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A Night at the Opera

by MeaPortia

Part 1 (2008)
Part 2 (2008)
Part 3 (2008)
Part 4 (2008)
Part 5 (2008)
Part 6 (2008)

Chapter 3

Celes' legs actually shook for the first time in her life as she climbed the stairs that led to her "castle's" balcony. She looked out into the audience and realized with a great deal of relief that she couldn't actually see anyone. There were dark bodies occupying the seats, but without a contrasting light they looked more like mannequins than actual people. She wondered where Locke and the others were sitting. It was probably for the best if she didn't know where. The last thing she needed was to look up and see one of her friends smiling at her.

So far the production had been a disaster, although it wasn't an unmitigated disaster yet. The first problem had been when several of the Chocobos tried to trample Draco at the beginning of the first act. Half of the audience had chuckled, thinking that it was about time someone inserted a little slapstick into this hackneyed old opera. The other half, Jidooran purists with season tickets, had sniffed and muttered about tampering with the classics.

Then, during Ralse's villainous motive aria, a part of the set fell down and nearly knocked him in the head. His undignified dive for cover had gotten the audience going for a few moments. Ralse had jumped up, readjusted his wig, and bellowed a few lines about the cowardly Westerners and their incompetent assassins. Sporadic applause and cheers came from the audience, since there seemed to be a small contingent tonight that wanted the villain to win. After dealing with both actors, Celes couldn't blame them.

After a prop weapon had dramatically misfired after the big battle scene, the Chief had looked about ready to have an apoplectic fit. Celes had idly wondered if the opera was haunted.

Right before she'd headed to her dressing room to look over the score again, Celes had overheard the stage manager telling Draco that the Chocobos had been spooked by something and that he'd found wood shavings stuck in their feathers. Locke and Edgar were right - Setzer was going to be just as dramatic as Draco and come down from the roof. At least the patrons were going to get their money's worth in entertainment.

And then there was Locke. He'd come back to check on her - better him than Edgar, she figured, since she wanted to stay in her costume - and had gotten red and asked her if she was always this lovely. She finally had him alone and could ask him the question that had bothered her since he rescued her in South Figaro: why? Why had he saved her?

He'd stumbled over his words and said something about how he didn't want anyone to die by his own inactivity again - still thinking about Rachel in Kohlingen. Before she knew it, before she could let him know that she was most definitely not the same as the girl who had died, the words tumbled out of her mouth.

"Am I her substitute?"

Locke had hemmed and hawed, complementing her on her hair and how flattering the dress was. Celes could guess that his answer was probably 'yes, but don't let me know that you know.' For just a fraction of a moment, Celes wished that it had been Sabin to check on her if one of them had insisted on coming. She knew that at least he wouldn't try to talk her out of her outfit or push the image of a dead former lover onto her.

And then, cutting through her thoughts, she heard the arpeggio that signalled the beginning of her aria. And that brought her back to the embarrassing fact that she had her first-ever case of knock-knees. And, oddly, it wasn't from the fact that she was going to be kidnapped. It was from the fact that she was going to have to sing in public. After a little voice training in the past several days, she was informed that she could now sing like Maria, if Maria had a chest cold and overworked vocal cords. With all the problems that the opera had faced so far, the diva's unusual pitch was going to be the least of the cast's worries.

It was time. Celes took a deep breath from her center of mass and spread out her arms. Her angel-sleeved silk dress caught the gaslamps' light and shimmered.

"Oh my hero, so far away now, will I ever see your smile?"

Was that her? It certainly didn't sound like anything she'd ever warbled before. It was actually...beautiful. The high ringing tones of her voice gave her confidence, and she walked on the prop castle's battlements.

"Love goes away, like night into day. It's just a fading dream."

Love. Celes had never been in love. In Vector, there had been nothing and no one to love. Gestahl was her Emperor, Kefka was insane, Leo was nearly twice her age, and Cid was like a father or grandfather. Every other man she had ever met, aside from the Returners or foreign dignitaries, was her subordinate. Celes had watched the things that she fought for - law, order, stability, prosperity - evaporate into puffs of smoke under the increasing prominence of Magitek.

"I'm the darkness, you're the stars. Our love is brighter than the sun."

She idly wondered as she continued walking whether or not her friends had ever been in love. Sabin was a monk and therefore celibate. Edgar...was another matter altogether. There had to be important women in their pasts. And then she thought back to the dressing room, when Locke had spoken about his dead girlfriend Rachel. He had loved before. He had felt what the lyrics proclaimed.

Celes decided that, just for this song, she would sing as if she really were separated from someone that she loved and dearly wanted back. She would sing it as if a part of her were missing.

"For eternity, for me there can be, only you, my chosen one..."

She would sing it as if she knew what it was talking about.

Locke watched Celes from the doorway of the dressing room and smiled. He watched her pretend to dance with an invisible Draco and then pick up a nearby bouquet of flowers. Something in her expression was sad, beautiful, wistful, and vulnerable all at the same time. It was as though she really believed in the lyrics that she sang.

"Well done, Celes," he whispered. "Well done."

Hesitantly, he turned to go back to Edgar and Sabin. They needed to group someplace inconspicuous where they could then sneak onto Setzer's airship. Assuming, of course, that the gambler actually showed. Locke had his doubts.

The dressing room was a mess of costumes, makeup, roses, and notes; it was amazing that he caught sight of the letter on the floor. Curious, he picked it up. It was addressed to the Chief and was coated in drying slime. He recognized the slime from Edgar and Sabin's description of an encounter on the Lete River before he even read the signature.

"Fantastic," he muttered as he read it. "As if we need more going on right now!"

That damned octopus Ultros just had to pick tonight to make trouble.
Caves of Narshe: Final Fantasy VI
Version 6
©1997–2018 Josh Alvies (Rangers51)

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