Pathways Of Foreboding Chapter 10
...The Sacrifices That Have Been Made
By Paul Nathans
within seconds, the energies, whether they were Magic, fading Magic that Exor Ra neglected to mention, or other energies, although they were probably the former, deposited the group of thirteen in front of the huge lake southeast of Junon, the two Shinra SOLDIERS Vincent had saved still unconscious.
In front of them, hovering in the middle of the lake, was a huge fish-like beast. They hadn't been sure exactly what they had seen when Creator showed its appearance, now they could tell. Mist flowed around its bottom sections, where tentacles seemed to dangle loose. The whole thing was yellow-orange, and its face was a cross between a huge Molboro's and a Beach Plug's. Its back was like a beach plug, but it had no fins, and no rear end. Instead, its rear end was more and more tentacles, just like its lower section.
Four WEAPONS, the ones Exor Ra had stated were here, were engaged in a battle with the beast, one that seemed to have just begun, since the WEAPONS had probably only just arrived. The Malachite Weapon and the Jade Weapon were blasting from all their turrets, rearing upwards, slashing. Laser blasts erupted from each of their Central Orbs, concentrating, whirling around in spraying patterns. An extra, straight one shot from the Jade Weapon's Orb. The Opal Weapon and the Garnet Weapon blasted arcing beams from their orbs, the Opal Weapon's beams whirling, intertwining, then focusing like the Peridot Weapon's. Each was lashing out with limbs and firing beams from turrets. All five combatants were injured.
Then the four WEAPONS disappeared in flashes of light.
The Pureland Water Entity emitted a loud roar, and its wounds closed. Immediately afterwards, water began to pour from its mouth, splashing into the lake, at incredible speeds. Within seconds the lake had clearly rose in Water Level by seven meters.
"Oh boy," breathed Cloud. "Things are just getting better, aren't they?"
"You're paying us double for this, Reeve, if you want us to stay and fight!" snapped Elena, spinning to face the Android.
"Fine," Reeve answered. "We do need help!"
"There's only one question," put in Yuffie. "We've got nothing here to help us out, and this thing is huge! We don't have any Materia except Elena's Flame Materia, and I doubt we could hold that thing off with it! Its water, remember!?"
"It seems to be trying to flood this lake," Cid put in. "Why the freakin' darned heck would it wanna' do that, though?"
"It was sent here to flood the Planet, and over the course of 60 years nearly succeeded in doing so," answered Red XIII. "That much of the Pureland Legend is clear. Someone managed to destroy it, but only because they could deliver mass destruction within a single blow, something we aren't capable of."
The beast, slowly swiveling around, now noticed them, and emitted a roar of outrage.
"Too late for speculation!" snapped Barret. "We's got another freak of nature to make pieces out of!" He moved into a battle stance, the others following...
...and Yuffie threw her Conformer. It whizzed through the air, biting into the thing, slicing through it, and returning. Barret began pumping out blast after blast of Energy-Bullets, while Reno, Rude, and Elena unleashed the full force of their Laser Guns, Elena occasionally risking a Flaming Blow.
The thing tried whipping out its tendrils, only finding its opponents were out of range.
"You'll have to do better than that, fish-face!" jeered Cid.
Once again his remark was accepted, as the thing activated a Flare Star. None of them were shielded, and they all crashed to the ground, armor on fire. Yuffie activated a Megalixir almost immediately, suddenly finding her bag burst apart, jagged shards of ice coming from it. The Flare Star appeared again, and this time its waves and center froze, crashing on the agile ninja before her reflexes could move her to safety.
Or rather, crashing onto her shuriken. She spun, sending the icicles sailing. The group had to duck, stopping their assault, to dodge, and the Entity's wounds healed. It roared, and its water was immediately channeled forwards. It froze, and it began swinging the ice like a sword. Elena used a Flame Beater, shattering the ice nearest them, then slammed one of her TurboEthers on her Materia.
She cast a Pelting Flame Spell, doing nothing but annoying the great beast. It glared, and her Materia froze and exploded, sending the Turk to the ground, unconscious.
"Rude, evasive maneuvers 4069!" snapped Reno.
Rude obliged, picking up Elena and moving her away from the battle, firing Flare Shots behind him in the case of oncoming attacks.
The Pureland Water Entity opened its mouth again. Acid waters blasted out. The group, with the exception of Red XIII, managed to dodge. Nanaki ended up getting part of his tail seared, though. He roared and activated a Cosmo Memory. The fires that heated the Nuclear Blast were put out by eruptions of water.
Balls of water floated over the group, shattering, turning into ice. They moved away.
"How's it doing this!" shouted Tifa. "I feel nothing that shouldn't be here around it, yet its clearly using Magic in the form of Creator's, Kefka's, Chaos', and Exor Ra's!"
"Its called the Pureland Water Entity," stated Red XIII. "It apparently is able to generate magics by itself, the reason why it is easily recuperating. It could put up a fight for weeks without tiring, simply waiting until we tire, then finish us off! If we got close, it would destroy us! We have no great powers, so it could wipe us out here!"
"You took Exor Ra and the rest of us to the All-Plane, or it did, or something like that!" snapped Cid. "I don't remember how we got there exactly, I don't know who told us its name, that whole battle was just too confusing for me!"
"Exor Ra's nature allowed it!" retorted the warrior. "It was something that definately should not have been, therefore, I could use the powers of our tribe to place it where all things like that go, and move myself, and/or the rest of us, there! Either that, or the Entity moved us there to be able to fight without risking destroying the Planet before it could escape! I'm still not quite sure exactly what happened then! Grandfather just appeared in my mind and told me to do something, and I won by someone telling me to do something else!"
Cid sliced apart another block of ice and ducked as a Ice Star tried to crush him. The Entity seemed to be starting out with simple spells, testing the strength of its opponents, before activating all it could muster.
"That's just darned great!" swore Barret. "If we had our Materia..."
"The thing has a greater range of sensing things than even Creator," spoke Tifa, ducking a storm of ice shards and a large blast of acid rain. "Creator relied on its beliefs, had it known its power, we would've surely been destroyed, as we almost were anyway! Kefka was a frantic fighting beast, not human, not spiritual being! That's why we survived! We found their flaws and exploited them! Chaos we found none, there our Materia kept us alive!"
Barret activated his Catastrophe, burning through a huge blast of ice. The beam's range wasn't large enough to reach the Entity itself, though.
"We can't exploit this thing's weakness, though," stated Cait Sith.
"Just watch a pro!" laughed Yuffie, readying an All Creation. A Freeze Spell appeared, leaving her entrapped within the Ice. She burst free before its explosion and attempt to crush her would activate, but that used up the All Creation. Already having drained her Shinobi Powers too their Limits in the last several days, she felt them crackle and become useless.
"This thing is definately what Exor Ra said it was!" remarked Cid, chopping apart the front of another stream of Ice. They were quickly increasing, arcing behind them, cutting apart all accesses to battle. As many as they would destroy would be replaced.
Vincent reached for the ground. "I've known about this for a while, I know what Hojo injected me with!" He reached his golden claw to the ground.
Cloud gasped. "No!" he shouted. "It hasn't been tested, you may perish!"
"Then that is the risk," the former Turk stated. "That may be my fate."
He punched his claw into the ground, and began to concentrate. Energies began to appear, electric energies, crackling, focus around Vincent. He gritted his teeth as his body was seared with the pain, but continued to gather more.
He finally unleashed the electricity, which sailed through the air, punching through the front of the ice dome the Water Entity had nearly finished. It sailed straight through the air and struck the thing in the face. It screamed, moving backwards. Not wounded, however, it couldn't heal itself. It was a Water Being, a conductor, and was a conductor for electricity.
The thing realized it was now in danger, and began launching huge ice blocks, casting Freezes, Freeze Stars, blasting out acid, even forms of normal water, flailing about. The others leapt away, but the Entity could seemingly sense where they were headed, and had them stunned on the ground, all but Cloud and Vincent unable to move, trapped in Ice Blocks that were part of the ground. Cloud managed to free himself with his Ultima Weapon, while Vincent had simply channeled electricity to block the incoming blasts.
No more attacks would be coming, yet. The thing was now trying to heal itself, and obviously failing.
Cloud chopped his friends free, and helped them stand, then turned.
"If only there were some way to get in close," he muttered. "If we force it to sense the immediate area, we can move around in far range and perhaps do something."
"That won't help!" snapped Barret. "Electricity seems to be the only thing that can hurt it, and only Vincent seems to be able to channel it!"
The Entity, realizing that it wouldn't be able to heal, and would soon perish, began unleashing accurate Freezes. Cloud was blasted with the force of ten cars, and crashed to the ground. The blow would've slain a normal human, but he'd been through so much, his body was trained to take blows like these and survive. Well, at least for now, he might not survive if he didn't get help, fast.
His head propped up against a rock, he cried out as he saw similar fates happen to all but Vincent. But he was unable to, his voice cracked. Already he was beginning to lose focus, seeming detached from all around him.
The being would fall, but it had taken them with it...
...and then a voice.
"No...it won't happen."
That was Vincent's voice.
Almost with a sickening crunch, Cloud was jerked back to reality.
"Vincent no," he gasped. The flow of time around both of them halted, and he knew with dreadful certainty what the former Turk was going to do.
He turned, the Water Entity pausing, gathering its strength again.
"I have to," the former Turk whispered. "Its the only way."
"Why?" Cloud got out. "Its going down? It won't be able to hold out much longer, so it doesn't need a final blast of energies."
"If its not destroyed no, it'll take your lives, the lives of all the others," Vincent sighed. "Once before, Cloud, I couldn't make a difference when trying to save the life of two people I cared for. Now its happening again, only this time I can prevent it."
"It may perish before it can attack again," said Cloud.
"That's a chance that I can't take," spoke Vincent. "Each life holds something important, something that gives this Planet a reason to stay alive. You shouldn't all perish if there's a way to prevent it, even by losing another."
"Vincent " Cloud began.
He turned to Reno.
"I'm not sure if you remember me," he said. "Or remember what we all used to be." Reno managed a slight shaking of his head in response. "I'm Vincent Valentine, a former Turk."
Reno drew in a sharp breath.
"I remember " he said. "Back when we were just bounty hunters, but had some form of conscience. I know you still do, or you wouldn't have rescued the others, or at least helped to do so. You're not truly what you think you are. We were mercenaries, we worked for who payed us the most, but only if they offered a job that seemed right."
Reno looked blankly at him.
"I want you to go back to that, or stop being like that," he said. "And don't become wrapped up in one job because its good, because it could cause trouble from within. You found that out at Shinra."
Reno nodded. "I don't know where we went wrong, but we can become what we were. Or at least, try to do so."
"And tell Rude to keep any form of wine drink at least out of a ten mile radius near him!" he snapped.
Reno managed a brief chuckle, and nodded weakly again.
The Water Entity had its energies focused, and was about to unleash them. Vincent gave one final nod to his friends, then turned.
The events of the next few seconds went by slowly, even as they had when Aeris had been slain, like a slow-motion video, impossible to see fast enough to prevent knowing clearly.
Vincent's cybernetic hand shot into the ground, and he focused his other one at the Pureland Water Entity, clenching both into fists, literally trying to rip electric energies out of the ground. They tore through his body like nuclear waves of energy, ripping apart his lungs, his arteries, destroying all parts of his body, even as his outer skin began to crackle and tear apart.
"This is for all the lives that are still living, that they may continue to live, find their joys, their happiness, and prevent demons and monsters like this, from ever threatening a life again!"
He screamed, even as his body was reduced to a charred piece of rubble, and kept on screaming, kept alive by the Energies as they arced outwards from him, so large, so intense, that they crackled over the whole side of the lake. The Pureland Water Entity released its blast of frozen ice, energies just waiting to be released by the ice bursting pulsing. The incoming blast was shattered, and the Flare Stars erupted there. The enormous amounts of electricity, lighting up the area for miles around, crashed into the colossus.
The lightning flew through the beast, ripping its own vital organs apart. It shrieked, and vanished in a thunderclap.
The electricity disappeared, and Vincent slowly toppled into the lake, gently falling, his body twisting. Cloud somehow found some strength to move, and reached out for his hand in the hope he could be saved. All he succeeded in doing was looking out over the edge of the precipice before the destroyed body of the former Turk plummeted into the water with a calm splash.
At the end, Vincent had smiled once again.
Within seconds, he felt the refreshing energies of a Megalixir Potion, obviously from Rude. Before, he hadn't had the strength to hold back tears, or to even cry. Now he just collapsed, all his fears crashing back in on him.
Someone close to him had perished again, and he could've stopped it.
He felt a light hand on his shoulder, and knew it was Tifa. "Cloud " she began.
"Leave him be, Tifa!" spoke Barret gruffly.
Both of them turned to him in astonishment. "What!?" Cloud cried in astonishment.
Barret pointed over their shoulders.
The multicolored beams of light came blasting through the air, smashing into the lake, causing the water to splash upwards, boiling and hissing.
"Vincent gave us the chance to live!" Barret snapped. "We have to honor that, we have to live! That other thing that Creator made has to be firing these, and they're comin' at us!"
It was true. The energy blasts were hitting closer and closer to where they were, and still moving towards them.
"That other thing," spoke Cid. "Its gotta' be that freakin' other peace of junk!"
A group of blasts impacted in front of them, and Cloud hurled himself out of the way, coming up in a crouch. "Darn you!" he shouted out. "Whatever you are, your servant just took the life of one of our friends!"
In response, another rainbow blast crashed into the ground in front of him, and the exploding dirt sent him falling backwards, arms covering his face. He was up again, sword in his hand. "You want to fight us!?" he shouted. "Well, I'm sick of it! Sick of the fighting, the misery, the pain! Come on, hurry up and get this over with!"
He could hear a laugh coming from somewhere around him, and they disappeared in another flash of light, reappearing above the lake south of where Lucrecia's Home had been, hovering in the air.
Below them, there were three charred bodies, obviously three of the WEAPONS. The Jade Weapon, the Aquamarine Weapon, and the Lapis Weapon were the only ones alive. The two latter blasted with their artillery, performing complex slashes. The Aquamarine Weapon focused its Orb, and a huge diamond-shaped piece of energy formed, blasting out. It exploded upon contact with the floating, many-headed beast that was obviously the other thing Creator had 'made.' The Lapis Weapon fired from its Orbs in several consecutive bursts, each forming, and blasting out bluish-red light. Each connected with the beast, which simply laughed, and unleashed a swirling burst of Flare energies. The WEAPONS staggered back, and it charged forwards, spinning around like an out-of-control top, slicing into the three WEAPONS to bits. The Jade Weapon intercepted the spin, blasting it with its cannons, and the thing moved back. The Aquamarine Weapon collapsed, destroyed, as did the Lapis Weapon, only it was stunned. The floating beast sent out its own pulsing energies at the Jade Weapon, stunning it, too.
"Care to try a ninth time!" it mocked.
"Try dealing with us, first!" shouted Barret. "You's got a lot to pay for!"
The beast faced them, and they could see the gargantuan thing clearly. Ten times their size, something that was becoming almost a pattern in the huge beasts they were seeing, it was a huge mass of writhing, serpentlike heads, 20 in total. 5 more could be viewed, folded into the enormous monster, and the ovalish beast they connected to was also a head, with barely-recognizable features on it.
"You're the ones who took my Entity down again!" it screamed. "We get revived only to perish once more, or at least it does!" It paused, sucking in breaths. "I, however, have survived, without a single wound, from these beasts! An immortal, ultra-powerful being such as I will not fall again!"
"You were alive before!?" Cait Sith queried.
"Indeed," the thing spoke. "I am Xagor, Master of the Pureland Universe!"
It 'grinned' at them. "I have you suspended, its simply a matter of destroying you! You have no contact with Pureland Artifacts, so I am invincible to you!"
"What is it about ultra-powerful beings that seems to urge most of them to brag," muttered Yuffie under her breath.
"The Planet cannot suffer, for I am not of it, and of it, with enough power to keep it alive!" Xagor roared. "I can sense the powers here I'd been planning to go to when I first tried to exit the Pureland! The Pureland Water Entity was supposed to prepare my way, so I didn't go with it! I worked with it this time, but now I'll have to revert to the usual way of doing things! As they say 'If you want something done right do it yourself!!!!!'"
"Look, I'm tired of all this senseless fighting!" snapped Cloud. "Stop bragging and start fighting, unless you think you can take our lives by talking to us!"
The being nodded. "As you wish! In a few seconds you will no longer have to fight or do anything ever again!"
Cloud attempted to lunge forwards, and only now realized that they were unable to move, and that this Xagor was already focusing its energies. He spun around, twice, each time in the opposite direction, looking for his comrades. All but Elena were here.
"You wanted to fight!" laughed Xagor. "You're helpless!"
Cloud struggled, chopping with his Ultima Weapon, only to find that the barriers that held them moved with it. They were out of their league now. There would be no last chances, no aid coming from unexpected quarters, no deux ex machina. They had no Materia, nothing even resembling it. They were on their own against a being perhaps stronger than Creator.
"I can revive those with chaotic forces similar to my own!" it laughed. "I know of Chaos, I can restore him once more! And now that I'm in tune with this Universe, I can revive others! The cycle won't end, ever!"
Cloud just glared.
"I've absorbed the history of this Planet! You have no idea how many lives have been cost, how many times people have thought that the threats have ended, only to be faced with another 50-100 Years Later! Exor Ra restored Chaos, Kefka/God Combination, and Creator to further destabilize the Planet, so it would be destroyed! Creator 'created' myself and the Pureland Water Entity, actually just restoring them, although he could create, to show his powers! And Exor Ra knew the pathway to truly existing lies in the Dark Star, and began to search for it!"
Cloud continued to glare, Xagor continued to gather his energies.
"But why was Exor Ra created?" Xagor laughed again. "Because of Shinra! Their Makoro Reactor at Gongaga gave birth to a freak that could only comprehend destruction, that would've destroyed the Planet by destabilizing it! It was forced away, but poisoned the WarMech sent to destroy it, making Lifestream Poisoning in such a way Exor Ra was born! The Entity, rocketing away, started to gain knowledge from its surroundings, and knew how to achieve destruction and help Exor Ra! Jenova has been destroyed, its your own greed, your own power, that's created this!"
"Not the WEAPONS, foo'!" snapped Barret.
"The Shinra unearthed Jenova! Peace really had come, there would have been no more disasters, my adversaries in Pureland kept peace there, but the Shinra had to retrieve Jenova, to test how far they could go! They had to build the Makoro Reactors to show their abilities, that created the Entity! They had to revive the WarMechs to destroy it, to fix their own problems! That they did, but something just as bad, or worse, appeared! Your race is the sole source of human problems!"
"NOW do you see the complete reason for AVALANCHE to do what it does!?" Barret snapped to Cloud.
Cloud slowly nodded.
"Unfortunately, you won't live long enough to pass this lesson onto others!"
Cloud clenched his fists. Most Limit Breaks could be performed either in a concentrated mood, or in an angry mood. If it was because of the latter, most barriers on how the body could move could be broken by the amounts of energies unleashed. Limit Breaks reflected someone's ability to the core, Cloud used SwordTechniques, Barret blasted energies, Tifa used her fists in concentrated energies, Red XIII called upon the powers of his tribe, as Aeris had. Vincent had used the abilities Hojo had given him, Yuffie used the powers of her Tribe, Cid used his abilities with machines as energies, and Cait Sith used machines combined with Materia.
Cloud managed to blast forwards, his concentration and anger pushed to what must've been Yuffie's level when they'd faced off against the 'God Combination' that protected Kefka. The barriers around him were shattered, and he found himself on Xagor, leaping around and slashing wildly, the pure energies of his sword once again aiding him. Xagor screamed, unleashing its UltraFlare back at Cloud, and they collided with the 'God.' He absorbed them, healing the wounds, but Cloud was unstoppable. He just slashed more and more, leaping up and coming down, when done with his pattern, he resumed.
"We're not completely helpless!" grinned Barret, charging up his gun. Xagor, defending himself against Cloud with magical shields, thus lessening the damage he was being given, still noticed this, and a Tera Flare was sent at Barret. Cait Sith spun his Slot Machine, accessing Random Summon. The energy patterns switched to Ultimate End, and a dark circle appeared below Xagor.
Red XIII, using timing as always, used a Cosmo Memory to cancel out the Tera Flare, then activated another one as a huge blast of magic crashed into him.
"I will not be denied a base at which to become Master of all Universes!" screamed Xagor. "I will destroy them all, they will become what I want!"
"Shaddup'!" snapped Cid. He had moved his concentration to blasting energy patterns that would signal the Highwind, and couldn't move it back. So he just twirled his spear, around and around, and then spun, lashing it forwards. The Ultimate End took Xagor down, and Cloud leapt into the air, the energies he had been given when attempting to join SOLDIER keeping him up there. Xagor appeared, outraged, destroying the Spiritual Warriors that had attacked him.
Cait Sith accessed his All Over, and a pink skull of energy was channeled around Xagor, ripping through his body. He was strong enough to resist being completely destroyed by it, and was shocked as it actually cut deeply into him. His five remaining heads reared up and sent out electric shockwaves, shorting out the Toy Box. Cid's movement with the spear added to the momentum of the energies that held him, and they ripped free, propelling into Xagor. Without extra energies, he failed to hurt the Destroyer, and was blasted with a Shadow Flare.
Rude tossed up a Megalixir, and Xagor ripped it into pieces, latching onto each piece of sparkling energy and turning it into the energy patterns given off the access a Heartless Angel, tearing wounds into all of the combatants. Cloud stumbled backwards, still in mid-motion, and cleaved his way fully through one of Xagor's heads.
"I guess you underestimated our abilities, huh?" gasped Yuffie weakly.
Xagor let out a bellow of pain, and extended white, superheated energies. They flowed out, surrounding the whole area. It didn't take much for each member of the group to realize what Xagor had in mind.
Rude reached into his Item Sack and smashed his last Megalixir, healing their wounds. Xagor glared at them, and all of their possessions began to burn with swirling flames. Barret canceled the being's concentration by blasting out a Catastrophe Ray. He withdrew it when he saw it wasn't doing anything, realizing the obviously only weapon-like energies of this Universe could harm the beast.
Cloud dove into his Omnislash again, tearing through Xagor's main head, straight into the center, where the heart of this beast had to be. He ripped through a small section, seeing a portion of what had to be the 'brain' of the beast, and plunged his sword into it.
Xagor bellowed, and ripped Cloud out by placing him in energies again, even as he did to Cid, and flung them back in their original positions. Red XIII tried to focus a Cosmo Memory, yet this time he was completely exhausted, and couldn't concentrate those energies. The Megalixirs had rejuvenated them, but Red XIII had completely spent his energies. They'd won a victory of sorts.
And yet, they were helpless
each group member watched in astonishment as all of Xagor's wounds healed, and the chopped-off head was restored. All 26 heads were viewable, and any second Xagor would drop them into the sizzling white discus, ending their lives.
Cloud tried to pull up strength for another Omnislash, failing miserably.
"Oh, please," muttered Cid. "My luck hasn't failed me yet, it can't this time."
Barret glared at Cid, then spun around as he heard a roaring sound from where the Lapis Weapon had fallen. Xagor, AVALANCHE, and the Turks all turned as the WEAPON attempted to fly away from where it was, true to its nature, attempting to escape. It was caught in the White Discus, and reared backwards, emitting a trademark shriek-roar.
Then it exploded, even as the Ultimate Weapon had, a huge white sphere suddenly appearing with a thunderclap as the WEAPON split and fell below. It punched through the mountain, and almost into the ground, but it happened to be curving in a way millimeters below the explosion, thus preventing it from being destroyed. And the mountains, sturdiest on the Planet, probably, were shaken, but not destroyed. The energies had to find some momentum, and the WEAPON, in its last breath, gave it a place to go.
The miles-wide explosion almost reached the combatants that only seconds before had moved that huge length by pushing their abilities to the extreme, and concentrating them, as true Limit Breaks. As before, the white sphere was suddenly replaced with another thunderclap by a huge black sphere, then disappeared with a final thunderclap, almost in front of the combatants, who had instinctively covered their eyes. They opened them to see Xagor halfway-fallen-apart. Its extra heads were in pieces, and they were dangling from the main body, also almost in pieces. They were still attached by cartilage, though.
The Jade Weapon, which had been taller than the height of the discus Xagor extended, seemed to sense the loss of its comrade, and stood, ripping through the discus. Xagor had been exposed by exploding energies from its insides, now the Jade Weapon simply lunged forwards, blasting into it while unleashing all its lasers and energies.
Xagor, already healing, blasted out its arsenal of Spells at the WEAPON. It punctured the cyborg all the way through, only serving to encourage it more. It now knew it wouldn't survive, and ripped into the bellowing God, tearing it apart, and blasting at it, also cutting through the discus around the area. Soon only a few wisps of the discus remained, and the two combatants continued their mortal struggle. Its hold on AVALANCHE was released, and they began plummeting towards the ground, even as the WEAPON cleared out the rest of the discus in case it would be brought into Xagor's energy blasts.
"Blast it, you darned WEAPON, help us out for once!" shouted Cid.
Whether it was chance, luck, coincidence, its own will, or something else, the WEAPON seemed to hear them. A huge tornado appeared below them, whisking them high up into the sky as the two beasts continued to duke it out.
Seconds later, each delivered a fatal blow to its adversary, and one bellowed, while the other screech-roared, before they both exploded.
And above, the wind continued to whip its passengers around, moving in one direction, then circling around in another. Yuffie, as usual, was screaming and clutching her stomach, and gradually the group began to end up on opposite sides of the tornado, which was still moving.
"When's this thing gonna' stop!" shouted Barret.
"I don't know!" answered Cait Sith. "But without the WEAPON, I doubt we'll get a gentle landing!" He was trying to activate his rockets, which had been shorted out along with his Slot Machine.
"I just want a landing!" shouted Yuffie.
"Then grab onto the next solid thing that's firmly attached to the ground!" shouted Cid. "This thing ain't gonna' stop until it does so naturally, if ever!"
"Its not completely natural in origin, and hasn't been told to stop!" called Red XIII. "Yet part of it is natural, so this thing could change the weather patterns around the world, and not stop for months!"
"Not if I have anything to say about it!" shouted Cloud, somehow managing to focus his Finishing Touch. He let it extend, and flow in the opposite direction of the winds. They mixed, and immediately split, ripping some of the group one way, while some started to move the other.
As the twister began to snap, Cloud could see the new cyclone's destination, a jagged precipice. Both were heading at impossible speeds, and as of now, they were suspended in this pocket of air, held up.
At least, for seconds.
The Turks ended up in the original, as did all of the others but Tifa and Cid.
"Clooouddddddddddddd!" she shrieked as she was ripped away from the rest of them. Cloud ripped out his hand, and grabbed onto her, yanking her into their cyclone, as Red XIII grabbed onto Cid's arm with his teeth and dragged him in. Both tornadoes, though, weren't going anywhere, and circled each other, like positives and negatives, before the winds ripped them apart, creating an even larger gap.
The group managed to latch hands as a third twister appeared, blasting the two apart. Rude and Reno were the slowest, used to all conditions but this, and ended up whisked away at incredible speeds. Cloud shouted their names, but they had already been thrown across the ocean towards the lake southeast of Junon. Elena's unconscious body was picked up and tossed away like a rag doll for several miles before colliding with the grass, while Rude and Reno settled down, having fainted from the diziness of this.
The other two tornadoes were flung away, one crashing into the jagged rocks and dissipating, not able to climb the hills, the other, having nowhere to go, whisked the group far north, depositing them on the uppermost snowy peninsula north of where the mountains that held the Northern Crater inside were.
And as Red XIII had predicted, the tornado effected the already windy weather patterns of the destroyed Whirlwind Maze that had existed atop the North Crater, and the Lifestream Energies of part of the whirlwind began having strange effects on the weather in the center of the Crater.
For seconds Cloud just remained lying in the snow.
His muscles ached, his bones ached, as far as he knew, his whole body ached.
"Blasted way to go from one place to another!" snapped Cid, forcing himself up. "If I hadn't lost the Highwind this wouldn't'a happened, but the blasted thing had to crash on me!" He launched into a string of curses.
Cloud moaned, slowly forcing himself up. None of them had their armor, well, except himself and Yuffie, who'd been lugging the others' gear around. At least they'd managed to retrieve their Weapons before ending up in that strange place fighting Exor Ra, which had worked to their advantage.
He clenched his fists and slammed them into the snow, looking out over the water's edge. "Why " he moaned. "First Aeris, now Vincent Why?"
He collapsed on the ground, face still overlooking the cold water a few feet below. "Why?" he whispered to the air.
Tifa's hand fell on his shoulder, and he turned around to see her looking at him concernedly, not even noticing her own wounds, which she'd received as the tornado had dropped them here. All of the people without armor seemed to have been wounded by the drop, which, thankfully, hadn't been very large.
"Vincent " he said quietly, sitting up.
Tifa let out a long sigh. She remembered how numb Cloud had seemed to be after Aeris had perished. He'd led the group, but hardly said anything. He'd just fought with cold concentration, and led them after Sephiroth, not speaking very often. While climbing Gaia's Cliff, the others had even had to prevent him from falling off ledges in a few places, or so she'd heard. Barret and Red XIII had gone up with him, and it was both of them that managed to come up with using the boulder to clear their way. Cloud had looked for passages, he'd just pointed them out, though.
She'd manage to get through to him shortly after catching up to him, on the beautiful grassy ledges at the southern section of the Crater's Top, just before the Shinra had appeared. Vincent wasn't a close to him as Aeris had been, but still
"Freakin' Shinra!" swore Barret, unleashing a torrent of bullets into the mountainside, almost as enraged as he had been when Jesse, Biggs, and Wedge had perished, and he thought Marlene had too. "Kenek thinks I can't stop every last one a' them! I'll tear through each one with me own hand's if I have'ta'!"
He unleashed another group of bullets, letting out a roar of anger.
Cait Sith quickly made a dial, then hung up.
"What the heck was that for?" asked Yuffie.
"I left a message for Elena," he replied. "She's to contact the other Turks and tell them their job is done, for now, at least. This is, provided any are alive."
"Darn IT!!!!!" bellowed Barret. "Them throwin' away lives like its trash, regarding the Planet like its a piece a' junk!!!!!" He unleashed yet another barrage of bullets, paused, and unleashed even another torrent.
Cloud looked at the group, holding back the tears that threatened to come to his eyes once again, and said the only thing he knew that would keep his mind off the grief that was rushing back at him, and would get the others to pay attention to something else. "You were partially right, Barret, when you said why he gave his life! But not just for us, for everyone! If its like you said, if its up to us to put an end to the Shinra, we have to figure out a way out of here!"
He lowered his head and looked at the ground. "Except I don't know how."
"He picked that up from me," Barret muttered to Cid.
"He didn't show it, but we know he cared," muttered Cloud. "We had to press on after Aeris perished. We'll do so again, if we have to!"
Tifa sighed in relief, although she wasn't sure he was truly trying to keep grief from coming back. He'd made a speech like this the morning after Aeris had been slain. The rest of them had thrown away their grief overnight, except her. She'd been hurt, probably even more than Cloud, but had also been worried about what Cloud had been going through.
"Barret," spoke Cait Sith. "First of all, if we get out of here, you do need to remember that Kenek's right about how many there are. Unless someone moves into his place immediately after we take out the Corporation and shoves new ways of life-pardon my language-down the throats of any sympathizers with the Shinra Bastards,-others will just rise up, and either reinstate the Corporation, or use Midgar's technology as something else."
All eyes turned towards Cait Sith.
The Android's eyes widened, and he backed up.
"Oh, no!" he said. "I'd agreed to clear your name, I thought the oppressed would quell any uproars and stop Shinra Sympathizers from doing this! I'm not capable of doing things like this!"
"Yet you're capable of spying!" snapped Barret, suddenly annoyed. "Look, Mr. I'm-So-Clever, you made a speech about how the lives of the citizens in Midgar mattered a lot to you, yet you rely on us! Guess what, you too have to stand up and do somethin' about it!!!!!"
"Barret's right, Reeve," Red XIII spoke, addressing the man who operated the Android. "We've all had to face up to things that we didn't want to. Can you?"
Cait Sith lowered his head. "I'll try," he sighed, before switching to a sharp tone of voice. "But don't think that's a definite yes! The days of heroes and people who made a difference are gone, this civilization is all that remains! We're no different than any others that fight for what we fight for, except we're doing something about it!"
"The only question is, how do we get out to do something?" asked Tifa.
Red XIII turned to Cait Sith. "I believe that your Slot Machine is shorted out," he stated matter-of-factly.
Cait Sith nodded. "I couldn't even focus energies for a Toy Box. The jetpack is shorted out, even my Dice Blaster."
"Chocobos?" suggested Nanaki. "How do ours get from the Farm to the Gold Saucer in seconds, when they're halfway around the world?"
"A modified Choco/Mog Materia. Its placed in a special device that hooks up to others in the Chocobo Stables there and in the Chocobo Field. That's in the case that someone that currently has Chocobos wants to race them, and forgot to bring them." Cait Sith sighed. "Therefore, that's not an option."
"Speaking of Chocobos, how long was our rents?" asked Yuffie.
"Standard 10,000 Gil is two years for each Stable, I believe," the Android said.
"So I guess we're gonna' hafta' climb!" moaned Cid.
"In the morning," stated Tifa, taking a Tent out of her Item Sack an unraveling it. The fabrics it was composed of let it settle gently to the ground in the form of a large Tent. "We need to change, too, and redistribute our goods." The usual way they'd change from clothes to armor in Tents was for the others to wait outside the Tent while the person inside changed.
"While Shinra has all our Materia strapped up to the Sister Ray to amplify it!?" gasped Cloud unbelievingly. "They may have the most powerful weapon in the world now, and this time we're waiting to go after them!?"
Yuffie launched into a small string of curses.
"Its almost night anyway," stated Tifa. "And I doubt they'll be able to set up quickly, not without being on a day-watch basis keeping the Onyx Weapon away. So I think we have time for a good sleep for once!"
The rest of the group slowly nodded in acknowledgment.
(Its almost here.)
(Calm down, Aisha. Anticipation won't make the thing come any faster.)
(I can't help it! It knows of the Dark Star and of the Intertwining Planets! The same thing that carried Mu around, that flowed around this world before Chaos' defeat, is returning at last!)
(You don't mean Resles will appear too!?)
Aisha rolled her eyes upon hearing the real name of the Planet.
(We know what happened there, how it was formed out of the disruption of the Crystals. That's why we only have two moons. What became part of Resles vanished, then the Light Moon vanished, but returned.)
(How does this concern us?)
(The Dark Star arrives at LAST!!!!!)
(WHAT DOES THAT HAVE TO DO WITH US!?)
Aisha laughed, swinging her head. (Of course, dear sister! I had to experiment before we could be sure we could truly make something such as Jenova!)
(How many days until the creature gets here!?)
(Its speed seems to have changed. I'd say at least one more day. Then we can begin using it as well!) She broke out laughing again, her eyes burning with a crazed fire, her body flaming with a strange type of ecstasy.
Cloud sat outside, his feet dangling over the water.
Unable to sleep, he'd walked outside to the cape. The small section just at the tip seemed to have momentarily cleared of snow. His memories wandered as he watched the beautiful sky, as he remembered all Vincent had done.
Cloud had pitied Sephiroth. At least in a small degree, but hadn't really thought he could help him. He knew from his False Memories he 'had' tried, but also knew from them he was probably beyond saving. Yet Vincent had kept trying to look for his good qualities, had shared Sephiroth's sorrow, and up until when he had summoned Meteor, had hoped they could get through to him. He'd been just as kind as the rest of them, but like Barret, Cid, and perhaps even Yuffie, had different ways of showing it.
A tear fell.
The Tent had worked as it usually did, refreshing him. It hadn't done any healing, though, since the flaps up above hadn't been moved to activate the Healing Energies. They were a custom adopted since ancient times, when someone discovered fabrics that actually radiated healing energies. Within a year, all major Inns had been outfitted with these, and many houses. By the end of five years, it had been taken further, and the fabrics were woven into Tents, types that didn't give out as much, Cabins, Tents that stood up that way, and the most expensive, Tents that had multi-rooms, so they were Houses. The extra fabric gave out more energies. There was still the matter of moving the switches, though. The techniques grew stronger, around 1,000 Years ago they were strong enough to cure mortal wounds if placed in fast enough. There were just Tents and Sleeping Bags then, the former as good as the Houses, since the fabrics had developed, the latter for one person, so the precious things didn't need to be wasted. As Tents grew more common, though, usage of the special Sleeping Bags were discarded, and the techniques faded down to what they were now. Still, they could cure all wounds for everyone inside as fast as Megalixirs, anything up to mortal wounds, which Megalixirs, like other special potions, which had developed and became less-useful, in type and ability, did.
Except from Houses to Tents, their energies were only effective once, then they were drained clean. People hadn't figured out how to fix that, yet.
"So you couldn't sleep either, huh?" came a voice from behind him.
He was about to turn when Tifa sat down next to him, her legs dangling over the water. She was clad in her usual blue nightclothes, which were blowing in the slight breeze. She stretched and moved into a comfortable position.
"Not really," answered Cloud.
"Vincent?" It wasn't a question, at least, not in the strictest sense of the word.
"I thought so," Tifa responded. She took a deep breath, then went on. "That's the same reason I couldn't sleep." She tossed her hair back, and sighed. "I've been wondering "
"Yeah?" Cloud gave her a reassuring smile.
She smiled back. " I've been wondering what they'd all be thinking now Of us, of our friends, of how we've managed to keep going through times like this."
"Our parents, Zack and Aeris," she responded. "They're in the Lifestream, but they'd be looking down through the stars. I wonder if Vincent's found any of them yet? Or Lucrecia."
"Somehow, I think he has."
Tifa sighed, and leaned back on his shoulder. Cloud slipped his arm around her waist, and she settled in, sighing again, this time happily.
"You miss them all, don't you?" she asked.
"My parents, of course!" he answered. "I miss all those who perished in Nibleheim five years ago. The Innkeeper Estensa, the old guy who used to watch all outside activites, acting as an information broker." He sighed, letting peaceful memories of his childhood drift back. "Of course I miss them. And Zack probably more than anybody, except maybe Aeris."
Tifa decided not to mention that Aeris wasn't exactly at peace right now.
"Zack, Aeris, Vincent, they were all people I cared about," he said. "But in a way, each provided us with something else to fill our lives. In the long run, if Zack hadn't perished, we might not be here today. Aeris gave us all a future, Vincent showed us the true meaning of selflessness."
Tifa sleepily blinked her eyes. "Its nice to know you truly do have people who care for you in this world." She yawned, her eyes closing.
"Cloud I " she began, but her eyelids drooped shut before she could finish. Cloud just smiled, and sat back, dropping his head on her shoulder.
It wasn't long before they were both asleep again.
"Okay, gang, we're ready!" snapped Barret. "Stand on alert!"
The group was outfitted in their adventuring gear again, ready to move out.
"We're climbing these cliffs up to the North Crater, then circling through the forest! We'll scale down Gaia's Cliff, make our way across Ice Gate Glacier, and north to Icicle Lodge! Then we move around, down the mountains, to the Forgotten Capital, and southwest to Bone Village! South of there is where we left Cid's Tiny Bronco! Once we've got it, we're going to Midgar, and taking down some punks!"
"Are you sure that's fast enough?" Yuffie asked.
"We could try to catch a Chocobo south of Icicle Inn, but they're hard to catch, and we could just waste valuable time looking for them, and getting them under control, so we can try, but we aren't wasting any longer than half-a-day doing so! Cait Sith estimates the Shinra won't be ready for two weeks with their current power-sources, and it should take us that long to get where we need to be, barring unforseen circumstances!"
Yuffie muttered something under her breath about just how likely they wouldn't encounter 'unforseen circumstances.'
"None," answered Cid. "That dumb excuse for a Corporation's gonna' go down permanently, even if I have to do it myself!"
"They drew Wutai into a war, demoralized it, and are now using our Materia for their own goods!" put in Yuffie, making sure the group knew she'd meant 'our.'
"Their dreams of helping people have corrupted themselves, they're too busy basking in their own splendor they forgot why they became a Corporation!" Cait Sith chimed in. "Its time for them to get back on track, or get lost, permanently!"
"They're using up Spirit Energy like its water!" Red XIII added. "They're endangering not just the human race, but every single thing alive!"
"Trying to make great breakthroughs has helped them, at our own expanse!" Tifa intoned. "For each new discovery they make, another life, if not more, is almost always shattered!"
"What they've done has effected the Planet in ways it never should have," continued Cloud. "Families, friends, all are getting torn apart by the Shinra and the effects of what they do! They have to be stopped now!"
Barret unleashed a Flare Shot into the sky, which exploded in bright bursts of multicolored fireworks. "AVALANCHE is truly reborn again!" he ended.
Then he turned around, facing south. "Shinra, you're going to be stopped! For the sake of all life, and for the sake of the Planet!"
Go To Chapter 11
Return To FF7 Fanfic