Locke examined a material orb carefully, tapping its smooth surface with a finger. Was it his imagination, or did this thing grow? Celes had made more material orbs since they had arrived home well over a week ago. Locke, of course, was eager to try the new ones out. He even had snagged the ones from the various cult members, and had added them to the collection. Now they owned nice shiny orbs of "Comet" (similar to Meteor), "Earth", and a strange yellow one. Strangely enough, it contained several spells: "Shadow Flare", "Trine", "Beta", and "Aqualung". For some reason, this one didn't seem to grow as the others did. Locke didn't seem to mind, though...he was pleased because Celes was pleased.
There was a banging downstairs on the door, and then Locke heard Celes answer it. He listened from out the window, catching a few bits and pieces of the conversation of whomever it was. He heard Celes say "Thank you, he'll be pleased.", and then the door shut. The treasure hunter sighed, and headed downstairs. "Who was at the d--...what the hell do you have there?"
Celes was struggling with a large, rectangular package wrapped in brown paper. "This...is from Xain. He had it sent here for you, as a way of thanks, I think. He sent a note for you, and one for me."
"Can I read your note if you read mine?"
She frowned, snatching her note away. "Nope. I have to go to the market now...I'll be back in a little while." She stuffed her note down her bodice, grabbed the large wicker basket by the door, and headed out.
Locke sighed, shook his head, and leaned the large package against the wall. He then opened up the letter:
We have been through much, have we not? I am currently writing to you from Cosmo Tower, where I, some of the scholars from Jidoor, and Django's tribe have made our home. We have gutted out the hideousness that the cult had brought here, and have once again made it beautiful. We have opened a path in the mountains, and are welcoming all to come to our tower to study. Only a few have arrived, but our hopes and prayers are still for more to arrive.
Relm herself has offered to live here at Cosmo Tower, only just contacting me a few days ago. She and her dog arrived, with Cyan and Gau along with her for the journey. She stated that she would do much more for herself by studying at my center of knowledge, so she is now under my care. I am somewhat glad to have her here, for the girl brightens my day, along with the days of the others here. We all consider her a blessing. She at the moment is painting my portrait.
My uncle is in an absolute snit, for I have reclaimed much of my art. This includes many pieces that just "happened" their way into my uncle's collection. Still, I offered to obtain him more art, so he was more than pleased. Relm even offered to do another painting for him, which pacified the old fool. This is why he was willing to give up the piece of art I give you with this letter. I thought the one man that had the right to own it would be you, Locke, and I know that you will treasure it even more than my uncle did.
Locke blinked, halfway through the letter, and looked up at the painting wrapped in brown paper. He cut the strings binding it together with a dagger, and ripped the paper away. Then his breath caught in his throat as the eyes of Rachel looked back at him, captured on the canvas. He gently tore the rest of the paper away and stared at the painting, the priceless painting done by an Esper in the past, the only painting that could ever capture who the phoenix really was. The thief then tore his gaze away from the painting, and read the rest of the letter.
I am sure that it brings you both joy and pain, my friend, and I wish to share the joy. I long for phoenix to come back to me, even if only for a brief while. Her divine presence always brought me happiness, just as I'm sure Rachel brought happiness to you. That is why, I ask for the exchange of this painting...I ask for the phoenix. I know you do know where she is, Locke. I could feel it when we were on our mission to rescue your friend. I do not mean to rush you, but I, as her follower, must have her back into my life. Please, contact me, for I will be waiting for your response. The phoenix's blessing be with you.
King Xain of Cosmo Tower/Canyon,
High Priest of the Phoenix
Locke slowly lowered the letter. Xain knew...Xain knew! How did he know about the phoenix? He slowly shook his head. It didn't really matter...he knew he had to let go sometime...but not yet. He couldn't let go just yet.
The treasure hunter reached into his shirt, and touched an amulet he wore there, hidden. Not even Celes knew about it. Nobody knew...and nobody would know. He clutched the amulet, and sighed. No, nobody would know, even if Xain knew things....not even Xain would rush him. Soon, he would move on, but for now...
Locke Cole continued to hold the amulet in his hand tightly, as he stared at the painting of Rachel and the phoenix, sadness shining in his soft brown eyes.
And he remembered.
* * *
On the top of Cosmo Tower, a warm breeze blew off the eastern sea, bringing with it the promise of another beautiful day. Something rolled around on top of the tower, near the edge. Pushed by the wind, the faintly glowing orb rolled slowly towards the edge of the roof, and then rolled off.
It picked up speed as it fell, as the laws of physics took their course. When it finally hit the rocks far below, it shattered with a definite crystalline sound, split into several pieces. The jagged shards of the material orb flickered a faint red color in the early morning light, as if trying to continue to contain the essence held within.
Then the light died, and the material lay amongst the rocks, forgotten.