Fiction Fragment Fridays: Returning Hope (Chapter 8 – Part 2)

Continuing on with Final Fantasy: Returning Hope!

Since this chapter is particularly long, I’m going to wait until I’ve posted each part of it on this blog before posting the complete chapter on FanFiction.net.

Reminder: If you’re looking for the previously posted parts of the story, go to the “Categories” drop-down banner on the left banner of the site and choose “Final Fantasy: Returning Hope”.

General Leo (Front)        Sabin - WoundedShadow - Wounded
*Spites via http://www.videogamesprites.net

Sabin’s eyes fluttered open when a cock crowed somewhere outside. He was stiff and hadn’t slept well, but he’d experienced much worse during his training so he couldn’t complain. He rose and stretched his muscles before noticing that his companions were missing. He gave the still-snoring man in the rocking chair a cursory glance before heading outside. He worried that Shadow may have already abandoned the journey, but he soon found the man and dog sitting on the opposite sides of a small fire behind the house. Three small rabbits were roasting on sticks. Sabin felt his stomach rumble. How long had it been since his last meal?

Without saying a word, Shadow plucked the grease-dripping balls of meat from the fire and tossed one to Sabin, who caught the cool end of the stick expertly. Interceptor caught the second rabbit in his teeth and immediately dug into it greedily. Shadow began to walk with his, so Sabin followed while taking a few sloppy bites.

Shadow ate his breakfast slowly as they walked. Every time he took a bite he’d turn his head away from Sabin before pulling his mask down from his mouth. Sabin thought it odd, but decided to respect his privacy.

Their silent journey continued until the sun was high in the sky. Then, without any warning, Shadow and Interceptor broke into a hurried run. For a few seconds Sabin blinked after them in confusion before sprinting after them.

“Why the sudden rush?” he asked as his steps fell in line with the others’.

Shadow made a vague gesture toward their destination. “Storm coming,” he explained. “If we hurry we can meet it at the base. The early shadows and rain will help cloak our way through.”

Sabin examined the sky and saw that, sure enough, angry black clouds were rallying toward the forest to the south. It would surely be a very dark evening, even if the rain didn’t fall. He couldn’t help but smile. With the early darkness, he wondered how much damage he could cause at the Imperial base, as long as he was there…

—–

It was dark as night when they reached the other side of the forest, though the sun was still hiding somewhere in the sky. Black clouds covered the sky from one horizon to the other, keeping the group well-hidden behind a large crate of supplies just outside the Imperial base.

“Too many soldiers…” Sabin muttered to himself. The base was much larger than he’d been expecting. There were dozens of tents, perhaps even more than a hundred, and mountains of crates everywhere. There were weeks worth of rations, and the weapons outnumbered the men to use them. Soldiers milled everywhere, all but confirming Sabin’s fears of an all-out attack on Doma.

“Hey, have you heard?”

Sabin ducked his head back down behind the crate as two soldiers walked into view. Interceptor let out a small, low growl which Shadow silenced with a raised hand.

“Oh, d’you mean…” the second soldier began to reply, but he was cut off by the first shushing him frantically. “Keep quiet,” he insisted. “If Kefka catches us we’re toast!” He glanced around nervously.

Sabin’s ears perked up at Kefka’s name. He’d never had the…pleasure of meeting the man, but he knew the reputation. He remembered the story Edgar had told him about the burning of Figaro Castle.

The nervous soldier finished his assessment of the surrounding area and leaned in close to his colleague. “He’s trying to drive General Leo out of our battalion! If he manages to do it, he’ll probably become the next general!”

The other soldier guffawed at that. “Don’t make me laugh!” he cried in mirth. “If someone like him becomes General, I’ll go home!”

The nervous soldier looked like he might vomit. “Shhh!” he begged. “What if he hears you? You’ll be jailed!”

His buddy waved a hand as though to say, ‘Yeah, yeah, whatever!’ but his face suddenly turned green. “Oh crap!” he hissed. “He’s coming! Back to our posts!”

Sabin risked a slightly better position to get a view of the beast who had set his home on fire. Though the strange patterns and colors of his clothing were distracting to the eye, what Sabin found himself staring at was Kefka’s eyes. No normal person looks like that…

“Hey you!” his piercing voice called as he approached. “You keeping a sharp lookout?”

“Yes, Sir!” came the nervous soldier’s voice. “How are you, Kefka, Sir?”

Kefka’s responding sneer was a thing of utter contempt. “Save your small talk!” he spat angrily. “Just do your damn job!” With a sweep of his robes, he turned in a huff and stalked away. He barked orders at several others as he went.

When he was safely out of view, the two soldiers crept back toward each other.

“Phew!” exclaimed the nervous soldier’s friend. “Someone has to put that guy away! I’d like to tell him to his face that he’s no General Leo!”

The nervous soldier sucker-punched his friend. “Shh, will ya?! Do I always have to tell you to keep it down? Hopeless!” He took three deep breaths while his friend glared at him and rubbed his arm. “I agree though,” he conceded quietly. “I hate that freak. I don’t even know if he’s human, you know? Not like General Leo at all.”

“Agreed.”

The sound of running footfalls brought the two soldiers back to attention. A man in commander’s clothing came jogging up beside them.

“You two!” he ordered. “Grab your weapons! We’re about to storm Doma Castle and you two will join the assault team!”

The three took off toward the other end of the camp. Sabin turned and looked at Shadow and Interceptor. “You still with me?” he asked.

Shadow nodded once. “I will continue with this journey a while longer.”

Sabin nodded and turned back to the camp. “Okay. Let’s sneak into the hen house.”

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