A Warrior's Redemptionby Artiles
MEMORY THREE: THE OUTLAWS
A vicious blizzard raged with all its fury upon the cliffs to the south of Wutai. Varlus and his companion, the rookie private he saved from Shinra's squadron, sheltered from the storm in a damp, dark cave. Varlus lighted yet another cigarrette and breathed the poisonous but pleasant substance deeply.
"What a catastrophe" said the private glumly. "To think I was so proud serving Shinra..."
"Shit happens, kid." Varlus blew the smoke in full circles.
"Sir, why do you think--"
"No more of that "sir" thing" cut Varlus, looking sideways at the private. "The name's Varlus. I'm no longer your Commander, so forget about formalities now."
"A-Alright... Varlus" mumbled the private. The former Commander grinned: the private was nervous treating him in an informal way. He knew his long years as soldier, warrior and mercenary had earned him some kind of legendary status, but as far as he was concerned, it was all a whole bunch of crap. Being a legend doesn't make you invincible. He knew that all too well.
"By the way, kid, what's your name?" He puffed his cigarrette again.
"Gainsborough. Jack Gainsborough." The private smiled weakly. Varlus sat off another jet of smoky circles and gazed at him.
"Any relatives, Jack?"
"My wife. Elmyra."
"You must miss her a lot." Varlus knew perfectly how that felt. He thought for a second about Ifalna and Aeris and felt saddened, defeated.
"Yes. And..." Jack seemed doubtful, avoiding Varlus' eyes for a minute.
"What? You worried about her? It's natural."
"Yeah, but it's not just that. My... my wife and I... well, we have no children. And I--"
"You're afraid that if you got killed, she's gonna be all alone" finished Varlus, understanding what Jack meant. The private nodded. "That's the worst side of war" continued the former Commander as he gave another puff to the cigarrette. "All of us lie saying it'd be alright, telling our loved ones not to worry, that nothing's gonna happen to us..." He smirked. "Bullshit. Every one of us can be worm food at anytime, and so much for the "it's alright" thing. Yet, we can't help but keep lying to them."
"Especially a green private like me" said Jack grimly.
"Everyone of us, kid. You, me, the rest of those poor devils who are still in Wutai... No one has life for granted when it's war we're talking about." That was how you learnt, thought Varlus: by seeing a few friend being blown to bits, by suffering betrayals and treasons, being backstabbed... Sad, but true.
"But not you, Varlus" argued Jack. "You're a legend. How many wars and battles have you got through?"
"Far more than I'd like" replied Varlus. His cigarrette was midway from dead. "And it's not as if it matters, anyway. Veteran or rookie, it only takes one bullet or one stab to the heart to send you to the other neighborhood. Besides," Varlus smirked again, looking at the private, "I never fancied legends."
Both of them laughed for a moment. Then Jack cleared his throat as he said "I'm not cut out for this. I only came 'cause I'm a Shinra--- was a Shinra employee and soldier. But you... you're different. You have no problem getting involved in these conflicts."
Varlus stared at the private, who seemed to wish he could take his words back. "I fought for Shinra because I had no choice. Before that, I was off as a sentry in some forgotten dock at Junon. Payment was a real crap, and I needed more money income to raise my little daughter properly. My wife never really approved of me becoming a Shinra Commander, but she had to cope with it, as I did. I don't enjoy fighting or killing, Jack" went on Varlus as he threw the cigarrette's smoky remains off the cave, "yet I have to. I'm not ashamed of it, mind you... It's just I despise unnecessary murder. And I'll admit I'm a man who's damn good at what he always did: fighting. An old warhorse, if you wanna put it that way." Both men laughed again, yet Varlus was feeling an uneasy guilt inside him.
"It's not your fault. You had your orders."
"No need to remind me that, kid."
They felt silent as the wind howled through the cave, chilling the men to their bones. Jack trembled. "Get some sleep, Jack. We set out with the dawn" said Varlus, standing up.
"What's your plan?" asked Jack.
"Well, unless we manage to build a raft or something, we'll have to hijack one of Shinra's ships and make it to the Middle Continent. Once there, we'll have a long road towards Costa Del Sol. I have some trusted friends there; they'll lend us a ship or sneak us into one. Once we get to Junon, we're home free."
"Easier said than done" said Jack.
"It's all we've got, kid" replied Varlus. "Either take it or think something else."
Jack stood silent, then said "Whatever it takes."
"Good. That's the spirit. Now get some sleep."
Jack squeezed against the cave's walls, trying to find a more comfortable position to rest. Varlus watched through the storm, keeping an eye for Shinra troops.
"Varlus" said Jack from behind. The former Commander turned around. "What about the boys still at Wutai?"
A tough question. Varlus didn't reply for a moment, then said: "They'll have to take care of themselves. I'm no hero: can't save everybody. Lady Luck made me save you, kid, and God knows she has given us enough luck for this day."
Jack said nothing, turned around and fell silent.
Varlus sat down. His men were dead. Again, he failed to protect innocents from slaughter. But, as he said before, he was no hero.
"Every man for himself."
Varlus recalled again the memories of Ifalna and Aeris, and his eyes got wet yet again. As he himself said, at his thirty three years, he was turning into a crying sissy. But, then again, given the circumstances, anybody would cry. Even a veteran like him.
"I'll be home before those Shinra, Ifalna. I swear on my honor."
And Varlus was sure that, now being an outlaw, honor was his last possession, and his most treasured one.
"Control yourself. You knew before all these revelations began to fall upon you this would be a difficult journey."
"So far, you have witnessed many things, seen characters come and go, live and die... Yet do not be fooled by it."
"Remember than, in the plane of consciousness you're in, death is nothing more than a transition."
"This man's memories have been plagued by the poison inside him. That is why he seeks your help. Why did he seek you specifically, I do not know."
"But it is clear you alone can help this man find the rest he deserves. Only you can help him steer away from darkness, and find the light."
"Brace yourself. The worst is yet to come."
"Open your eyes."