantly dressed and was a fair swordsman an' a taller one who was younger and also seemed important."
Vulkrum thought he could recall one, from Kefka's book. "Well, I suppose you'll be wanting a bonus?"
"You'd be supposin' right then, Vulk."
After Sabin had gathered everything he needed, they all sat out from Figaro to South Figaro to check on Cyan. They hadn't received any reports on his condition since he was admitted.
Sabin entered and spoke to one of the healers. After giving him the needed clearance-not that he needed any, they already knew who he was-the healer informed him that Cyan's condition was at critical and he wasn't sure if he could make it. Then he told him that someone else had come in earlier tonight; Sabin asked whom.
"I don't know," the healer said. "They kept their hood up shadowing their face, but she had a woman's voice, a bit croaky, but just the same. She had the right kind of clearance so we let her pass."
"Is she still here?" Sabin asked hastily.
"Yes, she's still in the commander's room, but..."
Sabin speeded past him and down the hall into Cyan's room. Beside Cyan's bed, someone knelt in a black cloak with her hands folded in front of her.
"Shhhhh," She said.
He walked by her. "What are you doing, Otoshi?" he demanded.
"Stand back," she said with a concentrated voice.
"What are you doing, Otoshi?" he repeated.
"I said get back," she said more sternly.
"And I asked what you're doing-" he was sent back by a force he hadn't expected.
She sighed. "If you'd shut up," she emphasized the last word with another shove of power, "and get back," she shoved again, "then I may be able to heal him."
Sabin took a step back and kept his questions to himself. He closed the door behind him and remained silent. A hum went through the air followed by an odd sound. They stood for a good fifteen to twenty minutes before the sound stopped. Sabin thought to say something, but couldn't find his own voice.
Otoshi stood up rather warily, and a few seconds after, Cyan coughed and raised his head. He looked to both of them. "What may I ask is going on? Has something happened?"
Sabin stared at Otoshi as he spoke. "No, we're just checking up on you."
"Oh...well, I'm...doing fine," he said, surprising himself with his words.
"Uh, we'll be leaving now," Sabin said, pulling Otoshi out of the room.
In the hall, Sabin looked to make sure no one was around before returning to Otoshi.
"How'd you do that?" he whispered. "We tried everything our magic would and it didn't do it."
"Well, it took awhile."
Sabin exhaled a big sigh. "You made me nervous. At first I thought you were siding with..."
He cut off when he saw her look away. "You aren't siding the Empire, are you?"
"Well...sort of. I mean..."
"What? What do you mean?"
She turned away. "Utam is my brother, and my leader; I still have loyalty to him."
"But..." Sabin tried to think what to say. "You can't be. I mean, you've seen what he's done. He's-"
"I know, he is different than he was before. Much different. He used to not like war, he hated fighting, and the only reason he would was to protect our people." She hesitated. "War is never good, so you must avoid it whenever you can, but if the time arises, you cannot back down. My brother said that."
Sabin contemplated this over. She didn't like war, or what Vector was fighting for. But she loved her brother, and she would do whatever she could to stop the war and protect her kind. He couldn't say he really disagreed.
She sighed. "The years have shown that we can defeat anything."
She looked up into his eyes. "So I will continue to work alongside the Returners to prevent anymore damage that may be cause by Utam Duvaluu." She smiled wryly. "This has to end...for good." The Esper Ramuh's speech had seemed to change her perception.
Speechlessly, Sabin embraced her.
Locke, Celes, and Terra strolled down the streets of South Figaro down toward their house. Celes insisted on showing Terra some of the new stores in the market since the last couple of years. Locke went ahead to his house. He thought he heard something go by. Of course I did, he thought, this is the city, there's always sounds. I've been away too long, I'm getting paranoid as Sabin.
Then he knew something odd was going on when he heard footsteps behind him, a fair distance away. He sped up just a little bit; so did whatever was behind him. He sped up, then suddenly drew out his sword and swung back, not trying to kill.
But his strike was parried by another blade. He looked right in front of him, and then realized he would have to look up to see his pursuer. Of course...it just had to be Siegfried.
"What're you doing here?" Locke asked, pushing his blade against the others.
Siegfried swirled his blade circularly so that Locke's guard was down and Siegfried's sword was before his throat. Locke smirked.
"What is so funny, punk?" Siegfried asked sternly
Siegfried half turned his head to see Celes's blade at one side and Terra's at the other.
Siegfried snorted. "So you aren't that stupid. But you don't think you've outfoxed me?"
Suddenly Celes and Terra were knocked out of the way. Locke tried to see what had happened, but before he could, Siegfried struck him with the butt of his sword, knocking him down. Now he finally saw what it was. A huge, muscular-seeming octopus crawled up to Siegfried, then used two of its tentacles to grab Terra and Celes and suspend them.
"Put them down, Ultros!" Locke yelled.
Siegfried nodded to Ultros, and he dropped them. Immediately after, Terra jumped up and used a force of magic to power herself up until she had transformed into her Esper form. She attacked Ultros, who screamed and flailed his many limbs. Celes managed to get her off the octopus.
"Well tha's just great!!" Ultros complained. "We just cum on down her to give yuz a bit of a hand and tha's how ya repay us, HMPH!"
"What'd you mean?" Locke asked. "You attacked us!"
"Oh, well," Ultros stuttered, "well, we had to get yer attention somehow, and I don't think you'd have accepted us if we'd walked up to yer front door now, d'ya?"
"What do you mean give us a hand?"
"Well, if you'd let me exp-"
"You tried to kill us!"
"...On more than one occasion!"
"Why should we listen to you?"
"It has to do with the Colosseum," Siegfried said. "Shimit defected to the Empire."
"What?" they all three said.
"Augh," Ultros said, lighting a thick cigar in his mouth, "the old guy just all-a-sudden announced it. Yeah, he said the Colosseum was done for and that we were all excused." He inhaled then puffed out smoke. "Unless o' course we wanted to follow him and make some money helping out the Imperials, which I don't do so me, and big Sieg ‘ere are free agents. Problem is, there's nowhere for an octopus to make any money round here." He inhaled again. "Stupid bastard, made me start smoking again."
"So you came to us."
"Yeah, you're the opposers, ain't cha? The ‘good guys?'"
"Yeah, I suppose so."
He didn't think he understood their motivation, but he didn't want to have to listen to anymore of Ultros's explanation. And they were already on his side, which was good enough.
Locke looked from Ultros to Siegfried to Celes to down the road where Cyan and Sabin were. "This is going to be very different."
Dornim was upset he couldn't have come any sooner from his office to South Figaro. But now his personal ferry was arriving at the port.
As soon as he and his entourage disembarked, they were met by a chocobo-rider of Figaro, acting as a Returner messenger.
"Coman-...I mean General, Commander Garamonde has sent me to receive you."
Dornim felt a rush of relief. So he's okay, he thought. "Yes, okay. Do you know how he is doing?" he asked the messenger.
"Well, as far as I know he's able to breathe and talk. Sorry, sir, but I'm not high on the status list," he replied sardonically.
"Alright fine. Just take me there," Dornim said rather snappily.
Even though Cyan hadn't died, he was in bad condition. Even Otoshi couldn't help enough to get him back into a fighting shape, or even able to stand properly. He had been moved to a different, bigger room that seemed a bit decorative, even though they had tried to keep his presence as secretive as possible. Everyone had gathered around Cyan's bed.
Dornim entered and they rose to greet him. He walked up to the bed where Cyan was sitting up against a few pillows. He smiled.
"Doing okay then?"
Cyan sighed. "Aye, but I'm afraid I can't be of much use in this condition. So, I have something to say."
Dornim came closer to hear Cyan's unusually quiet voice, even though he was pretty sure he already knew what he was going to say.
"I will have to submit my field duties, of course to Dornim."
Dornim barely stopped himself from smiling-knowing it was rather inappropriate at the time-even though he had felt it coming. Cyan sighed again.
"I'll be returning to the island to take-up thy duties." He yawned. "Now, if thee will please excuse me, I am a bit tired; I'm going to sleep."
Dornim could not hide the fact that Cyan's news thrilled him. For too long he felt he had been cooped in the office on top of the island, even after he gave up his supremacy to Cyan, who had taken this new power onto the field, which is one of the places Dornim hadn't been to.
Finally, he was going to get to be in the field, with the action, with all the people who he respected and admired so.
Walking out of the ward, he was surprised that he hardly noticed the huge purple creature in the lobby. One of the staff was arguing with him to put out his big cigar inside the building.
"Hey look lady, I can smoke in here if I feel like it."
"No, I'm sorry, sir, but smoking is not permitted in here," she insisted.
"Humph!" The creature took in a big puff of smoke, then blew back in her face. "Alright, toots, make me."
He gave her a toothy smirk and she made a wry face. Dornim stepped in. "I think I will."
The creature stumbled back, startled. Then he got back his composure. "Hello, Mr. Hero. You don't know what you just got yourself into." He chuckled.
Dornim reached for his sword, but felt a sword blade on his arm. He looked behind him to see a big, tall man covered in a dark violet cape and a facemask. Dornim moved his hand slowly away from the handle. He used his other hand to reach for the sword he had hidden under his coat...
They all looked over where Locke had exited Cyan's bedchambers. Everyone else joined them. Siegfried lowered his blade. "This isn't any of your business, Returners," he said coldly.
"Hell if it isn't," Locke said. He looked at Dornim. "Sorry, forgot to say. This is Ultros and Siegfried, they'll be helping us." He then looked to them. "Boys, meet your new commander."
They both stumbled back shocked. Dornim grinned. "All right then. We all ready to leave?"
It wasn't but a few seconds after they left that a Figaro patrolman rode up to them, his chocobo dragging a makeshift stretcher.
"Excuse me, sirs," he said panting, "but I must get this man to care."
He dismounted the chocobo. The man on the stretcher was soaked from head to toe, had most of his cloths ripped off, and his silvery hair filled with algae and weed was straggly. Sabin lifted him up and accompanied the patrolman back into the building and everyone else followed.
They took him to an unoccupied room where Sabin set him down on a divan.
"I was doing a routine coast patrol," the patrolman explained, "and this guy was just lying there in the sand, like he was swept by the water. Kind of spooky, actually, that this is the second one we found. Little back one man found a Moogle on the shores."
Mog blushed. "Anyway," the patrolman said, "I'll just be off. G'day," he tipped his cap.
After he left, they all crowded around the unconscious man. Locke looked around at them.
"What should we do?"
"Hey you, get ‘im some water!"
"He doesn't need anymore water, Ultros!"
"It's a good waker-upper. Hey, hey!" he beckoned to a nurse who had been filling up a pail of water per his command. "You, don't dump that, bring it over here!"
"Maybe we should have the big guy here slap ‘im." He nudged Sabin.
"ULTROS!" they all shouted.
"What? You have any better ideas, Locke?"
In the meantime, the man on the divan regained his consciousness. "L-Locke?" he muttered. "Ultros?"
Sabin cradled his head. "Hello? Are you okay?"
"What? Do I know you?"
"Sabin!" he grabbed the Ox's shirt. "It's me, Setzer!"
Setzer washed his face up a little and properly dressed himself. He had gotten a tan from the time he had spent outside by the shores and his face was a little gaunt from lack of food.
He explained how the Falcon had crashed on a nearby remote island; how he had survived by going under deck; how he broke his own heart by breaking off wood from the ship to create a boat to sail to shore. They in turn explained, yet again, all the procedures that the Returners had taken since then.
"Well," he said, "I wish I could give you a lift, but as you can see, my airship is no longer available. Ever."
Sabin sympathized for his friend. He knew what the airships meant to him, especially Daryll's.
Setzer sighed. "But I'm going to help somehow. That's what I came back here to do."
"For now, let us get our plan in action," Dornim suggested.
In the cabin of Dornim's personal vessel, they set up models and maps.
"As far as we can tell, their army has tripled from our first fight to not too long ago. And they may have almost quadrupled from the first battle to now. But I still think we have enough force to stop them.
"Now according to Ultros, they now have the power of Anrolio and whatever monsters he brought with him. And obviously they now have some use of magic, not much I'd guess."
"And those fish guys," Ultros put in.
"The Aquadalins?" Sabin asked.
"Yeah, them. They are like all over the water, not just around the island. I'm the King of Octopi and I was shooed out. I think they're plannin' something, personally."
"Well, that's nice to know," Dornim said. "Now if we can decide what to do about it."
"Way ahead of ya, chief!" Ultros said. "I already got my old boys ready to take back our territory, and many others who want to kick some ass, as well! All we need is some support."
Dornim grinned. "Then let's give you some. C'mon guys, the rest will be obvious! Here..."
"I'm not so sure it is that obvious," Otoshi muttered. She stepped out of the cabin and onto the deck to think. The decision was made, she would fight against her brother and her people...but she still felt insecure. She heard footsteps on the wood, and turned round. Terra came after her.
"What's wrong?" she asked.
"You don't have to ask," Otoshi replied quietly.
Terra nodded. After a few moments' silence she put her arm around the Aquadalin. "It's alright," she assured, sincerely. "We will get through this. And we may not even have to...you know..."
"Yes," she said, but having almost no confidence one-so-ever. "But maybe not."
In the dead of night outside Vector, an armada of ships gathers through the cleared up mists. At the helm, Dornim watches out toward the island with a spyglass. Behind him, the ugly creature of an octopus slithered up behind him. "Bout ready there, chief?"
Dornim lowered the spyglass, but didn't look to the creature. "Too close now..."
Dornim kept his gaze straight ahead.
"What's wrong, man? Looks like yer miles away." Ultros seemed to have a general concern. It may have just been taunting.
"Cummon, out with it."
Dornim sighed impatiently. "I'm not too fired about duelling my kin."
"Come ‘gain?" Ultros sounded quite interested.
"Klee'on Rama...Dornim Rama? He's my uncle. Yeah, my own uncle, Bannon's brother, a Returner hater."
"I sense a bit of story here?"
Dornim snorted. "Nothing to tell. He's a maniac, Klee'on. I hope Sabin gets revenge for Edgar."
Ultros chuckled, amusement. "And...if he doesn't?"
"Then he's all mine."
Further conversation was cut short when an officer came for'ard. "All ready to go, Commander," he saluted.
"Go, uh...Ultros?... get ready."
Ultros smirked and dove over the helm into the water where he was meat by several many odd sea beings and beasts, followed by what looked like a ghastly streak of purple-and-white cotton with a toothy mouth flying down into the water after them, making undistinguishable gurgling sounds.
Dornim took a few seconds to register what he just saw, then gave up and walked toward the cabin.
"People!" he shouted. "Let us get ready!"
There were no second thoughts now, no indecision or doubts. And one way or another...Klee'on Rama would die.