Echoes of the Past Chapter 4
The first real mistake that Lyle had made was to keep his uniform. Back when Kefka first formed his insane tower was the moment when he first made this mistake. He had watched the world being destroyed as Kefka, mad from his power, burned villages left and right that dared to fight against him.
Lyles friends had realized it then. The Empire was gone. Gestahl was dead, General Leo was dead, General Celes was a traitor, and Kefka had betrayed them all. Lyle had denied the truth. While his friends cast aside their brown uniforms of the Imperial military, he had kept his. They had seen the truth, had even tried to tell him the truth, but he would not listen to them. The few soldiers of the Empire abandoned its cause and did what they could to live in this harsh new world.
But Lyle had been proud. He hadnt wanted to abandon his past service to the Empire. He had refused to give up his old uniform, and insisted in letting people see and hear that the Empire was not yet completely dead.
Eventually, he had found himself at the Coliseum. For a wandering, lost soldier of an army that no longer existed, it had been the perfect place for him. A place to fight and forget ones self in meaningless battle. He soon became fairly well-known as the Imperial soldier there, the only one left in the world, a fact which he lamented to anyone who passed by often.
And then, months later, the news had come. Kefka had been defeated. The last of the Returners, including the king of Figaro, the traitor Celes, the infamous assassin Shadow, the half-esper Terra, and several others had managed to triumph over the madness of Kefka and to give the world a second chance at life.
After that, people didnt come to the coliseum much any more. They didnt need mindless entertainment to take their minds off fights, and anyways, the fights often werent as entertaining, now that magic had mysteriously vanished.
Lyle had stayed there for nearly three years after that. He had nowhere else to go. He had made friends there with some of the fighters, and even that odd receptionist octopus, Ultros. But even though he was modestly famous as the only remaining soldier of the dead Empire, people just werent coming any more.
And then Lyle made his second, and even bigger, mistake. He chose to leave. He decided that he may as well give up on the petty hold he had on his past. The days of the Empire were over, the people wished to think no more of it, and Lyle finally decided to abandon his uniform and join the rest of the world in its attempts at rebuilding.
Lyle left the coliseum.
Now, chained to a wall in a dank, gloomy cell whose location he couldnt even guess, Lyle truly regretted leaving the safety of his fighting friends at the coliseum.
A month had been all it had taken. He had just begun to get settled down in Nikeah, had just begun joining the rest of the world and helping people to rebuild what had been lost during the war and Kefkas mad reign, when he was taken. They waited until he was walking home one night, alone, to grab him and take him hostage.
For Lyle had been wrong when he had thought that the world had forgotten the Empire.
Apparently, there was one group of people who werent ready to forget the Empires actions, and were definitely not ready to forgive it.
The door to Lyles cell opened, and Brett came in, leading another man. Brett was the name of the man who personally tortured Lyle and questioned him over and over. Aside from the presence of a guest, today was no different. The man, clad in a well-polished set of standard battle armor, with a flowing crimson cape attached to it, stood to the side and watched. He had neatly combed, short blonde hair and an expression that seemed perpetually bored and irate, with black eyes that took in the scene before him without much care or interest.
So, ready to talk today? Brett asked in a jovial, cruel tone.
Lyle said nothing. He had learned from habit that it was best to do so.
Well, lets find out, hm? You know what I want to know. Where is it, you pig!? We know it exists! And you know where it is! Brett bit out angrily.
Lyle remained silent. Even after the many weeks, perhaps months by now, of torture, Lyle still had no idea what Brett was talking about, and every attempt to find out was met by punishment. All Lyle could guess was that Brett, part of the Voices of the Earth, wanted something secret of the Empires and did not know where it was. And naturally, since Lyle was the only known Imperial soldier still alive, he was the only one that could be questioned.
Making up a location for this mystery object that the Voices of the Earth organization wanted so badly to find had not worked thus far, as they later simply told Brett to punish Lyle more severely than ever once they found out he lied to them.
Brett, not known for his patience, became angry at Lyles refusal to answer and smashed his fist into the former soldiers nose. Brett was not a very imaginative tormentor, and so Lyles nose, by now, was already twisted and disfigured rather badly. Blood began pouring out of it, trickling down in small red rivulets over Lyles bruised, battered, and beaten face.
I really think thats enough, Brett, the man who had been watching up until now said mildly. Brett scowled, but then nodded and stood back as the man walked over to Lyle.
I must admire your resolve, Imperial, the man said. Perhaps the only virtue of you imperials is your never-ending loyalty to your Emperor, even if he is deceased. But your deception has all been for naught, for we have now found where it is, thanks to the actions of your fellow Imperial friend. I see no more use for you.
And with that, the man reached to his side, withdrew the battle axe that hung there, and beheaded Lyle.
Sir? We have the new batch of recruits ready, sir.
Ingrans eyes rose from the paperwork on his desk to the young officer standing in the doorway of his quarters.
Very well, Valce, Ingran replied, lifting himself from his seat and picking up his impressive halberd that he kept with him at all times. Ingran was an older man, well into his 50s. He had a flair for style, though, which explained the well-polished gold-trimmed suit of armor he wore at nearly all times, the jewels that adorned his weapon, and the long, flowing pale green cape at his back, which proudly bore the insignia of the Voices of the Earth. His careworn had a rough, yet fatherly look to it. He had an aura of strength to him that went beyond age, an aura that made him a natural choice for a leader of the Voices of the Earth organization.
Ingran strode to his door and was escorted by Valce down the long hall to the room in which the recruits were waiting. Valce was a younger man, likely in the midst of his 20s. He had a crisp, stream-lined look to him, a man who valued an orderly way of life. His black hair was neatly combed back, his face carefully and completely shaven, his plain armor neatly polished, his sword hanging dutifully from his side. The only adornment on him that was for show rather than simple efficiency was the painted insignia of the Voices of the Earth on the right part of his armors chest plate, and the painted insignia of the Returners on the left side, over his heart.
Ingran paused as he and Valce passed a window. He peered out of it, looking down at the ground far below, and scowling as he did so. I still intensely dislike this place, Valce. The Voices of the Earth should not share a town with a pack of criminals and liars, he stated with resigned anger.
Valce shrugged, his black eyes not mirroring the discomfort that Ingrans were showing. Its more comfortable than a cave in the mountains, I may assure you, sir. Right now, the organization needs an obscure headquarters, and Zozo is as obscure a place as there is. No telling what Imperial remnants might be searching for us at this very moment. Best to live in safety than in comfort.
Ingran shook his head bitterly. Comfort has nothing to do with it, Valce. Were a noble organization. We should be centered in a castle, or a town of reputable standing. We should be out in the open, our arms outstretched to the rest of the world, not hiding in this miserable den of criminals.
Valce shrugged once more. He and Ingran had very different ideas on how the Voices of the Earth should go about many aspects of their business, and location was just one of them. Thankfully, both were sensible men, and the leadership of the Voices of the Earth did not suffer from the differences of opinion between these two men, nor from those between them and the third member of the triangular leadership.
Ingran pulled himself from his thoughts of displeasure with his surroundings and once more followed Valce.
They entered a room at the end of the hall, and a score and a half of men and women instantly ceased their casual conversations and sat in rapt attention.
Ingran smiled slightly. Time to work the magic.
Greetings, all of you, he began in a booming, jovial voice. No matter how many times I meet new recruits to this honorable organization, it always brings warmth to my old heart.
You are here, Ingran went on, striding to stand in front of those assembled, Because you want to join something important. Something greater than yourselves. You are here because you want to join the Voices of the Earth. And I cant tell you how pleased I am to have you sitting here before me.
Many of you no doubt know all about this organization, but please bear with me, for it is of utmost importance for our members to understand fully what we are, and what we want.
Only a few years ago, this world was beautiful. The grassy plains, the dense forests, the beautiful blue sky this planet was alive and thriving.
Those days will never return.
A man named Gestahl created an army. Through savagery and violence he created an Empire. He nearly took over the world with his army and with his powerful Magitek warriors. So many towns fell to him Miranda was razed, South Figaro was occupied, the kingdom of Doma was completely wiped out. He was a madman who would stop at nothing to control the world.
Valce stepped forward then. And then, Valce said proudly, There were a few who tried to stop him. The Returners. I was a Returner, as was my brother, Dejik. Our leader, Banon, was a brilliant man, but our force could not stop Gestahls mad conquest. Ironically, it was only the actions of one of Gestahls most horrible creations, Kefka, that killed him.
Ingran took back the floor. A shame, however, that Kefka was even worse than Gestahl. Within a year, he had brought this world into a state of ruin. Many people tried to stop him, and were burned to nothing by his Light Of Judgment. A mighty army had been massed to attack his tower, and it was destroyed almost instantaneously. I was there. There was nothing that could be done against him.
And then, a last-ditch attempt at the preservation of the world was led by a motley group of former Returners and others. We all know the heroes who managed to defeat KefkaKing Edgar of Figaro, his brother Sabin, Doman warrior Cyan, the blue mage Strago, and many others. These warriors bought this world a second chance at life.
And THAT, Ingran raised his voice, Is what the Voices of the Earth are trying to protect. We are dedicated to the preservation of this planet from the evils of Gestahls Empire. We must purge any and all remnants of the Empire from this world! It is not safe to let anything that that madman created to continue to exist. We will never allow the horrors of the Empire to ravage our planet again! I, Ingran, and my two companions, Valce here and his brother Dejik, who is unable to join us at the moment, are dedicated to the preservation of this planet, and we hope that you will join us in our crusade. I thank you for your time.
With that, the people were ushered out by a few Voices of the Earth guards, and Ingran and Valce were left to their own devices.
I never tire of doing that, Ingran said, his earlier unhappiness gone. To see people gathered together to join a cause for the greater good just makes my heart sing. A shame most of them didnt look quite like warrior material, but our organization needs those from all walks of life, I suppose, to function properly.
At this moment, the third member of the power triangle of the Voices of the Earth arrived, wearing a casually bored face while polishing his large battle axe cheerfully.
How nice of you to show up, Valce remarked with a resigned sarcasm. Youve missed meeting the new recruits. Again.
Its very good for morale for them to see all three leaders together greeting them, Dejik. You need to be here more often, Ingran added.
Dejik shrugged. I was down in the prison that we kept that imperial soldier in, he stated simply.
Ingran showed some interest in this news. Did you get anything out of him? he eagerly asked.
Dejik looked at the older man quizzically. About what?
Ingran growled irritably. Dejiks cool, sensible logic was helpful to the leadership of the Voices of the Earth, and he was an excellent leader in battle, but his short attention span and seeming refusal to take his role seriously was a problem at times.
The location of Gestahls secret, Dejik, Valce reminded his brother. The Top Secret that we read about in the old document, remember?
Oh, right, the one that Gestahl wrote back before he had Magitek, right? Dejik asked.
Ingran nodded impatiently.
Dejik concentrated once more on his axe. Nope. Never said a word about it. I really think he didnt know. Doesnt matter, now, though. I killed him before I came up here.
What do you mean, you killed him!? Ingran demanded. Regardless of how much the Imperial swine deserved death, we needed him for information!
Dejik once more tore his attention from his care for his weapon to answer. No, no, we dont. I met up with those knights we sent to investigate the people digging at Kefkas tower. They just got back.
Ingran looked like he was about to lose his temper violently. Valce spoke for him. What did they say, Dejik? he asked calmly. Valce was more accustomed to his siblings odd behavior. His brothers mind had not been working right ever since he had watched his wife perish in the flames of Maranda after the Empire had attacked, and Valce knew that only patience and tolerance of Dejiks round-about way of conversing could yield anything of use from the man.
Dejik sighed softly, seeing that he would not be able to concentrate on his ministrations to his armament until he had gotten through this business. Well, the people at Kefkas tower are mostly made up of harmless civilians who are curious about the possibilities of using whatever might be left of the Empires technology beneath the rubble. Almost exactly what we expected, really. Our soldiers gave them the order to leave, but then one of those digging challenged this order. None other than former Imperial general Celes, in fact.
At this, Valces expression hardened. General Celes, the woman who had led the Imperial razing of his and Dejiks home, Maranda. The woman responsible for the deaths of their friends and family. He had never, nor ever would, forgiven her for her actions.
If Dejik felt any such animosity toward Celes, or noticed Valces expression, he didnt let on. Instead, he simply continued. She basically told them that they had no jurisdiction there, that she and her peers there could handle it, and then got angry at us for assassinating that old Imperial scientist. She acknowledged that there might be something down there that was dangerous, and said that we need to face it now, or something like that.
Valce nodded. Thats that, then. We know where this secret of Gestahls is hiding. Hard to believe that it was in the capital all along. I thought hed surely move it somewhere where his Magitek facilities were not, to be safe.
Hold there, Ingran said, confusion in his voice, Celes was a former Imperial, yes, but Im not quite sure I follow your reasoning here! Shes a hero, after all, like all the others who defeated Kefka.
Valce explained in his usual curt, efficient manner. We know that she defeated Kefka, yes. But she was an Imperial, Ingran. Anyone who ever was cant be trusted. She might have some secret agenda of Emperor Gestahls left, or perhaps even some subconscious desire to continue his workshe might not even know that shes doing just as hed want her to. Gestahl was a demonic trickster no telling what sort of ways he ensured complete loyalty from his top minions.
But she helped defeat Kefka, Ingran began.
Valce cut the older man off. Likely for revenge for his betrayal of the Emperor, and as a way to eliminate anything that could stand in her way. In order for this world to be safe we must make sure every last remnant of the Empire is gone, Ingran. And by digging around the Empires capitals remains, Celes has shown us that shes still under his influence. Im sure of it.
Ingran still looked unconvinced.
Oh, Dejik remarked idly, Theres one other thing. Celes threatened to get King Edgars protection for this project.
Now that IS interesting, Valce said thoughtfully, musing aloud. Very interesting that she speaks as though she already has his approval and protection, and that she does so just as Terra has been reported to be visiting him in Figaro Castle. Terra, once the Empires slave sorceress. Terra, who wore a Slave Crown. Im certain that those hideous devices probably had lingering effects. This seems too much of a coincidence to me. Could Celes and Terra have planned it? One to begin the project of unearthing whatever horrible thing Gestahl left behind, the other to go to Figaro to help to persuade Edgar to their aid?
Ingrans brows knitted. That does sound rather plausible. Perhaps Celes and Terra are, indeed, still servants of the Empire.
Yeah, thats why I figured we didnt need the soldier guy any more, and killed him, Dejik remarked offhandedly.
We must do something about this at once, Valce told his comrades. We are the worlds only protectors against the evils of the Empire. We must stop General Celes by whatever means necessary.
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