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The Lights

by Narratorway

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Terra and Gau: The Learning Lights
Further Series

Shadow: The Lost Light



CRASH!

Standing in the corner an upper section of Kefka's tower, Shadow thought he should evaluate his life. It seemed-

CLANG!

-appropriate. It's what people do just before death, right? But immediately he realized-

BOOM!

-that the concentration required would be-

BANG!

-difficult to achieve. The tower was in its death throes, screaming agony-

SCREEE!

-as the steel began to buckle. Ash that was packed solid enough to walk on, crumbling-

SHHHHHH!

-apart with nothing to cling to. The tower was decomposing and it was all-

KABOOM!!

-quite distracting. But he was not undisciplined, and the drive to accomplish this final task was great though he wasn't sure why. So he concentrated and closed his eyes. There was only-

CRUNCH!

-his inner spirit. There was only his inner-

Crash!

-spirit. Only his-

boom...

-inner spirit. Nothing else.

...

He opened his eyes.

(You caused all of this!)

When a person opens their eyes, whether at the end of a blink or after having them closed for a eight hours, there is a short amount of time the eye needs to refocus. It occurs while the eyelids go from closed shut to completely open. What happens is the eyes receive the light from their surroundings instantly, but the brain hasn't organized it yet.

(He has you to thank!)

Now when you dream or remember something, it's in the form of images and sounds. But oddly enough, you can't see or here them. That's because you only see and hear them in two dimensions. Your brain is too busy analyzing the three dimensions you see and hear now to give your memories that added dimension. Dreams are more dimensional because your brain no longer has to manage two separate 3-D images, but it's still very active and so dreams are still not completely three-dimensional.

(You made it sooo much easier!)

Shadow knew all of this because he had learned how to manipulate his vision so that he could see his memories right in front him. During the time the eyes focused, he could block the information they sent to the brain, and send new information, like what little memories he had. Like most of his other 'abilities', this was self taught, a mix of different beliefs, philosophies, and disciplines mixed with his own, but he never used this one. He never needed to, it served no practical purpose. Knowing his past did not get food on the table, nor would it help increase his strength, discipline, etc. The reason he learned it was because while the ability did not serve a purpose, the discipline required to obtain it did. But there was another reason. And he would never truly understand what it was. Shadow had learned it to become human again.

(But what you did was inhuman...)

His eyes were open and he saw the world as it once was (no longer...). The sea was a deep blue, the lands a lush and undulating green, the mountains, majestic and smooth. He was seeing all of (...because of...) this from about five miles above the world. Looking at it, he (you.) never realized just how...well, big it really was, nor how alive. He (YOU!) would see the world in fleeting glimpses as part of an unimportant background, and he understood very well why he didn't appreciate the view. He was too busy with other matters. He (YOOOUU!!) was remembering the encounter on the Floating Isle. He chose this particular memory first because, for some odd reason, there was a memory blackout that lasted about five minutes. He did not run to the airship as the island self destructed and he wanted to know why.

I'm running. I'm on the southeastern edge of the island, heading towards the northern end. There's a large hill there with stairs leading to its flat top. I can see flashes in that direction. What're they doing over there? Must be where the statues are. That's what everyone's looking for. Forget the path, there's no time, got to go as the crow flies. Tougher than I imagined, the entire island is organic. Ground is shifting, squirming and unstable. Got to time my jumps carefully...getting close...near the stairway...almost th-. What the hell is that! A creature, approximately 20 yards long, 10 yards shoulder height, 5 yards wide. Biomechanical, like the island, more natural than artificial, maybe...70-80% organic. Where'd it come from? No time, not important it's dying anyway. Have to find out what's going on up there. Almost to the top, better leave the stairs and crawl up the side, assess the situation before taking action. Crawling is difficult, hill's shaking like Jell-O. Not going to make it. Have to find a better vantage point. Let's see, there, a flat area right behind me. But can I make it? I'll have to slide down the bottom of this hill and then jump...or plummet down to earth. Time it carefully...NOW! Okay, made it, ...there they are! They're all on the top of the hill. Everyone, those who came to stop the Emperor, and-

(Him! If only he'd known. He might have given you anything you desired. You gave him so much. YOU GAVE HIM HIS WORLD!)

Shadow blinked in surprise and was looking at the surroundings of the falling tower. He heard something loud behind him and dove to the only other spot around that looked stable.

CRASH!

He turned around to see pieces of what once was a large porcelain bowl scattered about where he was sitting a moment ago.

As much as it was a good thing he snapped out of his trance (lord knows, there were better ways to die than by a falling toilet), he didn't like it. The amount of concentration required to do relive his memories was uncountable. And the fact that he could be distracted so easily was practically shameful. But, that wasn't it. He felt, or was it heard, something-or someone, and whether a feeling or a voice, he sensed a venomous hatred, so powerful it knocked away his mental barriers in one quick strike. What could be that powerful? Where was it? What was it? Had he...felt it before? As he was building up the strength to see his past in real-time, he almost felt...what? Something that seemed...trapped, far away but...getting closer, louder, escaping, but still too far away to know whether it's real or not. Then he couldn't divert his energy, but now he wondered if it may have been the same-.

SCREEE!

A pillar of ash and steel crumbled to his right. He didn't have much time left. He would deal with this later, if possible. Now he had to get back. It was...important somehow (yes!) but he couldn't tell why. So he sat and concentrated again. He was thinking about-.

(Him! He's-)

-the hidden one. The person they call Kefka. In the short amount of time I have seen him, I knew he was more than he seemed. That clownish attitude of his is just a fašade, there's something far more cold and deadly hidden underneath. Something he's so desperate to keep hidden, he fakes insanity to divert peoples attention. What is it? Forget that right now, assess the situation. And you have to concentrate on that group of freedom fighters. They're the only ones who can get you off a this floating hunk of flesh.

Looks bad. The hidden one has everyone encased in...a light? Except for one woman, climbing the side of the mountain where I just was. It's the rebel general and she's not going to make it! Assessment over, my ticket outta here is toast if I don't do something. Get her back on solid ground. Got her!

"Run! Get out of here! I'll hold him off. Get to the airship!"

Okay they're off, now stop the hidden one. (No!) But how, he's far too powerful for me to stop. (Don't do it!) I can't stop him, so I'll have to detain him. (Stop!) But how? (Don't!) The Statues! (No!) Yes!

(LISTEN!!)

His memory image froze and all sound was muted. He heard this last command, not in his ear but in his head, and it was crystal clear. He couldn't continue with the memory, everything was frozen.

What's going on?
(You should have died on that island! Why didn't you?)
Who are you?
(WHAT are you?)
I am Shadow. Answer me!
(You are the destroyer. You created the ultimate perversion. YOU'RE A MONSTER!)

The pure hatred in that cry startled him. He was afraid of it, something he had never felt before. Maybe because the messages had no discernable voice. And yet, it somehow felt...familiar?

(Yes, it would seem familiar wouldn't it? When one was once human, basic emotions can seem very familiar-even if one can't experience them firsthand.)
Why do you hate me so much?
(You killed my family, and then you tried to kill me.)
Who are you?
(You killed my family, and then you destroyed their home.)
Wh-
(But you couldn't stop there. Just to make sure they couldn't be happy if they had somehow survived, you destroyed their world. How could you?)
I nev-
(HOW COULD YOU?!?!)

Despite his fear Shadow was getting annoyed. He wasn't getting anywhere with this voice and he didn't like being interrupted. Whoever or whatever it was, it was obviously far too emotional to think rationally. None of what it was saying was true. Shadow was an assassin-for-hire, and assassins only go after one target alone. Killing the target's family (especially before killing the target itself), destroying their home, that wasn't an assassin's job. And Shadow never did such things. As for trying to kill him, well that was impossible, whoever he was. If Shadow had tried to kill him, he had. None of his targets had ever survived him...ever. That last comment about destroying their world showed that this voice was pushing the edge. Shadow assumed it had a non-literal meaning, but he couldn't figure out what it was.

You're not making any sense. Prove your accusations.
(Very well. Watch...and understand.)

The memory continued only now he was watching everything from above, like a spirit. He could see himself on top of the mountain with Kefka and he could still hear his thoughts.

Yes. He's positioned himself perfectly. If I shove that one into him, all three statues will trap him. That should give me enough time to get to the ship. Urrrgh...did it! He's stuck. Now to-
(I have to put them back quickly, before it's too late!)

At first Shadow thought was the voice again, but there was something different. He could not sense any anger, only urgency, but that wasn't it. Then it hit him. The voice had a voice...his own! Although it sounded younger-much younger, preadolescent maybe. Suddenly he realized it was a part of his memory. The memory blackout, he was remembering it!

Huh. Where'd that crazy idea come from? Why would I want to?
(It's what I was meant to do. Then I'll be free.)
What nonsense is this? I gotta get outta here. I have to get on that airship and get home before it's too late.
(What home? Where?)
...Doesn't matter. The world is my home.
(Hah! If it's so important for me to get back, then why aren't I already halfway there instead of arguing with the voice in my head?)
...
(Now quick! I must get the statues back to their original places!)
I'm going insane! If I do then the hidden one will be free, and he proceed to kill me.
(So what? I have nothing to live for.)
...Why should I?
(I helped move the statues; I must put them back. If I don't, I'll be solely responsible for the end of the world, as we know it.)
What nonsense is this?
(Didn't I hear that woman, the general? Those statues have an equilibrium that keeps the world in balance. Change it and the world changes with it...physically!)
And what about the hidden one?
(What about him? I know that worldwide destruction is what he's really after. Warping the world would merely aid him.)
There's no time. I have to leave now, or I won't make it.
(Then I must make a choice. I can fulfill my destiny or survive.)
...

The rest he remembered. He had silently made his choice and ran towards the east end of the island as it broke up around him. Shadow was now viewing from first person once again. Had made it with what seemed seconds to spare. He jumped to the airship just as the ground crumbled under his feet. He landed on the ship and...the image flashed for a moment and was gone. He blinked and was back on a tower that looked like it was defying physics by standing up. And he was crying.

Ever since that day the world changed, Shadow was different. Of the people that survived, none had any political power, and so had no need for assassins. He was out of a job. But it was more than that, he felt empty. It was as if he was no longer supposed to be here, and whatever purpose each of us has in life, his had been and gone. He literally had nothing left to live for.

But he could fight. And so he went to the Colosseum, and fought any who challenged him. He was unlike any gladiator anyone had ever seen before. He was not very large in stature, he wore no noticeable armor, and he fought only with a knife, never a sword. But it was the way he fought that was so...so...unique. He never spoke, indeed he never made a sound. Even in the heat of battle all you would here was his opponent. Unless he was attacking or defending, he stood completely motionless. He fought with no grace or showmanship. Every move he made was exact and coldly logical, meant purely to lead to the end of his opponent's life. And when it was all over, while there may be cuts all over Shadow's clothes, he would remain unharmed, and there would never be more than one wound on his opponent-a fatal one.

Then he was visited upon by that group, the rebels that had went against the emperor. They now asked for his help in defeating the hidden one, once and for all. He agreed; he had nothing better to do. Besides, he wanted to be with Interceptor, his only real companion, again. In the end he gave the fatal blow to Kefka, throwing a spear through his chest. He who had came close to obliterating the world, destroyed the demigod he had helped. Knowing he could never find a purpose again, he realized he might as well end it here, dying with the tower. He assumed he would be alone.

(Now, do you understand?)
No. If you're angry at what I did, then everyone in the entire world should be.
(Not if they don't know.)
Exactly! How do you know? How can you speak inside me, trying to drive me mad? WHO ARE YOU?
(My name is Clyde.)

Upon hearing that, Shadow felt a sharp pain in the back of his head for a moment. Suddenly, the tower vanished, and he was seeing quick flashes of images and thousand voices were talking in his head. He hadn't even blinked. For all his discipline, he could not concentrate enough to examine any one image, they were just too fast and they wouldn't stop so he could see. He had no control over the images and they intensified as well as the voices. Mixes of emotions: pain, horror, joy, hate, love, laughter, sorrow, anger, contentment-all forcing themselves into his mind-his soul-at once and he...just...couldn't...make....them-

"STOOOOOOOOOOOP!!!!!!!"

The floor beneath him crumbled. It was one of the last things in the tower to go, despite the fact that it was near the very top. But it hadn't crumbled because of the collapsing tower. Shadow had just let out a scream that could not have been made by human lungs. As he screamed, falling in midair, everything around him was instantly repelled away. The shoved debris crashed into each other and the chain reaction of dusty explosions destroyed what was left of the tower in a matter of...well...a second.

A day has gone past before the dust is completely settled, there hasn't been any strong winds for the past week or so. What's left is rather clean, that is to say, there's no large portions of the tower still clinging together. Everything has been broken up. And in the very center of all the flotsam and jetsam is a large crater. It's approximately 50 meters wide and 20 meters deep with large burn marks around the edges. Seen from above it resembled a sunflower. The man lying at the bottom is on his back. He's splayed out like he's making snow angels. He begins to stir.

He gets up, looks around, trips, and falls flat on his face. He gets up again and looks around...slowly. He isn't sure what to do. After a few minutes have passed, he decides to climb out of this thing. It's not very easy. The ground is hard and firm, but there is a thin layer of sand on top, enough to keep him from getting a solid foothold. But he has to get up there, if not for the simple fact that he literally has nothing else to do. It takes some doing, but he finally makes it up. He looks around again because he hasn't seen this before. There's...stuff, all around him.

Anyone else would call it debris, but he does not know the meaning of the word. He does not know the meaning to most every word. He knows no language or any form of communication. He has yet to be taught. After all, the first moments of his life began at the bottom of that...well, anyone else would call it a crater. He isn't completely without knowledge though; he knows and understands perfectly the meaning of one sentence: My name is Clyde.

Though Clyde doesn't know, or indeed understand, what a memory is, he does have some. One shows an old man in colorful clothing watching a little girl paint, he stops watching her paint and stares curiously at something near or on her. He points to her hand and says, "Where did you get that pretty ring."

She stops painting and looks at her hand for a moment. On her index finger is a ring with a very small locket on it. She opens it, but there are no pictures inside. "It was my mother's." she says, "A family heirloom I suppose. I don't remember who my parents are, and this is my only link to them. Why do you ask?"

"Oh, I may be mistaken," he replies, "but I think I've seen a ring much like that one somewhere before."

The girl suddenly becomes very excited. "Really! Where!"

"Oh, don't get your hopes up. I don't remember where or when, I'm far too old. It looks familiar, nothing more. Forgive me, I shouldn't have brought it up."

"Oh that's oka-" and then the memory fades and ends. He doesn't understand what they are speaking, but the image of that girl affects him greatly. He feels he knows her, or at least, he knew her, or maybe, he should know her. It's frustrating trying to grasp the concept of familiarity for him. He feels the same way about the other memory; a man carrying people through fire and a creature alongside him. The creature (called a 'dog' to most other people) also gives him the same sense of familiarity, only clearer.

Clyde now decides he must find these two things, but which will he try to find first? He sits cross-legged on a pile of ash and begins to scratch the back of his head, and immediately stops. Slowly he examines his right hand, more specifically, his index finger on his right hand. There's a ring on it, just like the one in his memory. He's made his decision, and begins to climb over the piles of junk in a north-north eastern direction. As he begins to climb he smiles, and though he doesn't understand why, he feels it is very important that he keeps smiling.

This story must end now for it is no longer the story of Shadow's light. His light is not the same and is forever changed. Perhaps, without knowing, that was what he was intending to do. Not to end his life-but to free his soul.


THE END

Caves of Narshe: Final Fantasy VI
Version 6
©1997–2017 Josh Alvies (Rangers51)

All fanfiction and fanart (including original artwork in forum avatars) is property of the original authors. Some graphics property of Square Enix.