Last Exit for the Lost Chapter 31

Death in the Family

By Damodred

They stood, appraising each other in silence for a moment. Tifa's thoughts were suddenly slow, relaxed and very coherent. It was as if someone had tightened her perception, and reduced her alarm. She realized several things, but wasn't sure what to do about any of them. She was still puzzling over her sudden indecision when Sephiroth spoke. "You will not succeed, Vincent." Valentine winced over his son's choice of appellation. "My son," he appealed, "Do you not understand? I simply want us to be a family again...your mother was young and beautiful. It was not her time." His voice assumed a pleading quality. "Can you not see? We can do this, you and I. We can take our revenge on those who had harmed us, and live together in peace..." "The only one who had harmed you is yourself," stated Aerith, quietly. Vincent's eyes blazed an unholy red and his voice took on an echoing quality as he rasped, "Be SILENT, woman!" Tifa clasped her hands to her ears, fighting the urge to submit to his presence, as the command he aimed at Aerith took effect and its backwash flooded over her. Sephiroth's eyes flashed green as he unsheathed the Masamune and ran towards Vincent. The insane man stood laughing quietly as he reached over his shoulder and brought out a blade of his own. He parried Sephiroth's first wild slash effortlessly, but soon a look of concentration took over his face as Sephiroth became calmer, and more deadly.

Yuffie gazed at the scene horrified, her mouth open in stupefaction. She couldn't understand how the situation had degenerated. She took in Aerith, paralyzed by Valentine's force of will and unable to break out of the spell. Shera was cowering behind the altar as the swords rang their steely cry, strike and counterstrike, flashes of light coming from the mystical blades illuminating the Black Materia. Tifa was still standing in the same place, a faintly bemused look on her face. Yuffie started as Tifa nodded sharply to herself and approached the Black Materia.

Sephiroth knew he could not win this fight; it was that simple. He could perhaps wound his father, or drive him away, but not truly kill him. For as much as he denied the family tie, it still existed, and he was physically unable to kill Valentine. He knew it was only a matter of time before Vincent realized this and used it to his advantage. He recognized the sword that his father was using; it was the legendary Atma blade, which took its power from the user and then magnified it. Vincent's will and power were astounding in magnitude, and Sephiroth had already twice narrowly avoided having the Masamune shattered by deflecting the blow and absorbing it. He also sported several cuts; for all his talk of family, Vincent was certainly showing no restraint. His fangs were bared, and his ears were becoming slightly pointed; the feedback of the power the Atma blade was channeling from him was causing him to revert to his magical form. His eyes were now glowing fiery red, and there were no traces of humanity left in them. Sephiroth grimaced, ducked a particularly fierce blow and hardened his resolve.

A slight tremor shook the Temple slightly as Tifa made the first adjustment. It seemed so clear now, she didn't understand why she didn't see it before. All she needed to do is turn this facet like so, then channel a bit of power into that aperture, which would in turn swivel that opening, and then...

Shera stared wide-eyed as Tifa made minute adjustments, pausing momentarily, her head to one side, as if listening to someone. She shifted her gaze to Yuffie, noting that the ninja girl had her shuriken ready, and a determined expression on her face. Good for you, Yuffie, she thought, and pulled herself together. She walked over to Aerith, trying to ignore the whirling adversaries and examined the Ancient. Aerith's eyes were glazed over, and her mouth was open, yet the rest of her body was rigid. As Shera watched, however, the Ancient's features tightened slightly, and her head tilted to the side as well. Shera took a deep breath and hoped for the best. Was the ceiling getting lower?

Tifa suddenly remembered there was something else she had to before ending this. She turned her head, forcing her will away from the task - why was it so difficult - and examined Aerith. Yes, she now could see where the paralysis took hold. She inserted a small sliver of her will and gave it a slight twist. Task done, she returned to the Black Materia, now awake and active. It appeared to suck in the light around it in thin strings of light, so the whole effect was very unpleasant to watch.

Aerith stumbled, her mind still in disarray. She didn't understand how Tifa gained so much power, but she knew the potential had been there, and perhaps it took a major crisis to bring it out to the fullest. She took in the scene quickly, and walked towards Shera and Yuffie. "We have to get out of here!" she shouted over the rumbling of the Temple and the clash of the swords. A sudden cry of pain made her whirl around, to behold Vincent holding a hand to his side, red viscous blood pouring from between his fingers. With his other hand, he reached into the folds of his cloak, withdrew a small object and threw it to the ground under him. A dark hole opened beneath him, emanating a lurid red glow, and he sank into it, closing his eyes. It closed as soon as he was gone. Sephiroth walked over to Aerith, limping slightly, and raised a questioning eyebrow. Aerith felt a sudden rush of relief, but suppressed it quickly and said "We must leave now. I sent Tifa instructions on how to destroy the Materia. She knows she only has a few minutes to leave after her task is done, but the way out is simple." Yuffie glanced uneasily at the tall woman standing by the Black Materia, now looking as indistinct and hazy as the materia itself. "Are you sure one of us shouldn't stay...." "Yes! No!" Aerith snapped, then put a hand to her head. "I'm sorry...I mean yes I'm sure. We should leave now." She fought a surge of dizziness and unfamiliar fear and walked out, briskly. The others followed.

Looking at the entrance of the Temple, Aerith shuddered. It was awful. It was as if I was cut off from the Planet she sent to Sephiroth. I couldn't kill him...What is that? his startlement was very strong, a sure sign that he had been shaken. Aerith broke off contact and peered at the edge of the forest. "I think it's Cloud," she said, slowly.

The crumpled figure lying repose between the few sparse trees was indeed Cloud. He appeared to be physically unharmed, and was clutching his sword tightly, despite being unconscious. "I'll see what I can do for him," said Aerith, shakily. As she knelt down by the SOLDIER, Sephiroth asked, looking uneasy, "If you were cut off from the Planet during your paralysis, how did you contact Tifa?" Aerith paused, her hands shaking slightly, "I..." Beside her, Cloud's eyes suddenly snapped open and he sat up, cradling his sword. His mouth opened and he screamed in rage and loss, "TIFAAAAAAAAAA!" He then collapsed, unconscious again as the Temple shuddered and rumbled behind them.


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