a Final Fantasy VI fanfiction by The Overlord Bear
Summary: Still unable to take responsibility as a father yet longing to care for his daughter due to his angst over loved ones he lost to his cowardice, the man also known as Clyde Arrowny is pushed by his family to seek help from some friends after Kefka’s defeat…
“Relm, let the man be. And why did the dog even follow you?”
He didn’t answer. He couldn’t answer. Not after the inevitable pain he expected from his daughter he ran away from. Whether dead or alive, he expected his abandoned loved ones to be hurt and vengeful. Shadow, now revealed to be Clyde Arrowny, was grateful for his father-in-law Strago’s understanding, but…
“Interceptor considers me his master now, not him,” she answered, frowning with her arms crossed. The reminder of her mother made the sight even more painful to Shadow, too. And the dog just had to bark in agreement.
“All right, you little brat…” the former Blue Magician sighed and threw his arms up. Then he looked at Shadow. “Though to be fair, it’s not just your friend you have to make up for, Clyde.”
Shadow looked to the side. Still, he didn’t say a word in reply. He still couldn’t, really.
“Now let us be more realistic, Relm,” Strago turned to the little girl again. “You saved your sad and wayward father with the family dog’s help. But your father isn’t up for being a father. What now?”
“Then have him go study about how to be a father,” she snorted and smirked. “Geniuses need to learn boring things, right?”
“Do you really want your father around or not, Relm?” Strago groaned and facepalmed.
“I want to call him ‘Dad,’ but he has to learn how first,” Relm stubbornly persisted, Interceptor barking in agreement again. “Can’t Cyan help? He had a wife and a son, right? And then there’s Terra. She’s not a dad, but she’s a good parent. Maybe she can even be my new mom.”
“So smart, yet so naive…” Strago shook his head with a wry smile, then he grinned at Shadow. “But she has some good points. And I am too old for this. Prepare for your true punishment, then, Clyde!”
With a look to the side again, Shadow sighed, all while his remaining family members cheered.
“You are Relm’s father?”
“Undeserving, but our blood ties us together.”
“Mr. Mask is Ms. Relly’s dad? Defeat Mr. Mask to gain Ms. Relly’s vapor?”
And Shadow just had to meet up with Cyan, who had also taken Gau under his care, in Figaro Castle.
“It is ‘favor,’ my dear Gau,” Cyan turned to correct the Veldt-grown boy who wore his finer robes like his animal pelt. “Though do restrain yourself. It is unbecoming of a civilized man to speak of taking a fair lady’s hand in such a brutish manner, especially in front of her father.”
“But that’s the law of the wild, Mr. Pepper,” Gau retorted. “Yes, Gau can use big words!”
“Perhaps I should also consider the direction in which he learns…” Cyan muttered with a scratch on his neck. “Anyhow, my fellow struggling father, what is it that hinders you from caring for your daughter?”
Knowing that his family would guilt trip him away from reneging, Shadow sighed with reluctance as he answered. “I…am quite cowardly.”
“A common yet fearsome struggle all men must face, then,” Cyan nodded. “How much harm have you done with your cowardice, then, if I may ask?”
Shadow’s eye twitched as he brought certain memories to the surface of his mind. “I failed to give an old friend mercy through death during our last venture as train robbers.”
The knight slowly nodded at that, eyes widened again. “Quite a conundrum, then. I cannot say that I understand such…work…but I might not be erroneous in assuming that even scoundrels have a code to live by. Pardon my language, my friend Shadow.”
Shadow just nodded, having expected such a reaction from the more honorable man.
“‘Robbers…’ Mr. Mask’s an animal?” Gau inquired. “Gau’s also good at robbery! Angry louts are funny after that!”
Though Shadow did smirk at the sight of Cyan getting flabbergasted at his charge’s appreciation for the mercenary’s former occupation.
“Ms. Relly also knows robbery, Mr. Mask?” the wild boy addressed Shadow. “Gau will not rob Ms. Relly, though! Love, but not rob!”
“And I fear that you do not fully understand what you are saying yet, Gau…” Cyan rubbed one side of his head, and then he gave Shadow a stern look. “Are you not concerned for your daughter, then, Shadow? Or…how should I say this…Why concern yourself with things you cannot change anymore? Why grieve over a lost loved one this much for this long? Do you not even remember our adventure on the Phantom Train?”
And there it was. Shadow hoped that Cyan didn’t remember, but it was a futile hope.
“Our lost loved ones are different, Shadow,” Cyan continued. “And we have lived with the belief that we have failed them. But whether we truly failed them or not, we must continue living on to protect those who remain in the mortal realm.”
“Then how did you manage to persist after that loss and before this state?” Shadow couldn’t help asking. “It all seems like a miracle, to be honest.”
“So it does seem to me as well, my friend,” Cyan closed his eyes and nodded. “Even I would wonder about why I care for strangers, only to find that they remind me of what I lost and what I wish I could have done better. How such selfishness brings about kindness is still a mystery to me, but such is how I have lived, and I shall not squander these blessings the heavens granted me.”
Taking in those words, Shadow mirrored Cyan’s expression. “I see.”
“Gentlemen!” Edgar suddenly barged into the room. “Care for a visit to Mobliz?”
“And a front row seat to my brother embarrassing himself in front of Terra and the orphans?” Sabin added, earning a glare from his older brother.
Shadow nodded at that, feeling that it was high time to pay a visit to the former half-Esper. And of course, with Cyan and Gau, he also smirked at the monk’s humor.
“Wait, who is this stranger?” Edgar then asked with a look at the unmasked Shadow.
“Oh, it’s Shadow, brother,” Sabin answered. “I understand the confusion, though. I’ve never seen him unmasked until a while ago!”
“I can see how he has a daughter like Relm, then…” the King of Figaro nodded with fascination, only to earn everyone else’s glares. “What?”
“Shadow…? That man is Shadow, Sabin?”
“Yes, my fair lady, he is Shadow! He is here to seek advice as a father for his daughter Relm!”
The mostly oohing and aahing crowd which now surrounded the unmasked ninja made the man realize how he wasn’t much of a social butterfly. Certainly, it was wonderful to be treated as a friend by so many, yet of course, there was also the feeling of being someone undeserving of it all. Not like he could imagine socializing being easier with more self-confidence within him, though…
“Edgar, King of Figaro, also approves of this quest!” the wannabe suave man presented a grin and a thumbs-up.
“King Eggy is a stick!” Gau hollered at Edgar, much to the laughter of his fellow children and the other adults.
“This boy sure is influencing my manners!” Cyan also said, even with a grin on his face. “Now, Lady Terra, would you mind assistance from us lowly men?”
Terra gave a bright smile in reply. “Oh, I certainly wouldn’t! Especially not when it comes from my dear friends. Come, then.”
And while Shadow followed Terra’s lead, there was still a feeling of stiffness regarding caring for children and other domestic duties. He considered thinking of such things like a mercenary’s job, too, but he would eventually remember that such a mindset was too cold for them.
“Would you like to help with the cooking, Shadow?”
“I, King Eggy, would like to learn how to cook, Lady Terra!”
“Subtle, brother! Very subtle!”
“I shall watch over the children, then, Terra.”
But although he didn’t approach the work like a mercenary in the end, Shadow did do the work he volunteered to do in silence.
“Mr. Shadow! You’re Relm’s dad, right? Why isn’t she with you?”
“I wanna marry Mr. Shadow when I grow up! He looks so cool! And he’s not like that weird King Edgar!”
“Mr. Shadow, is Gau a good guy? He looks like a scary kid. And he talks weird.”
“Gau is good, stupid kid! You’re weak! Strong ones don’t call Gau stupid!”
Even those childish statements were treated with silence. Of course, he also restrained them from going into a brawl, while Cyan did all the lecturing.
“Goodness,” Cyan also sighed later on, taking a break with Shadow after Sabin volunteered to watch over the children in their stead. “I find myself admiring women and their humility even more again. How they manage to bear all these matters often taken for granted is very humbling. Would you not agree, Shadow?”
Shadow just nodded at that, finding himself with puzzlement again over how his late love bore with him and their daughter.
“And on the matter of rowdy children, it seems that we are on the same boat with having such as our charges outside this, even!” the knight continued, and then he looked to the heavens. “Give me strength, Elayne and Owain!”
The ninja looked up as well, silently wishing for strength from the spirits of his friend and his beloved, who were probably looking down on him for being such a cowardly man who had to learn so late.
“You certainly can be a father, Shadow.”
And then there was Terra, who now stood beside them. She probably had dinner set upon the table now, but Shadow guessed that she wanted a talk with him first.
“May you leave us be a for a while, Cyan?”
“As you wish, Lady Terra.”
With things going as expected, the unmasked ninja then turned to Mobliz’s matron.
“I cannot say that I understand everything about you and Relm and Strago, Shadow,” Terra continued. “But I do believe that you are a good person, and one who can be better too. So why did you try to leave yourself behind in that tower after we defeated Kefka?”
And there was that big question again. The former half-Esper now had a grave look too.
“I thought it was the best way to atone,” Shadow started his answer with closed eyes. “Though now I am beginning to realize that I simply sought a convenient escape.”
Then came the weight and the welling. A coward he had been all his life, indeed…and now he was being truly punished for it.
How could he have ignored treasures so close to him this whole time? He just made himself even more undeserving with his self-loathing, which would then turn into loathing against other people.
“We are here for you as well, Shadow,” Terra then said with the same grave face. “You are one of our precious friends, after all. We are bound to hurt each other along the way for sure, but the fact that we can be better shall be our anchor.”
Then she smiled.
Shadow understood Edgar’s infatuation and Relm’s admiration better now.
“Wait, Shadow? Wow…”
“So that is the man beneath the mask…”
“Your money, then, Locke.”
When Shadow went back home to Thamasa, he also found the newlywed Locke and Celes, who was accompanied by fellow rogue Setzer. As for Strago and Relm, they were laughing at Locke losing to Setzer in some bet about the ninja. As for Interceptor, he just sat and watched with his tongue lolling out…and then he barked.
“Welcome back, Clyde,” Strago greeted, still smiling.
“Am I looking at my dad now?” Relm asked with narrowed eyes, though Shadow could see a glint of hope within them.
Clyde Arrowny smiled back.
“I hope you are…my daughter,” he told Relm. The awkwardness of that statement also made him blush.
And then came an unbelievably warm hug.
“I love you, Dad.”
He couldn’t help crying after that.
“I love you too.”
How long had it been since he last said such words with all his heart?
Author’s Note: I’ve been itching to write this ever since I read up lots about Final Fantasy VI and played some of it myself. Seriously, Shadow can and should be a better man, especially with and for his family and their friends.