Downward Spiral Chapter 8
By Faye Locke
Jyleth stopped them about an hour later, now that they were far into the forest, she felt they were safe from the munkies.
"Is there another way across the crevasse?" Sephiroth asked, removing his pack and sitting on a fallen tree log. Jyleth noticed a certain weariness in she had never seen before him as he swung the Masamune around and laid it across his lap. Could it be the great Sephiroth was tired?
"Yes, but it will take them weeks to get to get there and all the way back here. By then, we will be far away."
"And there are no munkies on this side?" Sephiroth removed a cloth from his pack and began to clean the Masamune. His hand crept across the handle and stopped on a certain materia. He closed his eyes for a moment, then opened his eyes and continued cleaning the blade. Realizing that he was waiting for her to reply, Jyleth answered his question.
"I haven't seen any sign of their habitation here," she said, glancing at the trees, "This is gryphon territory."
"What does that have to do with munkies?" Sephiroth passed the cloth once more across the blade, then decided that it was clean enough and sheathed it.
"Munkies are just the right size to be a good meal for the gryphons, whereas a full-grown human is too heavy for them to lift." Jyleth cast a glance through the trees to the sky above. "That's not to say that they will not attack us, they just won't see us as a ready source of food as they see the munkies. In any case, I don't think the munkies will come after us, being that we are no longer in their territory." She touched a materia stone on her sword, trying to summon a cure. The magic, however would not come. She tried to concentrate more on the spell, but only resulted in a headache.
"You have burned out your magic for the day," Sephiroth said. Jyleth scowled at him, her frown growing even deeper when she saw that he was laughing at her. She removed her pack and pulled a cure potion, dousing the liquid in one quick motion. The pain from multiple scrapes and bruises eased immediately.
"How long before the magic comes back?" she asked after she felt like she could speak
"A night's rest should bring it back," Sephiroth answered.
"How come your magic isn't used up?"
"I have more than you do," the SOLDIER stood, clearly ready to resume their journey. "With time, you will gain more ability." Jyleth picked up her pack and staff as well, feeling a bit stiff as she did so. The wind suddenly gusted, pulling her cloak away from her body and chilling her. She quickly wrapped the cloak around her, hoping to conserve some warmth before they stopped for the night.
Two more weeks of uneventful travel brought them to the location that Sephiroth had specified weeks ago on Jyleth's map. Jyleth could not believe what she saw before her. Lying in the isolated mountains, surrounded by untamed wilderness, an immense structure stood. It was still several miles away, on the other side of the valley they now overlooked, but she could see that is was not completed, scaffolding still covering most of the building.
"What is this?" Jyleth asked.
"What I came to find," Sephiroth answered, his face completely blank.
"But what is it?" Jyleth demanded, "Who built it?"
"It was to be a Mako reactor. Shinra was sponsoring it."
"Mako reactor?" Jyleth was very confused. "How could they build here? Why would the build one here? How did they get the supplies?"
Sephiroth gave her a long look, then finally said, "I'll explain on the way there." He led the way the way down the side of the valley.
"Shinra made plans for this reactor several years ago. Airships brought in scouts to find the best site - one with a strong Mako concentration - and when the site was found, the airships also brought in supplies and workers. The reactor was to be finished within a year. However, after just a few months of construction, all communication was lost with the work crew. Every attempt made by Shinra to contact them failed. Shinra sent in more people, but no one returned. At least five different missions were made to find what happened to the original work crew. All those missions failed. Shinra sent me when they lost an airship on the last mission. That is why I had to employ you. They would not risk another airship."
"Why didn't you bring any soldiers with you? Why would Shinra send you alone?"
"I do not have an answer for that."
Jyleth scowled. She didn't like what she was hearing. Shin-ra was a major power in the southern countries, she knew, but their influence had never managed to spread to the frozen north. This lack of Shin-ra presence had been attributed to the fact that no suitable source had been found for their Mako power plants. Now it seemed that Shin-ra had decide it was time expand their dominance over the north as well, without the denizens of the continent being aware of the making of the plant. Jyleth wonder what changed Shin-ra would bring with their Mako energy. Perhaps it would be a good change, despite the covert beginnings. The north's economy might better once they had facilities equal to that of the rest of the world. Still, there was something bothering her about the whole reactor and the Mako energy. . .something she had heard once. . . but she couldn't quite remember. She hoped that the memory would return soon. Unfinished details bothered her a great deal.
They reached the ruins of the half-constructed reactor at twilight. The fading sun set a gloomy cast on the rubble. Jyleth looked at the black interior for a short moment before coming to the conclusion that it would be prudent to camp outside. She didn't trust the shaky looking structure, nor did she know what dwelled within.
"We will camp outside for tonight," Sephiroth said, apparently sharing her sentiment. "We will explore the reactor in the morning."
"We?" Jyleth asked. "Who said I was going in there? My part of this was just to get you here and back. This," she said, gesturing at the reactor remains, "is all yours. I will wait for you at the campsite."
"You will accompany me in the reactor," Sephiroth said, his features blank but his eyes glowed furiously. "I have paid your outrageous fee and you will serve me as I see fit until I release from my service." His hand strayed to the hilt of the Masamune. "Am I understood?"
Jyleth gazed at the hand resting the sword hilt. He could kill her in an instant, she knew, but going in the reactor might very well be the end of her as well. A howl suddenly tore across the area, emanating from their backtrail. Jyleth dropped her staff and pulled her swords loose, hearing the low hiss of the Masamune being drawn as she turned to face the trees behind them. She glanced back at Sephiroth, but his eyes were only for the darkened foliage. Another howl ripped threw the air, only much closer. Jyleth could detect the noise of something large moving toward them. Jyleth took a few step back toward the reactor, placing her even with Sephiroth.
"Is this a gyphon?" Sephiroth asked, not moving his eyes from the direction of the noise.
"No," Jyleth said, "I don't know what this is. It's larger than a gryphon, however." She listened closely to the noise of the approaching creature. "And there might be more than one. I don't know why I didn't see its tracks. Something this big can't hide. . ." The guide trailed off, glancing back at the reactor. "Perhaps we should go in after all. We might find an advantage."
Sephiroth did not look back, but nodded curtly. "I do not relish the idea of fighting these creatures without knowledge or light," he said, slowly backing toward the ruins. Jyleth mirrored him, carefully feeling her way back until her heel struck a large piece of rubble. When she turned to find her way around it, she heard a slight disturbance from within the blackness of the reactor.
"Oh, damn," she muttered, even as a third howl roared over them from a creature just within the shadows of the reactor. Sephiroth whirled to face the new threat, the turned back quickly. Jyleth could barely make out the shape of the creature from the obscurity of the gloomy interior, but she could the creature was at least twice her height.
"Any ideas?" She asked the SOLDIER furtively. He spared a quick glance at her, then looked at something on his arm for a moment, then back once more at the monster advancing from the reactor. He seemed to come to a conclusion, as he shifted the Masamune to a one-handed grip while he fumbled with something on one of his bracers.
"Here," he said, tossing her a piece of green materia, "since you did so well with fire, try this one."
Jyleth easily caught the materia and quickly replaced one of the pseudo-materia with it. Instantly, she felt the knowledge of fire spell two and three times more powerful than the one she had used previously flow threw her. She smiled grimly at the oncoming monster.
"You only have magic for one of the more powerful spells," Sephiroth warned, "use it wisely." The next moment, Jyleth heard a sharp intake of breath from the SOLDIER. She glanced over her should to see that two monsters had emerged from the trees and were now slinking toward them. They were both hideously deformed, but not alike. The first resembled a lizard, as it moved close to ground on legs horizontal to the body. Other appendages that appeared to be half-formed legs or wings sprouted from various parts of the monster's body. Scales glinted like metal armor all along the body of the monster. Each leg ended with a set of three very sharp looking claws. The monster's mouth dripped green saliva from innumerable teeth. Jyleth had no doubt the bite would be venomous. The second monster was a mass of legs and tentacles. It was impossible to determine where the head and other various body parts were. The monster shot lighting at Sephiroth's feet, which was absorbed by a barrier the suddenly appeared around him. Jyleth hurriedly turned back to face the monster from the reactor.
As it came into the pale light, she could discern it was hideously deformed as the others. It stood on four legs, each leg muscled strongly. The front legs were taller and more massive than the rear. Its shoulders were equally massive, sloping down to barbed tail that thrashed viciously in the air. It had two heads, though one was significantly larger than the other. The first head was dog-like, with an elongated snout and large canines. Canines which also dripped venom, Jyleth noted. The second head was frighteningly like that of a human. Its red bulbous eyes gazed at her unblinkingly. Another shot of lighting illuminated the area, and the creature's hide gave off a sickly green glow. A glow, Jyleth thought, not dissimilar from Sephiroth's eyes. She moved forward a few steps, looking for a target on the monster. It used her pause to take the first attack, lunging at her and attempting to maim her with one of it's massive paws. Jyleth dodged easily and responded with a cut at the monster's leg with one sword, and a second cut at the creature's shoulder. Both blows landed deeply, causing the creature to cry out in pain.
For a moment, it limped a few paces away from her, and Jyleth thought she might have crippled it. Then the human-like head took a strong green glow and the monster moved toward her again, fully healed. Jyleth scowled, then decided she had to kill the human-like head first if she hoped to defeat the monster. She had no idea how much magic the monster had, and she did not plan to continue injuring the monster until it ran out of magic. Instead, she focused on her new acquired materia, choosing the most powerful fire spell, and aimed it directly at the human-head. Again, the magic flowed through her the moment the spell begun, unleashing its fury before she was fully aware she had summoned it. The smaller head was engulfed an inferno, then exploded from the heat.
Jyleth ducked around pieces of burning gore and attacked once more at the monster's legs while it was blinded by pain. She successfully sliced through the hide and several layers of muscle, laying the flesh open to the bone. The monster began to wobble, forcing Jyleth to retreat to avoid the risk of having the monster fall on her. It regained its balance however, and the remaining head turned toward her once again. A ruined eye and half the face blistered and falling away gave proof of the power of Jyleth's spell. The good eye remained fixed on her, locking her eyes in its gaze. At the last moment, Jyleth realized the tail was whipping around to strike her. She threw herself to one side, feeling a barb touch her leg and inflict a small ragged wound as the tail pulled back for another strike.
Blood flowed instantly from the wound, staining her clothing and seeping in the ground around her. A slow rage began to creep through her body, sending goosebumps across her skin. She embraced the rage, knowing it would bring her skills and energy she needed. She put one of her swords on the ground, then used her free hand to retrieve a cure vial from a pocket of her cloak. She broke it open with one hand, then tossed to liquid in her mouth, swallowing quickly as she grabbed her sword and shakily got to her feet. As the tail came back, Jyleth stood ready. A moment before the barbs impaled her, she whirled, her swords over her head, and leapt into the air. She brought the sword down sharply on the tail, severing the last several feet from the rest of the tail. The barbed flesh still quivered as it hit the ground.
The moment her feet touched the ground, she turned the face the monster once more. The loss of its tail had loosened its control over balance, and she barely managed to dodge the massive body as it collapsed. Still wary of the claws and teeth, she approached the monster from behind. With a quick lunge, she embedded her swords to the hilt the monster's skull. As she ripped the swords out, the monster gave a last spasm, then was still.
Jyleth turned to see how Sephiroth was fairing. She was surprised to find that he was standing across the rubble, watching her thoughtfully. Both of the monsters he had faced lay in bloody, smoldering heaps behind him.
"Impressive, little one," he said, walking toward her, "I thought for a moment I might have to aide you." A light smirk graced his face as he came to stand beside her, looking at the fallen monster behind her.
"Can you detect if there are any more of these creatures around with your sense magic?" She asked, ignoring his attitude as she wiped her sword clean on a plant leaf that she pulled from a bush beside her.
"No," Sephiroth said after a moment of concentration.
"Fine," Jyleth glance around her, then sheathed her swords and retrieved her staff and pack. She then walked away the area, following the perimeter of the reactor.
"Where are you going?" Sephiroth called out after her.
"We still need a place to camp for the night," she said, stopping and turning back to face him. "And I don't think I'll be camping around these corpses. Maybe we might find a place with a completed wall so that we will something protecting our backs, should another attack come." She resumed her walking, pulling her cloak around her as the sweat she had worked up during the fight began to cool against her skin.
Sephiroth evidently agreed with her reasoning, though he did not say as much when he caught up to her. Together, they walked around the reactor, talking only when they came upon a possibility for a campsite. Jyleth only took Sephiroth's words into consideration because he was familiar with Shin-ra construction, at least with the completed structures, and he had some small knowledge with what was a formidable wall and what was one like to fall on their heads. Finally, they found a site that had a stretch of completed wall the lasted nearly a hundred years each way before falling into rubble. Jyleth searched the area for any signs of the monsters' habitation. Eventually, she was satisfied none had come there recently, although their some old tracks in the area.
"This will do for the night," Jyleth said, dropping her pack next to the wall. "I would suggest you gather what information you need tomorrow and that we leave before dark. I don't want to be in this valley another night."
"I will take as long as I need to finish my investigation," Sephiroth answered curtly, "I was sent here to annihilate the threat so that construction may continue. I will not leave until I have done that. And you," Sephiroth said, placing a gloved hand under her chin and forcing her eyes to meet his, "will accompany me at all times. In the reactor or without." He held her for several long moments, as if expecting her to defy him again.
"I agree it is not a good idea to split up," she replied finally, hoping her answer was satisfactory to him without totally giving in. Sephiroth laughed humorlessly, releasing her.
"Such spirit, for one so young," he murmured as he removed his pack and searched for something to eat. Jyleth glared at him, annoyed at his constant superior attitude. She knew that he could not be much older than her, maybe four years at the most. What right did he have to call her young? Shaking off angry notions, she decided she should focus more on her work and surviving than Sephiroth's attitude.
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