Setzer stared at the wood-paneled ceiling of his cabin in the Falcon, the cabin that used to belong to Daryl, with an annoyed expression. Morning. Morning was something the gambler would definitely abolish if at all possible, but apparently it was necessary to stop evening and afternoon from bumping in to each other. Mornings sucked, in Setzer's own words, especially when you couldn't remember where you were the night before. This morning, however, Setzer took only a minute to realize where he was, and what he was doing. The sound of surf pounding against craggy rocks on the beach that used to be the road to Thamasa indicated that the Falcon was still parked just on the cliff edge, right outside of town. Setzer continued to stare at the ceiling, and scratched at the silvery-white stubble that sprouted on his chin. This would make their third day at Thamasa since Terra's little "life stream" speech. The third long day.
Setzer wondered if any of his companions were as bored as he was. Sabin probably was, but he did his best to politely help his brother with their little lifestream project. Mog had the attention span of a tree stump, so the moogle probably dancing his little white ass off someplace just to keep his sanity. Locke had Celes to keep him company, so he never seemed overly bored when she was nearby. Strago was just as deeply involved with this lifestream refining project as Edgar was, being the highest mage in Thamasa. Cyan just seemed to stand off to the side like Setzer did, obviously not the least bit interested in the whole process of experimenting with that damned green goop, although the warrior did seem to take an interest in the library here. Relm and Gau seemed to hang out with each other a bit often, now that the boy had finally started acting like a human being. The only person that didn't seem to be doing anything to entertain themselves, strangely enough, was Terra. The whole theory to the lifestream and the one person who probably would understand it more than anybody else distanced herself from what was going on, and many times couldn't even be found. Setzer knew where she went, though.....he had seen her once or twice at Leo's gave. She obviously missed the kind-hearted general, and very obviously had some feelings for him when he was alive, although she never came to grips with it until recently. Setzer could read faces, even Terra's enigmatic one, so he knew just by the look in her eyes, the shape of her mouth....even the way she stood. He had seen her face when he stumbled across her at the grave. She smiled at him and tried to cover her tracks, but he knew. He didn't have the heart to tell Terra that she had fallen in love with not only a dead man, but a dead man that even if he was alive wouldn't have time for a love life. Not yet, anyway.
The gambler rolled out of bed, and shuffled off to get dressed and shave. Damned mornings....he would of just stayed in bed, but sooner or later somebody would come up to the Falcon to disturb him. He knew his companions too well....damn morning people. Except Locke, but that poor bastard was always dragged out of bed as well by the others, usually Celes. Oh well, at least Setzer wasn't alone.
When he had dressed and cleaned up, he walked down the hall to the main hatch in the side of the ship, and pressed the button to open it. He absently noted that the door mechanism would need some tinkering with as the door lowered down shakily, making a steep staircase that descended to the ground. Setzer stepped out into the morning light, and blinked frantically, squinting in the sun. His eyes were sensitive enough to the light as it was, and here he was walking directly into it, the sun directly in front of him. Maybe he should of parked the Falcon facing south, so the door would face west, where there was no goddamn sun in the morning.
He walked into town, his long gold-trimmed black trenchcoat trailing behind him, slightly ruffled by a breeze off the ocean. Standing in the middle of the road was Mog, and as Setzer had guessed, the little beast was dancing, while a crowd of youngsters clapped and laughed. Little shit, he'd to anything for attention.
Mog stopped dancing as the gambler approached, and gave an annoying little wave. Critters always annoyed Setzer, but he never let on. "Kupo....mornin', Setzer."
"Morning. Dancing this early?"
"....po, there's nothing else to do after breakfast here, except wait for lunch. So I dance between meals. At least I don't get fat that way." He patted his round little tummy. What the hell DID a fat moogle look like anyway, Setzer thought. "But anyway, if you're looking for the others, they're all over the place."
"Thanks. Have fun dancing."
The moogle made a squeaky little sound and did a handspring, breaking into a few more dance moves as Setzer walked away while averting his eyes. Mog could get adoration from the group of 10-year-olds clustering around him, but it would take more than some relative cuteness to snag Setzer's attention. The gambler walked on.
He passed the library without stopping. As interesting as Cyan could be at times, generally conversation with him was boring and dry. He didn't persue the finer things in life: alcohol, women, games. It was sad, really. Cyan probably would of made a fine companion of he learned to live a little bit. Still, the fact that he lost his family two years ago affected his overall lifestyle, and Setzer figured that the tall warrior was doing his best to set a good example for Gau.
The gambler stopped and looked around. The cemetery stood to his left, and the grove of poplars that housed the lonely resting place of Leo was on his right. It didn't take a genius to figure out who was standing among the trees to his right. Terra stood with her back to him, the morning sun filtering through the trees, bathing her in a dappled light. Her hair, which wasn't exactly green, but more like green-tinted blond, waved slowly in the morning breeze. She looked pretty good standing there. Terra always had been pretty hot, although Setzer didn't exactly think so the first time he saw her. The first time he saw her she was in her Esper form, a beautiful white-furred thing with lavender eyes and streaks of magenta running through her unruly hair. Beautiful in a certain extent, but not attractive in any physical way. She was also fairly stupid for the first few months she traveled with the gambler, but as time went on she regained her memories and her intelligence. After a while, he had developed respect for her. By the end of their mission, he could almost claim to love her. Almost. He still had a place in his heart for Daryl, nobody could replace that. Terra was completely different than Daryl, but she fascinated Setzer none the less.
He wouldn't tell her, though. It was something he'd keep to himself, for the time being anyway. Maybe when they left Thamasa, he'd offer her an invitation to travel with him and see the sights of the world. Maybe then, he'd let her know.
"Why are you standing behind me?" She said quietly, obviously aware of his presence.
"Because if I stand in front of you, I'd be obscuring your view." The pale-faced gambler took a few steps forward to stand at her side. She held a few small blue wildflowers in her hand, idly stroking the tiny petals with a fingertip. Terra's eyes were distant as she gazed at the gold-hilted sword embedded in the cairn before them. "Do you really miss him that much?"
"I think the world misses him that much, Setzer. He did so much for the people."
"And I think you nicely evaded that question."
She looked up at him with her grass-green eyes. "What's that supposed to mean?"
"C'mon Terra, I can read you like a book. I know how you feel about Leo."
She lowered her face into the handful of flowers, closing her eyes. Even her eyelashes had that odd green tint, making the flowers seem more blue. "...am I really that obvious?"
He plucked a flower from under her nose, and twirled it between his thumb and index finger. "To me, yeah. To everybody else, probably not."
She sighed. "It's not what it was...now it's more like.....regret. But he told me things that helped me find who I was, he helped me feel. How could you not feel something for the person who taught you how to feel?"
"I don't know if this is the answer you want Terra, I can only say that you feel the way you do, because you are who you are. Nobody can teach you to feel, that's something you do yourself. The potential is inside you, always."
She plucked the head off of one of the flowers, and flicked it away. "I see. I thought you would understand where I'm coming from..." She paused. "Don't you miss Daryl at all?"
His voice was quiet. "Of course I miss her. I miss her every day, but she's not the one who opened up my heart to the world. I'm the one who did that, it's part of growing up."
Terra dropped the wildflowers and watched as they flitted down to the grass. "I guess I'm still not fully human." Her voice was steady, but Setzer could tell from the way that her mouth formed the words that she was upset.
He lifted up her chin and forced her to look into his steel-gray eyes. "Don't say that. Don't even think it. You're more human than many people I've met....you've shown so many times that you care for others and that you care for the world, that you shouldn't even consider doubting yourself." His eyes held her there for a second, and then she finally nodded. "Sometimes, I feel a little lost, like you. But I don't cave in on myself. Life is full of its ups and downs, that's why we go through with it, for the thrill....even when we do have our low moments. Low moments like these are why we have friends."
"Friends..." she said.
"Yeah. We're here for you, just as I am right now. If you ever feel lost, regretful, or even just....down, talk to me. Talk to Celes. Talk to any of us, just don't gnaw on your problems in your own little corner."
She looked at him, trying to find any traces of mockery in him, but found nothing but sincerity. Apparently this gambler was more than he seemed, and did more than live life for its roguish qualities. "I....understand now." She gave Leo's grave a glance through her blond-green eyelashes, and sighed. "Then maybe....I should let go."
"Letting go is one thing. Moving on is another. You don't have to discard what you feel entirely."
Finally, she smiled. "Thank you, Setzer."
He tucked the blue wildflower behind her ear, and gave her a dazzling smile that looked like it belonged on a wolf somewhere. "No charge. It's what friends do." He brushed past her, heading back in to town.
"Setzer," she called after him.
He stopped. "Yeah?"
"Wait up, I'll walk with you." She jogged up to him, her boots somewhat loud on the white cobblestones.
He turned and gave her a slight bow, not mocking in the least. "Hey, a lady is always welcome to walk with me."
She laughed. "You've been around Edgar too much."
"Not at all, I'm always this way." He said as they headed to the inn.
* * *
"I don't get it....why isn't it reacting to my touch?"
"Maybe it doesn't like you anymore."
"Shut up, Locke; if this stuff isn't going to behave like it did before, then there's no point in tinkering with it." Edgar prodded the lifestream with his bare finger, trying to get it to speak to him like it did in the cave. "Damn. Maybe it wears out or something over time. It has been here three days after all."
Strago peered at the beaker of lifestream. "It's possible that it's run out of energy....although it hasn't exactly lost its glow yet."
"Lemme see," Relm said, trying to push her way through the group of people clustered around the table.
"Hasn't it? It seems less glowey than it did in the cave when I scooped it up." Locke commented. "Maybe it ran out of gas, like Edgar said."
"Lemme see," Relm demanded.
"Although, it doesn't seem to be any cooler. Look at the thermometer." Said one of Edgar's chemists, a man by the name of Rickard.
"C'mon, lemme see!"
Locke poked at the fluid. "So it's still warm. Maybe because Edgar keeps poking at it. He has huge hands, they probably give off a lot of heat."
"If that was a jab directed at me, you're losing your touch, Cole."
"MOVE ASIDE AND LET ME SEE!!!"
The group parted so the girl could get to the edge of the table, and examine the lifestream. She touched it briefly, closing her eyes.
"What's she doing?" Locke whispered to Strago.
"Something that actually makes a lot of sense." the old man muttered back. "I should of asked her to try this before."
Relm opened her eyes, and turned to her grandfather. "It's dormant. Apparently if you take it away from the rest of the lifestream, it'll stop giving off direct energy. It's starting to harden too....see? It's a bit more....um..."
"Viscous." Edgar offered.
"Yeah. Viscous. It's getting like Jello not too long after you put it in the fridge." She touched it again. "Hm, now the energy isn't sent out as psy waves anymore, it's only sent out as light and heat."
Locke looked puzzled. "Psy waves?"
"The type of brain waves telepaths use. That's how it communicated with Edgar in the first place, by transmitting psy waves to him. Like the radio on Setzer's ship can transmit messages from his ship to another."
"Do telepaths actually exist?" Rickard asked with mild curiosity.
"I guess anything's possible...." Edgar said.
"Yes." Relm replied. "They do."
"Well then," Rickard said, rubbing his hands together. "Since this thing is dormant, and it communicates through these psy waves, why don't we find a telepath and ask them to talk to the lifestream? Maybe they can figure out how to harness its energy."
"This'll be fun." Relm grinned.
"Oh no you don't, young lady." Strago interjected. "What if it gets into your mind and you can't remove it?"
"Oh, don't spoil my fun Grandpa. The techno people and even the magic people tried their best, so now it's my turn. Let me try."
"Excuse me," Locke murmured mildly. "but is Relm a telepath?"
Yes, a voice said inside of his head. The thief jumped back with a startled yelp.
Knock it off Locke, Relm's voice echoed inside his head. I won't hurt you.
"Arg. Cut it out, kid.....get out of my head."
"Sorry." Relm said with a dimpled smile. "I just had to.....it's so rare when somebody catches Mr. Treasure Hunter off guard." She looked at Edgar and his technician. "Yes, I'm a telepath. No, I can't read your thoughts....that requires too much effort, and yes, I can sort of communicate with the lifestream, but only to an extent. I can only tell you that it's dormant, and it won't give off any energy unless you draw it out."
Edgar looked at the apparently dormant lifestream, and then looked at Relm again. "Draw it out? This isn't coal or oil, Relm."
"I didn't mean burn it, silly. Here, let me show you." She adjusted her kerchief in a businesslike manner, and extended a hand to Locke. "May I please use one of your daggers for a moment?"
The thief looked puzzled, but plunked a short-hilted dirk in her outstretched hand anyway. Relm tested the edge of it with her thumb, and nodded in satisfaction. She then laid the blade against the back of her left hand and neatly drew it across, wincing in pain as she slit her own flesh open.
Strago made a strangled sound. "Goddess....Relm, what are you doing??"
She wiped the dirk clean on the hem of her skirt. "Don't worry, grandpa. I know what I'm doing." Relm bit her lip as she handed the dirk back to Locke. "That hurt more than I thought it would. Oh well." The girl reached out to touch the green liquid with her right hand, and closed her eyes. At first nothing happened, and the four of them stood there somewhat doubtfully, watching her. Then the flask of lifestream began to give off that pale green glow, and there was a small movement near the floor. At Relm's feet waves of pale green energy, the same color as the lifestream, undulated in a myriad of color and light. A faint hissing sound was heard as the waves of light ruffled her clothing and hair. Relm opened her eyes and focused on her wounded left hand with an intent expression.
"Cure," she whispered.
Slowly at first but then with increasing speed, blood stopped oozing from the wound, absorbed back into the gash like a sponge. The skin pressed together, forming a white line that disappeared within seconds. Relm relaxed, exhaling slowly, and held up her now-healed hand for them to examine.
"And that," she said. "is what I meant by extraction."
"Crimeny..." Rickard muttered. Nobody said anything else, they just stood and gaped at her, dumbfounded.
"Oh, please don't let your mouths hang open like that, it's rude." She rubbed at her hand and sighed. "It's still not perfect....it itches a bit, and the feeling I got when casting it was different. But anyway gentlemen, I think we once again have access to magic." She gave them a dimpled smile. "We probably should go tell the others, don't you agree?"
* * *
"Fire," Terra muttered, trying to focus both on the small bottle of lifestream she held and the bush she was aiming at. The shrub made a snapping sound, and began to seethe smoke. Then it burst into flames, giving off the irritating smell of green wood burning.
"Ice." Celes said, also holding a small vial of lifestream, which at this point was barely liquid, more like small balls of semi-liquid floating in waterlike fluid. There was a hissing sound from the burning plant, and steam rose up in tendrils from the withered branches, the flames dying. Ice formed in clumps on the leaves and branches, making them sag under the weight. The two women looked at each other.
"It works..." Celes said with a grin that was like the sun coming up.
"It does, doesn't it?" Terra's smile was just as big as Celes'.
"Nice job, ladies." Locke commented, examining the sorry-looking bush. "I don't know about you, but this makes me feel like breaking out into a few dance moves." He wiggled his hips, making the two women laugh.
"Don't get too excited, Cole." Edgar crossed his arms and looked down at the thief. "The three people that fell ill after Kefka are the only three that can use it so far. Maybe there's a connection.....maybe they're the only ones that can use this new magic."
Locke's face contorted into what could almost be considered a pout. "Oh sure, rain on my parade..."
"Don't be such a pessimist, brother. How do we know unless we try?" Sabin took the small flask of lifestream from Terra, and held it in one of his large hands. "Okay....lemme see if I can remember...." He closed his eyes, concentrating. "Bolt." he said after a moment, focusing on the tree.
The big man frowned. "That's not right....I thought that was the way you cast magic."
"Maybe your brother's right." the thief said gloomily. "Maybe only the ladies can cast magic."
Celes looked at Sabin critically. "I dunno...I did as Relm said, and it worked for me." She tapped a finger on his broad chest. "You have to feel it in here, sort of. You have to draw the magic out first, then send it through your body, and then direct it at your target."
He sighed, closed his eyes, and concentrated again. This time a faint green glow was seen around his feet. "Bolt...?"
"It's not a question, Sabin." Terra sighed. "You're not asking a favor, you're giving an order."
He grumbled under his breath and pointed at the bush angrily, his blue eyes ablaze. "Bolt, goddammit!" Green waves of energy surged away from his feet, whipping the grass, and a thin white line of electricity jolted down from the clear sky out of nowhere, hitting the frail bush head on, sending chunks of frozen wood everywhere. The group of them stood there, stunned. Sabin just grinned.
"Told you so." he said.
Edgar frowned at his brother, and then ogled at the vial of lifestream in his hand. "Sabin, look at your bottle!"
"What?" He held up the small glass bottle to examine it, his mouth falling open when he saw the contents. "Ohh great.....what'd I do?" Instead of the thick green fluid, a small orb the size of a walnut sat in the bottle, giving off the now-familiar green glow. Sabin shook the bottle, and the round object bounced around with a clinking sound. "Uh....is this a good thing?"
His brother took the bottle and looked at the glowing orb inside. "I don't know, but getting it out of there'll be a pain."
Celes held up her bottle, frowning. "Mine did it too...it's a little glowing ball thingy now." She held it up so Locke could see.
"Hmm.....let me see that." He took the vial from her, shook it for a minute, and then smacked the neck of it down on a rock. Half of the bottle broke away, and the green sphere fell out, making a strange cystallike sound as it hit the white cobblestones. The thief picked it up. "Strange....it feels....cool. Not warm like it used to."
"Is it....dead?" Edgar asked, watching as his brother removed his orb in a similar fashion.
"I don't think so....it still feels tingly, but not the same way. It feels...huh...well...sort of how your mouth feels when you eat a mint."
"What a wonderful way to put it." Setzer murmured.
"Just for that, you don't get a little orb thingy." The thief rolled the orb in his hand. "Maybe..." he looked at the bush, and decided that a new target was needed. He found a rock conveniently placed on the edge of the road, and smirked. Narrowing his eyes, he concentrated. "Fire..."
Once again, nothing happened. Setzer laughed. "Apparently you're not special like the others, Locke."
Locke turned around to face Setzer, annoyed. He pointed at the gambler. "Yeah, well....ICE!!"
Setzer's face contorted into shock as his skin turned blue from cold, and his long silver hair froze solid. He stood there, teeth chattering. "Y-you b-bastard!"
The Treasure Hunter blinked in surprise at the frozen gambler. Then he doubled over in laughter.
Celes took the orb from him. "Locke, that wasn't very nice."
He didn't respond, just continued to laugh.
Celes sighed. "Sorry, Setzer. If I knew he was going to do that, I wouldn't of let him take the orb from me."
The gambler shook the ice crystals out of his hair, still shivering a bit. "It's okay, I guess. I deserved it, sort of. Anyway, if Locke and Sabin can use the lifestream to cast magic, that means that anybody can do it."
"Don't forget, it's not lifestream anymore." Mog said from the tree he was sitting in. "It turned into little round crystals. Something that feels minty." He smirked at Locke.
"Watch it moogle, lest I cast Ice upon thee." He held up the orb.
Mog squeaked and hid in the sanctuary of the tree's branches, with Locke's laugher chasing after him. Celes sighed. "You're not behaving yourself very well today. Behave, or I'll take your new magic toy away."
"Anyway, I think I've figured something out." she said, taking the orb from him anyway. "The magic we used on this material was infused into it, and it made these little orb things that spell...well, kind of. I mean, the spell Ice was put into this little orb thingy, so now the only thing it can be used for is casting Ice, since both Locke and I used it to cast that spell. It didn't work when he tried to use it for Fire."
"What about mine?" Sabin asked. "Terra used it to cast Fire, and then I used it to cast Bolt. Why did it work for both?"
"Because you are human, and she's an Esper witch." a voice said from the edge of the trees. They turned to the speaker, who turned out to be the old mage that tried to put Terra's theory down the day before. He stood with his back against a tree, arms crossed.
"Caezin." Strago growled. "Don't you dare insult my friends."
"Oh, sorry, would you prefer I insulted you instead?" He grinned, showing yellowed teeth and gaps where some were missing. "Words are fun, but I have a more entertaining method." He leered at the other mage, green energy surging around him. "Bio!"
Strago gasped, and clutched at his chest as poison raged through his veins. Relm yelped and ran to his side, supporting him as he withered to the ground. Without thinking, Terra took a few steps forward, and pointed at her ill companion. "Remedy!" Green and yellow waves shot out from around her feet, whipping the grass growing in between the stones of the road. Strago was surrounded by a blue aura for a moment, and then it dissipated with a faint hissing sound. The now-healed mage stood up to face Caezin. "You go too far..."
"Do I? You're the one cavorting with this Esper witch. You just saw her use magic without the use of Material, did you not?"
Terra shook her head. "I..."
"Material?" Strago snorted, changing the subject. "What on earth are you talking about?"
"What your precious lifestream turns into, the source of all magic. What an idiot you are, Strago....you don't even know that. Obviously, the Esper witch has duped you, just like she's duped the others."
Edgar strode towards Caezin angrily. "Stop calling her a "witch", you--" He was cut off by a Bolt spell from the mage, and sent flying back.
"Watch it, you don't know who you're dealing with boy." Caezin said. "You're gone even worse than the others. Does she repay you for your service? Perhaps with sexual favors...?"
Edgar sat on the ground angrily, still stunned from the Bolt attack. His brother ran up to Caezin before the mage could react, anger flaring in his blue eyes. With a yell, he picked up the old mage, jumped into the air, and slammed him down on the ground. "Get up, old fart! If you're so goddamn tough, then get up!" Sabin flexed his muscles threateningly.
Caezin scrabbled backwards, his eyes wary. "Master, help me! They're stronger than I thought!"
Strago looked at the blubbering old mage. "Master? Oh no..."
Caezin grinned and looked skyward. "Yes....and He has answered....I leave with a gift from the Master for you..." He sketched a sigil in the air in front of him, then vanished, his eyes on Terra as he left. The group looked at each other, awestruck.
"Master?" Mog said, getting down from in his tree.
"INCOMING!" Locke yelped, pointing at the sky. The others looked up just in time to get hit full force by the Meteor spell, most of them driven to the ground by the rain of flaming fist-sized rocks. The only one that remained standing was Terra, who stood making no attempt to evade the falling fire. She clutched at her shoulders, hugging at herself and producing a snarl in the back of her throat. Then she looked up at the continuing Meteor spell. "NO!!" she shrieked, shooting off the orange-red aura that once indicated the use of magic while raising her arms. The terrible rain slowed, and then stopped. She stood there, breathing heavily, still staring at the sky with arms held high.
Edgar groaned and sat up to look at her. "...Terra?"
She lowered her arms slowly, falling to her knees. Her green eyes looked at him. "I'm sorry....I couldn't let them hurt us....I didn't mean..." she made a choking sound and rested her face in her hands, hiding her face.
Edgar limped to her, ignoring his own pain, and put his arms around her. "It's all right...you saved us." Terra moaned and rested her face against his chest.
Celes wiped blood from a gash on her cheek and crouched down next to the two to look at Terra. "That's right...who knows how long that spell would of gone on?"
The former Esper looked at her, tears in her eyes. "But...he did it because of me. I should of never come here. I should of stayed in Mobliz."
"Not because of you, Terra, because he's insane." Strago said from where he fell on the ground, leaning on one elbow. "He's been insane for years. I always thought he was harmless, but now..." He shook his head.
Locke rubbed at an ugly purple bruise on his lower arm. "I think you saved our butts, Terra. Just take the thanks, not the blame."
"No!" She pushed Edgar away from her, standing up. "You don't get it! It's because of me! He hurt you all because..." She bit her lip, tears welling up in her eyes, and then turned and fled, her boots seeming overly loud on the white cobblestone road.