Pathways Of Foreboding Chapter 11
Shining Through The Crying Planet
By Paul Nathans
Artesta hovered in the glittering blackness of space like a many-faceted gem, continuing its routine cycle around the Planetary System's Star. It used to be a System of Thirteen Planets, but one was destroyed over a century before the Lunar War. Five more had been demolished but around a month prior to this time. So now only seven seemed to exist, although the eighth was still there, somewhere beyond sight.
It represented just one of the trillions of worlds in existence, both in their universe, and in its sister universe, the Pureland Universe. To those on the Planet, it had a special meaning, but to one being, it was just another thing.
A billion light years from Artesta, and the Planetary System it was a part of, a comet went streaking through the outside of a galaxy. Portions of it broke off, reattaching, emitting more gasses, causing the comet to slightly increase in size. A moving star cluster two light years away from that had captured fourteen Planets, each now icy, apart from its glowing stars, all life on those Planets had ceased. The comet, too close, found itself caught in the gravity well of the Star Cluster, and drifted towards it, leisurely continuing its journey. It would loop out, and if it had enough speed, separate from the Star Cluster.
A few seconds later, all that remained of the Star Cluster was a huge, black, pulsating orb. A tentacle shot out from it, grabbed the comet, and looked at it, to see if it was abnormal. Not having any special powers, the being just crushed it, then reverted back to a Star Cluster.
The comet was binary, and its much larger twin continued by, at least for a few seconds. Automatically sensing its rare minerals, the being reverted again, grabbed the comet, and froze it in what looked like a white ball of ice. Upon a closer inspection, though, it was inside a multicolored sphere. The Star Cluster reverted again, a new arm having been added to it.
This thing was the Dark Star.
The smallest galaxy created from the Universe, it had been the densest, the one with the most mass, the most energies. Its Lifestreams could not support the Galaxy without sentience, so they gave it sentience. The Dark Star had at first been confused, but after one billion years, had gained an understanding of the Universe, and of its weaker, yet stronger, twin. The most complex being in the Universe, it was stronger than even the monster Xagor.
Xagor was a being which had been created in the Pureland Universe due to the clash of two SuperQuasars, galaxies with Black Holes so large in their centers that the whole place was destabilized. The Lifestream of each Black Hole, refusing certain destruction, had immediately given the Black Holes life in the moments of their merging, sparing the galaxy by a thread. Xagor, the most powerful being in the Pureland Universe, had been born that way. It had grow discomforted with its positions, and shunned away the Lifestreams in it, being able to move around. Leaving the SuperQuasars with incredible speed destroyed the Galaxies anyway, and weakened Xagor. The thing fed on destruction, since it was the opposite of the Lifestream, to grow stronger, but made the mistake of giving itself a mortal form without knowing how to still be Godlike. So it became a destroyer, powerful, but not stronger than Gods. When its mortal form had been destroyed, so had it. It had been restored here by a being with powers of creation greater than Gods, apart from its spirit, the spirit had to take form in Pureland Universe again. When it was destroyed, it merged with its spirit after being destroyed as a mortal in a different universe, it was so violent both self-destructed in such a way they were back to no longer being alive.
The Dark Star had never made that mistake. 1,000,000,000,000 Times stronger than Xagor, which, before it became a mortal, had been 1,000,000,000 Times stronger than Creator, and while being a mortal, had been only 2 Times as strong as Creator, though, the Dark Star had shunted its Lifestream when it knew to exist, but was powerful enough to become something it wanted, even different from the Universe, but able to coexist with it. It was and wasn't of the Universe, and thus could do with things as it pleased. It had fun adding power to limitless power just to make it insignificant in seconds, thus making it useless, it was Timeless, even as Xagor had been, and would destroy everything in the Universe to have room to make its own Universe. Then, after seeing if he could do that, he'd destroy that and see what else he could do. He'd tried, he'd become a being 2 Times stronger than an UltraQuasar, and began.
However, Xagor had ripped his Lifestream from his body, destroying it, he had let it out. The Lifestream had formed into a Goddess, showing him the joys of all that was alive, and the treasures every smile, every day, could bring. He didn't understand, so she'd shown him the one thing he could, that if the Universe was destroyed, he could be with it.
Smarter than the Lifestream, he knew if he did it slowly, picking up speed, he could halt its reproduction enough that he could start picking Planets off one by one. He was patient, time was nothing to one such as he, and he had eternity to do as he wished. Besides, by destroying things slowly, he might find something else to do. But first, he wanted to see what a being was like. So he'd gone to one Planet, one inhabited by a human species, because they were the example the 'Goddess' had given him when showing him joy and sadness, what the 'Goddess' had emphasized on most in the end, even thought she'd spent longer times showing him other lifeforms, better ones. Since the Lifestream acted like a 'Goddess' he became a human male, and decided to adopt that gender for his being, although he was every type. Uncomprehending emotions, he'd decided to marry the first female who had wanted to, one who, for some reason, had been dazed the first time she saw him, and couldn't bear ever being away from him. She was, as he knew the word, 'ecstatic,' and they bore twin children, one, named Aisha, the other, Ceile, even as he, having thought he'd gained every part of her attention, was slowly inquiring as to the nature of this species.
However, now part of her attention was given to her children, so he thought she wouldn't be useful, and left. Now, looking back, he knew how much pain this must've caused, he'd been the center of her life, he understood emotions, or had, when the Goddess reproached him one day after he wondered why he missed the children. The woman had been someone he'd felt necessary to use, the children, he felt, 'bonded' to. He'd learned, and returned when the children were 19, only to find someone had taken the life of their mother. They were sad, and he had been in such a rush to apologize, having been told it was the right thing to do, he'd wanted to do it, some powers shone through. The children used their own powers to gain his knowledge, and took the life of the being that had taken their mother. To him, they'd done nothing wrong, and he didn't think it was right to destroy for no reason. So he'd placed them in a black portal, which wandered the Universe, and, having had enough of other species, told them about what he wanted to experiment with. They refused, and he was annoyed they weren't obedient. He and his wife had cooperated, the other humans he'd ignored. His daughters gave complete denial to his request, so he gave them no choice, if they wanted to leave the Black Sphere.
He didn't give them more than three chances to destroy a Planet, if they messed up that many times, he'd have to assume they were riveted on the Planet and were taking too long, thus not halting the Universe's Reproduction. They messed up once, so he whizzed them around. They messed up several times on purpose, because they liked being whizzed around, so he made it as painful as possible. After that, they'd never messed up again, and he knew pain was the way to relay commands or deal with problems that cropped up. He settled back, working on other experiments, as they did his work for him. When one nearly produced a wild form of himself, a duplicate, the 'Goddess' had to use force, pain, to stop him, since he was confident he could control it, and ignored the 'Goddess.' Once she had his attention, she explained the problem, and he understood, but didn't like her giving him pain, and fought her. After a spectacular battle lasting many millennia, he grew bored of it and withdrew, finding watching the Universe interesting, at least for now.
He assumed the 'Goddess' didn't know of his two daughters.
However, the Universe was increasing its reproduction rate quickly, by now the 5,000 Year limit he'd decided to give his daughters, without telling them, was no longer working. They'd never lagged, so he'd never had to fill in for them. Now the Universe was reproducing too fast, and doubling in speed. Over the billions of years until now, he'd absorbed the knowledge of everything in the universe, and finally knew how to execute what he wished to do. So he'd go and aid his daughters with destroying the Planetary System they were near, and that part of the Universe, then, they'd destroy the rest of the Universe together. And if they defied him again, he'd have to place them somewhere safe.
He could warp to their current destination, but that could alert the 'Goddess,' and she'd proven somewhat a match for him. He had no desire to end up in a boring battle, so he just continued flowing towards them at the speed he'd been moving. Well, now he'd pick up his pace a lot, since he'd just found them.
They were working on destroying a Planet named Artesta, because it was close enough to its Sun, and with enough Mass, that its destruction would cause a Supernova. And they were on their third try.
The Void was a mass of shifting colors, crackling energies, and interconnecting strands that forged reality, then collapsed upon themselves, because the Void could not support reality. Well, at least, it hadn't been able to for a long time, until it could no longer survive because it was nothing, and created something by being destroyed, before it was reborn. It had been the Great Nothingness, now it was the Void.
Or had been, until Mu, the Power of Nothingness had been unleashed.
Now Neo-Exdeath, the most powerful, most dangerous being in all of reality, was part of it. The Mu had been found by an evil Enuo around 1,000 Years before his time. Mu was a destructive power, coming from the Void itself, when nearing reality, it would automatically give out the strongest winds possible in the universe, and suck anything within any distance inside it. The evils of Artesta had flown into the tree from which he had taken shape, so much energy giving him life. He had knowledge, incredible knowledge, and knew that Mu existed. He'd tried to claim it, and had ended up getting sucked in himself. He'd become part of the Mu, and had emerged as Neo-Exdeath. Only he had been destroyed then, too.
Luckily for his health, the Mu was destruction, and having had a mind, all that happened was he ended up back in the Void, the Mu able to think for itself. In a manner of speaking, he WAS the Mu. The Limitless Energies were now his, and as all existed, the Nothingness, the plane, or section, of reality he was on, existed. He was now Supreme-Exdeath, the Absolute Reverse of All.
He was a monstrous being with four-hundred claws, all intertwined around each other, eight-hundred hand claws coming off each of his normal claws. Each arm possessed two hundred bodies of every monster in existence, the arms locked, forming tentacles, which reached out to form wings connected to his body and extend farther outwards, grotesque, twisted, made up of bodies, other wings extending from them. The interconnected mesh of bodies and wings were the wings, his face sparkled with purple-blue on its brow. His whole upper section was composed of connecting beasts, intertwined mesh, with a few glowing orbs. The beasts each had heads, two-hundred arms, four-hundred arm claws, and were interconnected so they circled him. Each was of every different color in a dark and bright shade, his wing monsters were a dark shade, his arm monsters were a bright shade. His hair was composed of himself, his Muah Tree Body, billions of them extending out, while he had horns jutting from his head, interconnecting with other sections on his forehead. His eyes burned, at least, in his central face, the rest of his face was surrounded by Neo-Exdeath Formations, attaching to it, composing it. Greyish-white marble-like skin connected his legs together, where all designs of the void twisted, composing beasts.
The Muah Tree Bodies were in fact simply formations, where swaying, interconnected skulls were, attached to other skulls surrounding it. Those skulls traced down the curving, tornado-like tree, where others jutted out, and tails wrapped around, connecting the hair. Each part was red. His face-formation was composed of bones twisted at odd angles, the sections clearly visible. The sides and sections of his face were somewhat visible, as bones poked through the skin where Muah Tree Bodies grew, only these were maroon. On each formation rested an orb-like structure, with spidery-legs sticking out, connecting, forming his face-line. The only visible section of his face was reddish. 800-Leg-Claws extended from his 400 Legs, each made up of twisted parts. All over his body, where monsters weren't placed, except on his head, bones were shown twisting, along with occasional red-and-marble skin. Here, between the shapes of beasts with all types of legs, in all sizes, with all features, the bones connected around the outside, that mesh squeezing in parts of the monsters. Fallen-off heads attached to his sides and main body, his whole main body was made up of skin ripping through itself. The heads were attached to monsters they weren't suppose to be attached to in some places, in other places they were just part of the body.
And his tails were simply attached, ripping out, lashing outwards, shades of all colors and falling bones attached to more mesh. Fourteen heads jutted out of its neck, each grotesque, twisted faces, his eyes and nostrils burned with fire, when his mouth opened there was the same energies inside. This whole thing was on top of one of his fourteen heads, other obvious spectrums repeated, composing identical other fourteen heads in all shapes, them part of fourteen heads, each of the same shape. The huge thing itself had these bodies jutting from the heads to look like spikes, and its tails twisted downwards, forming larger legs, composed of skeletons with all shades, monsters, jutting bones, and heads, in each spectrum, with more mesh. Twice the size of the front body, just above, attached on its neck, was a collar. His warrior-form was in the front, below was the tree, between was his Neo-Form. Around the other sides were meshs, extending smaller parts of his other body composed in all different ways. His real head looked like the one of his body, except tails extended from his neck. It extended from a large section coming from his back, his legs were in the front and back to attach to other parts, there were twenty-six. The tail extending from the back of his body was super-composed of mesh of all colors. And his wings, main part of his head, shape-forms on his cheeks, arms, and legs, were the opposite of the other form in colors, and on the cheeks, arms, and legs, in shapes.
This thing, jutting backwards, his wings sticking backwards and up to make his neck, tail-parts behind him, wings curving to the center, half his main-body claws sticking down to form the semblance of something crouching, was Supreme-Exdeath.
And it still didn't understand Mu.
The two universes, complex, yet simple, wouldn't let him in. He couldn't enter as long as Mu couldn't enter. In effect, he wasn't really alive. He couldn't be, because he was something that wasn't life. He was the exact opposite, and beyond, and yet he had a feeling he and two others were but minions to a higher force. Him and another, he knew the name of the Fallen One, Xagor. The Dark Star, their unwitting 'pawn' was the only other survivor, and he was the accident, the master, and the complete slave. They moved in cosmic circles, representing the three limbs of something.
Something that not even he could survive, even though he was the opposite of survival itself. Whatever it was, it was in control.
And it spoke.
'Take Sephiroth,' was all it uttered. 'Kefka is the energies of you, he has been existing to give you the chance to take what you must take.'
He accessed the commands, and it was done. In front of a being composed of three layers, within and without a demonic angel, was a silver-haired man carrying a sword, with a saddened, yet determined look on his face. He looked at the huge beast in front of him, so large he could not see it all if Exdeath hadn't manipulated his eyesight. He gasped, his eyes widening, and he backed up.
"Who are you?" he gasped.
"Supreme-Exdeath, the Absolute Reverse of All," he spoke, his voice grating. "I have been told to take you from the Lifestream of Artesta."
"Then send me back, or have this sword through your stomach!" the man spoke.
The fool had courage, that was obvious. Exdeath chuckled. "I'd really like to see you try, pathetic fool!"
"Let me away!" the man spoke
and proceeded to lunge forwards.
Sephiroth didn't know what he was doing here, he was pondering his past, when something in his spirit had seemed to reverberate, and he was here. He leapt forwards, cutting into the beast's skin. It simply laughed, and let him slice around, alert, looking for whatever trap this was.
He was surrounded by complex colors and lines that seemed to extend in all directions, and a beast was behind it, two others, the names Chaos and Creator, names he didn't know how he knew, behind him. He spun and slashed through them, immediately cutting them in half. He didn't expect them to be gone, and set up sensors behind him in case they reappeared, then faced the being.
"Last chance, monster! Leave me be or perish!" He was not going to show weakness to this thing.
"You're dealing with Nothing, foolish pup!" it laughed.
He thrust his hands forwards, unleashing a Fire 3. Failing to notice that the enormous wound he opened in it only made the monster sigh with pleasure, he leapt up and began launching his Masamune off sections of its body, before chopping its forward, extending a rayline intended to find its heart. It did, and the creature exploded, then immediately reappeared, glowing in light, giving a purr of extreme happiness
"Do that again, please," it stated.
Sephiroth only stood, his jaw hanging. When he realized it was he snapped it shut. He was never going to show weakness.
"You, Chaos, and Creator were lucky to come from the Jenova being, the Destroyer of All!" it laughed. "The others were too far away, and too close, and merged. Every other evil has not come from something created by those in the Black Sphere, and have simply combined into my energies. My 'frontal body' is used to store the evils of the Non-Xagor freaks from Pureland. I know this much, Xagor is the servant, I am the Leader, floating down-left, and the Dark Star is down-right, the Master and Slave. When the time comes, I go above, and Xagor takes my position!"
It paused, to let this sink in. "It means you are to be the supporter, the one who stands in Pureland's Center, while someone else stands in the center of the main Universe, Equilid. I have just been told that!"
But Sephiroth didn't hear this clearly. He heard, he knew some of what it might mean, but this monster's casual statement of what Jenova was affirmed Lucrecia was telling the truth, and he had been duped by Jenova. He knew the game this thing was playing because it had survived, its three servants appeared hovering behind it, he knew from the extended sight, which was suddenly snapped away.
This made the booming voice more powerful.
"You you," he glared. "I could've lived some type of life in the Lifestream! I will NOT do your bidding, freak!"
He lunged forwards, propelling himself into the air, and planted his foot on one of its heads, swinging the sword in fury.
'I'll have to display my power this time!' it snapped. An intense ball of energy arced from his palm, and he felt something being ripped from him. He saw a Emerald/Ruby/Diamond thing torn from his body, made into his exact likeness, but obviously an unwitting puppet. Creator motioned, and the thing became real, while Chaos made it a chaotic being. Kefka stabilized the energies, and Creator made another Meteor, then the three combined their balanced powers, and it warped away.
"And its now waiting in the lower Nothingness for its use!" Supreme-Exdeath laughed. Then he motioned, and Creator, Kefka, and Chaos disappeared in an explosion, screaming in pain.
"I kinda' lied!" he roared with laughter. "Knowing you three would here! Now you're really no longer existing, or are maybe back in your Lifestream! Hope for that, fools!" He continued laughing as the glittering dust that replaced where they were vanished. Then he looked amused. "Okay, so maybe I've been lied to too," he said quietly. "Maybe I've been told lies and told to do these things for a test, or, no, I'm not imagining you, thing! You're real!"
Sephiroth realized it was speaking to its master again, it seemed to have one. At least, it had seemed to think it had one.
The being laughed. "You can go back now, but know you've been used again!" He snapped his fingers, and Sephiroth disappeared from the area, blacking out from the incredible magical energies used to do this.
Supreme-Exdeath laughed again.
With or without a Master to do things for to get help from, with or without a wild imagination, he would find out everything about Mu.
The Base Plane of the Lifestream felt Chaos, Kefka, and Creator returning. At the same time Vincent's soul ended up suspended between the Spirit Plane and the All Plane due to the modifications Hojo had given him, and because of the fact of the intense energies that had just resounded through the area.
He, Lucrecia, Ifalna, Aeris, and Sephiroth were stranded in between two of the sections of the Lifestream. Sephiroth was back, unconscious. And the Planet, finally getting ahold of the three, one combined, the other two not combined, that had caused a lot of its trouble, destroyed them.
They exploded in white flashes, replaced by sparkling stardust, screaming, and were moved to the section of the Lifestream below Midgar, filling in the energies that had been taken from it. Jenova didn't exist in spirit, so she wasn't placed anywhere. The WEAPONS near Midgar were waiting for the Onyx Weapon to reach Midgar, or fall, before making their move. It was part of the way the plan was.
Something had been destroyed, though, something evil.
And it would now be gone forever.
The walked up the mountains quietly.
Tifa found herself gazing at Cloud, who was walking briskly ahead.
After the events of the previous night, she was 100% sure she could tell him what she needed to, but knew this wasn't the time. She shifted her gaze away, slightly embarrassed, and stepped over some small stones, then continued onwards.
Still, it wandered back again. He seemed oddly at peace, something she wished would never end. More than anything, he was close to all of them. The group seemed to share a special bond, had since Sephiroth's defeat. They were almost like family, although Barret, Cid, Vincent, and even Yuffie had other ways of showing it.
They'd lost another member, and this had pulled them closer together.
They continued on, moving her gaze away whenever she found herself staring at Cloud again
then it came.
Leaping up from behind a nearby ledge, it blasted into the icy pathway they were traveling up, smashing through sections of it miles in front of where they could see it loop down to meet up with the cliff. It blasted out the path's start behind them. Itd taken them awhile to find this path, she doubted they could find another.
The thing was composed of pearl-eyes, with a lobster-like body atop a caterpillar-tail. Other sections moved outwards from its front, between both heads were two more glowing eyes that seemed to float in crackling energies.
It roared and charged forwards. Barret blasted it down with a well-timed shot, but two others tackled him from behind. Without the benefit of Materia, he could only struggle before Cloud slashed one across the face. The survivor leapt away, lashing out with its claws, catching Cloud on the face and sending him sprawling. Cid leapt forward, japping the spear at the thing, piercing its midsection.
It slid off with a gurgle, crashing to the ground, before Cid was slammed in the back of the head by another of these things, this time from the front. Tifa darted forwards, trying to use whatever residues of the Sense Materia were about her Premium Heart. She caught a brief flash of the name of the species, Smeglenz, before punching it in the fore-throat. It staggered and fell
as Barret got up.
"Okay, so maybe we're not the only ones who've discovered this route!" he stated. "I guess we're going to have to get on alert!"
Tifa blinked, startled that she'd been able to find its name, before she recalled the properties of the Materia. When taken, its abilities could still be accessed by those in tune with the Planet, and Aeris had given her some training. Unfortunately, it didn't seem to be enough to identify its element-composion.
Barret motioned for them to continue, and they moved on.
They'd been lucky to find that crevice in the mountains, Cloud knew.
He'd switched back to the rear, Barret suggesting a good swordsman take up the back. They'd climbed up, moving up the mountains, and found this crevice around half the way up. After eating, they'd continued up it, all that remained between them and the top a nice little chasm.
Something was nagging at his mind. Lairs like this were common to a specific type of beast. He could recall one at the top of Gaia's Cliff, where it had obviously pursued the Sephiroth Clones for food. But this wasn't a large den. Looking around, he could see bones in crevices.
He tapped Tifa on the shoulder and she turned around. "What?" she asked.
"Stay close," he whispered, moving his hand to his sword. As his left hand slipped around her shoulders, his right hand held the hilt of his sword.
"Yuffie!" he shouted to the girl ahead. She turned and he pointed.
Her eyes widened, but her face soon became relaxed. "This is too small of a lair for one of those Schizo things that you told me about. The Schizos live inside, the Xrisors populate outside crevices like this, but usually live below solid caves."
At least Yuffie had remembered the name of the thing. He looked ahead, to where the cliff suddenly jutted up to the top of the ledge. Barret had just reached the place. As Cloud looked again, he noticed that the caves from the bones seemed to curve inwards, and part of the cavern was home to a rock.
Monsters usually frequented the den of big ones, he reasoned, suddenly tense. They hadn't met any, and there was a loose rock that curved down in a circle, plus their battle had made some noise.
"Barret!" he snapped
even as a blue-and-red seven-headed beast emerged from behind the rock, wriggling through. Its claws were short like the Schizo's, but its legs were clearly used for fast running. He could see its bones press against its skin, and realized this thing obviously did a lot of running.
He moved Tifa behind him and unsheathed his blade, holding it up to deflect a blast of lightning that was suddenly aimed at him. Barret had already ducked and sent a stream of bullets across the thing Yuffie called a Xrisor. It roared and lunged forwards. Red XIII leapt to one side and sank his talons into the middle-left neck. It reared up, pulling the warrior with it, but Nanaki wouldn't let go, and continued to dig in.
"Darn thing!" shouted Yuffie, swinging her Conformer. It embedded itself in the thing's close-left neck. The neck fell, even as crackling energies and multicolored rings burst forth, slamming into the ninja and sending her crashing into the rocks.
The head Red XIII was tearing apart snapped back, and the warrior crashed into the mountain. The thing moved its head away, and rocks came down, trapping Nanaki beneath them. Cloud charged, and was wrapped between the necks of two heads, as they tried to crush him.
He slit the head of one, only for the other to unwind and snap its jaws shut on the arm that was holding the sword. He shrieked out as it clamped tighter, swinging him, trying to rip his arm free. And the other heads were concentrating on keeping the remaining combatants away, and were succeeding.
He cried out in pain as he felt the thing's jaw begin to puncture his bones. A weakened Nanaki had crawled out from under the boulders, one leg twisted, and roared, concentrating energies for a Cosmo Memory. Another head turned and darted at him. Red XIII canceled out the spell and tore down hard on it, pinning the head. Cid now had an opening, and threw his Venus Gospel through the throat of the head that was about to tear off Cloud's arm. It fell.
"Those things might be poisonous," stated Cid, grabbing an Antidote out of his Item Sack. He handed it to Cloud, who immediately opened it and let the energies pour on the wound, even as Cid leapt in front of him, grabbed his spear, and impaled the close-right head, which had been lunging at them, through the throat.
Another energy backwash sent them both crashing into the rocks. The thing smashed the area above them with its tail, and a whole avalanche crashed onto them, Cloud barely deflecting the full force of the rocks with his sword. It was about to move its tail down, but Yuffie had finally recovered, and chopped it off with her Conformer. As it returned to her armor, she grinned at the beast, which responded by blasting a white beam of holy energies at her.
She threw the Conformer into the center, the energy beam exploding upon contact. Her Conformer, originally constructed by Shinra, barely withstood being shattered. As she moved to retreive it, another head came down. She leapt aside, and was grabbed by a claw, which began tearing through her armor, trying to rip her apart. She withdrew a a Megalixir, smashed it on her body, then shoved one of the jagged pieces of glass into its claw.
The Xrisor bellowed and dropped Yuffie, leaping forward to backhand Barret, who'd finally gotten into a safe position. Red XIII, his jaws still clamped shut on one of the heads, was jolted with it, and slammed into the side of the crevice. Yuffie hurled a Megalixir at the warrior, which was falling limply. The Xrisor's wounded head moved, gobbling it up, and the Ninja swallowed as all wounds to that head healed.
Tifa, now having another opening, moved over to where Cloud and Cid were trapped and began removing rocks. Barret had taken off the arm headed for his face with a well-timed blast, and now had to leap back into the crevice to avoid having his head bitten off. Another of the five remaining heads moved towards Tifa. Yuffie sliced it apart, then tucked and rolled, expecting another head to move towards her. It had, and smashed into the rocks. Tifa impaled its throat with her Master Fist, and that head fell off of the main body.
Three remained, the far-side ones and the central one. They began spewing blasts of lightning and rainbow rings, causing Yuffie to duck for cover. Tifa, having cleared a path for Cloud and Cid, was flung to the side, while the cliff section below Barret collapsed, and he fell with it. Cid chucked a Megalixir to Red XIII, and the Xrisor shattered it. It burst into healing rain, and they were all close enough to be affected this time. Barret, already on his feet again, was no longer wobbly. The far-right head fell. Nanaki's leg wasn't too badly damaged, so the Megalixir had mended the damage. He leapt at the far-right head, forming into a Sled Fang Movement, and tore through its throat. That head fell.
The beast roared again, leaping up and coming down, trying to kick its adversaries with its legs. Cid was caught with a glancing blow, and ended up on his elbow. Cait Sith, also free from danger, leapt up and smashed off a hand lunging for the helpless pilot. The other tried to rip the Android apart, and Yuffie aimed at it. One leg blocked her way, kicking her to the ground. Barret sent a stream of bullets at the claw, which collapsed. The other leg collided with his chest, and he fell, the wind knocked out of him.
Cait Sith spun and chopped at one of the legs. The head, before silent, unleashed another ray-discus blast. The Android and Nanaki were both within range, and crashed to the ground. The head lunged down, trying to tear into Cloud's throat. Tifa uppercutted it, and it reared back. Yuffie, up once again, leapt onto the left leg and up to the head. She used the Conformer as a hold, ripping through the head, bouncing off its windpipe before it shattered, and landing safely.
It let out another bellow and blast of energies before falling to the ground with a resounding crash
scattering snow in all directions.
Cid slowly picked himself up off the ground. "At times like this I actually agree that some things are better than science," he muttered. "If we had our Materia, that thing would've been toast in seconds!"
"We didn't really get much time to concentrate spells," put in Barret, as Cloud helped him to his feet. "I doubt it would'a' made much diff'rence, other than acting as somethin' for that freak to chew on!"
"Thank goodness that these things usually don't share dens!" remarked Yuffie, dusting herself off. Tifa activated another Megalixir, healing their wounds.
"Use those things sparely!" snapped Cid. "We don't know when we might lose them! Miss Ninja's already lost one of those precious Life-Savers!"
Yuffie glared at Cid, who noticed the glare. He was about to respond when Cloud held up his hands.
"Right now we don't know if we do need to conserve any of our Tonics!" he stated. "We have plently to last us a while, and when we do need to start conserving them, we will!"
"Right!" added Barret. "Now let's move on!"
Thirty minutes later they were climbing up a windy pathway, the temperature freezing them through. Aside from occasional encounters with Malboros, they were making progress, using the jumping technique on the ledges to keep warm.
They were near the top now, all that remained was a small passageway. Tifa was in the lead this time, Cloud behind her, Barret behind him, the others switching positions, Yuffie usually at the rear.
"Something up ahead," Tifa spoke. She moved up a few more inches, trapped within the incline. Cloud gave her a boost, the others following, while Yuffie wriggled through. She moved to the narrow ledge, and prepared to reach up to the top, completing their climb.
"Behind us!" shouted Yuffie
even as a huge Blue Molboro, surrounded by five Molboros, leapt onto the ledge. Tifa settled into the movements of her glove, the Blue Molboro was a FatalMalboro. Even as she looked up, it lunged forwards, tentacles shooting forwards. Yuffie made a few arcs with her Conformer, cutting down four of the five Molboros, their giant, lifeless bodies falling into the snow.
"Condemnation!" the FatalMolboro gurgled.
Strings of energy wrapped around each of them, attaching themselves to the FatalMolboro, and lifted them off the ground, beginning to drag them through the air. The only remaining Molboro unleashed a Bad Breath, which Barret sprayed through, blasting the beast into pieces.
The wind howled above them at incredible speeds, blowing over the ledge, but they didn't even notice, they hadn't noticed it had been going on most of the time they'd been climbing. It finally stopped, but they didn't notice. The huge, gaping maw of the FatalMolboro was ahead, and none of them were able to get a good aim.
Then Cid grinned. He swung downwards, latched his spear into the snow, and attached it. He pulled on it, and the wire snapped. The momentum caused the enromous beast to topple over the ledge, to land, lifelessly, at the end of the drop
"Crazy things!" muttered Barret.
Cloud motioned for them to continue the climb, and they did.
In seconds they were all standing at the top of the ledge, and staring out at the North Crater, and the forest surrounding it, once again.
It appeared different somehow. The forest trees seemed almost bent towards the center, tons and tons of them had been ripped out. The winds in the area seemed calm, they couldn't even feel any breezes.
A flash of light on the top of the center of the Crater brought their thoughts to the end, and the wind started to rip towards the light, which had turned into a huge cyclone, whirling around and around, crackling with lightning and other destructive forces of nature.
Before they even had time to establish a firm hold, Cloud felt the vortex almost tear him off his feet. The careful training each of them had paid off. He found himself teetering on his feet, almost being dragged backwards, but managed to firmly plant his feet on the ground, keeping them there. The usual trick was working, for now, at least.
The ground below seemed to actually be ripping backwards, and sections of the mountains were torn off, spiraling into the vacuum, being torn apart. Cloud found his clothes being ripped backwards, trying to yank him along with them. He motioned for cover in the howling breeze, his mind registering the hours of loud wind they'd heard above while climbing. He began to move forwards, placing one foot, moving it against the wind, and clamping it down.
The area in front of them exploded, the eruption sending them flying backwards. Before Cloud grabbed onto the side of this plateau, his fingers just barely holding over the upward-edge of rock. He noticed that the inner sections of the mountains were being dragged away even as he did this. His whole body seemed like it was being torn apart, while Barret shoved his Missing Score into the rock. The whole group seemed to be holding onto him, all except...
"Why am I always the one-person rider!?" Tfia exclaimed from behind him, clinging to his legs with all her strength. The plateue curve snapped down, and Cloud had to hold on even more, ignoring the rocks shattering on his head. The main rock didn't seem like it was going to move, but he watched in astonishment as seemingly-solid rocks were ripped into the vortex, as they apparently had before. It was attracting things from below it, too. Sections of the Crater were flying up into the whirling vortex, almost as if it was trying to devour everything on the Planet by itself.
"I...can't...hold on...for hours!" he gasped. He edged over to behind a rocky promontory, with the winds swirling around them, and let them drop. Just as suddenly they picked up again, this time tearing around the rock. An explosion erupted in front of them, sending them hurtling to the back of the rock, pinned there, unable to move well. It was painful even to extend his arm to grab onto something, and the rock was slowly ripping off.
He managed to drag himself down, moving forwards. He looked behind him, and noticed Tifa hadn't been able to move yet. He managed to drag her down, just as the back of the rock erupted, and another explosion launched them into the air. He grabbed onto the side of the rock before they passed over it, edging over to behind another promontory. Another explosion pinned them to the back of this one before they could get a foothold. Unnoticed, something was expanding above, sucking things upwards with just as much force as the original vortex, the highest force wind could muster.
The section of the rock behind them blasted out, and they flew through the large cavern like rag dolls. This was a larger jutting rock, and his attempt to twist to the side seemed to take a long time, Tifa behind him, grasping for a hold as well. Unable to control his movement, he continued to inch to the side and downwards, trying to get ahold of the cave. He did, as did Tifa, but yet another explosion launched them into the air. They were sucked through again, inching to the side again, through the seemingly-endless tunnel. As they passed just by the side, Cloud grabbed onto it, Tifa clinging to his legs again. He glanced at Barret's group, and saw they were making their way towards another ledge. He shouted to them of the explosions, but they couldn't here.
The side of the chamber was ripped off, and he grabbed onto the bottom, muscles straining. He managed to pull them both on, and they began to crawl towards the safe side. Yet another explosion sent them back to their previous position, it had eaten away at part of the bottom of the cavern. They moved again, this time managing to crawl in and downwards. They broke into a run for the other side, and began clinging to it. Sure enough, a section of the area behind them was ripped away, and they found their feet ripped out from under them. The section Tifa was clinging to, because of her Premium Heart, broke free, and she had to grab onto Cloud's legs yet again. He began to move them to the top, when another explosion in front of them sent them to the wall again. The hole in the sky, which was not viewable through the wind, stopped sucking things in, but was still expanding outwards.
"How...long...will...this...keep up!?" Tifa got out.
"I...don't know!" Cloud grated. "I...remember the howling winds above us as we climbed! They...never...abatated...even for hours!"
He began forcing them downwards again, an explosion behind them redirecting the air as the touched the ground and struggled forwards. It beat down on them with the full force of the other wind, but they continued onwards. Yet even another explosion sent them back to the cliff, still pinned there by the raging wind.
"We've...got...to reach...cover!" he shouted, throwing himself forwards again, this time barely managing to grab onto the ground and crawl forward. Tifa followed his lead, and they moved slowly forwards. When an explosion came, they let themselves be moved backwards, but grabbed onto the ground. At last they were able to move their muscles hard enough to stand up, and strode forwards. They began to climb up to the main mountain, and finally moved behind a jutting rock attached firmly in the mountain.
Cloud looked around for the others, and saw they were attempting the same thing, or, at least, it looked like that. As of now, they were slowly moving towards the mountains. He motioned to Tifa, and they began to move to the other side of the mountain.
And then the rock behind them was ripped off, and they had to move forwards again, stopping as explosions came from nearby. It was no use, though, as whatever was controlling the wind seemed to know exactly what they were doing, and another explosion sent them backwards. Cloud grabbed onto the edge of the cliff, and another of the repeating explosions sent them back to the wall.
"We've...got...to...get out...before....this wall...is torn down!" Cloud gasped. "Or...at...least...find a handhold!"
He motioned, and they began moving forwards again. This time, though, when they reached the rocks, Cloud grabbed onto part of it, Tifa grabbing onto him. They stayed there, feet planted, unneccessary to be dragged backwards now, since they had a floor beneath them. It didn't matter which, but they preferred to have their feet on the ground in the case of an explosion.
Sure enough, one did come, blasting outwards, but with feet on the rock, they maintained their balance. Cloud grabbed onto another section, but the area beneath them ripped away, partially, leaving a part far below as the only attachment, supporting the back of the ledge. Cloud found his feet flung out, Tifa clinging to them again, as the wind whistled below through another hole. They didn't need to risk dropping down, rocks might fly off into them there, and just stayed there, hanging in the wind, it pulling at their legs.
And another explosion sent them back to the wall.
"Try...again," Cloud spoke.
Above them, the hole in the sky had expanded above the whole Crater and the surrounding forest.
That's when the wind behind them ceased, in a way, and winds just as strong began sucking upwards into the hole.
At first they didn't notice, still pinned to the rocks by the other winds, but their clothes began to billow upwards. Seconds later, as the other winds ceased, they found themselves yanked upwards. Cloud spun and grabbed onto the rocks, Tifa holding his legs again, but that area exploded, and they flew upwards again, pinned to the an out-movement of the rocks. Cloud motioned, and they began to move over and down, crawling down the wall. They moved forwards, out from under the rock, and began to move towards the other side, having to keep their feet on the ground to prevent from being sucked upwards.
The others were clinging to the side of the cliff, and were moving inwards, he could just see through the howling storm. The ground exploded beneath them, sending them back to the wall. They began to crawl down, and were moving across again when another explosion sent them flying upwards this time, and Cloud could finally see the huge hole in the sky through which the very air seemed to be sucked through.
As they passed the top of the rock, he grabbed onto it, holding on, Tifa holding onto his legs again. He began to move them downwards again, and more explosions erupted below them, sending them back to the top, where he just managed to grab on again. Finally realizing they wouldn't be able to leave that way, he just hung on, watching the trees and the ground get sucked up into the portal, trying to think...of...something.
He saw all but Barret and Red XIII, who had been caught by an explosion, had made it to safety, and were obviously hidden somewhere, trying to figure out how to rescue them. The AVALANCHE Leader and the warrior moved forwards from the cliff, and hurried after their friends, disappearing from sight.
"I'm getting sick of getting thrown around like a rag doll!" Cloud cried.
"Me...too," spoke Tifa. She looked at the section holding to the cliff, and saw it was almost loose, while explosions played across its surface. "And...I...think...we're...in more...trouble!"
She pointed, and Cloud drew in a shocked breath. They couldn't throw themselves forwards, and couldn't walk because of the explosions. They were truly trapped.
And then Red XIII was there, a sham-rope composed of intertwined Tents, the small, silvery mesh that connected each part almost impossible to rip, thrown out. He latched onto it with his teeth, and Cloud grabbed onto it before it could shoot up. Tifa was still clinging to him, and he clung to the rope.
As soon as they let go of the promontory, it shot into the sky, Cloud vainly hanging onto the top. It jolted upwards, and Red XIII had to jump up to avoid losing it. He managed to land, and started to pull them down. Cloud, his hands feeling like they were going to be torn off the rest of his body, could only hope he'd hurry. All the air was being vacuumed up out of this area, into that hole in the sky, the winds were howling at the highest speed possible.
The promontory finally ripped free, and shot up into the vortex, even as they were being dragged down. Nanaki had to move out of the way of a few explosions, then finished reining them in. The strode forwards, managing to dodge an oncoming group of explosions, and reached the other side of the rocks. One last explosion sent the two humans up, holding onto another jagged rock, but they clambered down, avoiding the explosion, and moved forwards, getting up and striding against the wind, following their friend down, out of the whirling winds, and down beyond its radius to safety.
Where they both collapsed, exhausted.
"That...that was...I don't believe such a phenomena was possible!" spoke Tifa, having just gotten her breath back. As Yuffie had so idly noticed, hers, Barret's, and Cloud's knack for being right where the trouble was was uncanny, as Barret had been dealing with a number of explosions too, at least as much as they had.
That last explosion had nearly sent him off, along with Red XIII, but unlike Cloud, he'd had the advantage of a gun-arm, and had used it to move to safety with more ease. Even now the wind was still sucking trees upwards. They were behind a overhanging rock, far enough away so as not to have to fight for their every movement, but could still feel the breeze.
"The tornado must've disrupted the weather patterns here, and with all that's been going on recently, the Crater's Destruction, the WEAPONS Awakening, Sephiroth's Destruction, Holy erupting from this very place, and now a Natural/Unnatural Force combined...that had to have caused this," Nanaki spoke.
"Darn Shinra again!" Barret swore. "We've got Natural Disasters erupting around the Planet and producing more Unnatural Disasters! Darn them!!!!!"
Yuffie cleared her throat, knowing this couldn't stay hidden any longer.
"This wasn't Shinra," she stated. "I know."
Nanaki's head swiveled to face her. "Excuse me?" he inquired politely.
"This wasn't Shinra," she repeated, her face having gone pale. "I've seen it through history too many times. That joke about Cloud, Tifa, and Barret...I restated it again, trying to convince myself this wasn't it. But then I saw that."
She pointed, and the others saw it, too. Lightning crackling around the portal, tendrils erupting from it, the energy waves dancing across the being.
"That thing...its existence...the Shinobi," she began. "Its my turn now."
Red XIII nodded his head, signaling for her to continue.
"The Shinobi, they resemble the being Ashura, the one from myths. The one from times long-past, when the Celestial Tower existed, and the Planets were bridged by a plane floating above our star. Ashura, Apollo, Neptune/Definnius, Magnate, Venus, and OdinX. Ashura created the others, weakening its power, when he combatted the Lifestream-Induced Isis. The Cetra, so many were lost after the Arsenal, the thing that allowed the structure to survive, nearly destroyed the whole Planetary System. It was linked in such a way that to destroy the tower was to destroy the system, so thousands of Cetra perished as they separated it, while Isis, no longer needed, was taken down. Ashura, like Cloud, Tifa, and Barret over there, is a survivor, he took them all out. But the connection was broken.
"Jenova set the connection, when her being, Creator, sprang into being. Its too easy to place together that she made Creator, it displayed the same energy patterns as Exor Ra, and Jenova was the only other who could poison the Lifestream. Creator, the legend says, wanted to test humans, so he created a false promise of a Paradisal Planet, and changed the world's tallest tower so doorways on it led to the eleven other Planets. Ashura was his Guardian, and Ashura's Gaurdians were Gen-Bu, Su-Zaku, Sei-Ryu, and Byak-Ko. The five distributed beasts around the tower, making climbing treacherous. They set up tests, making nothing of human lives. That forced others to settle on Planets. So a century-or-so later, when Creator was defeated, the Cetra had to keep the gateways together, or lose most of the population.
"And when we separated the tower, the others were resigned to their fate, but a Moon ferried them back, so we have two Moons again. That is the legend of the beginnings of the Shinobi, or at least, one half. We were the ones who kept this newfound magic and injected it into our bodies, were were Part-Cetra, Part-Human, and had survived a catastrophe with extra powers. We made it back. We didn't destroy our Crude Materia for perhaps the fifth time in recorded history, at least three or four other times this may have happened was known, but they're all in the gap between the legends of the Ancient Calamity we know to be Jenova, and the Lunar Wars, from which the other half of the Shinobi Ancestry springs.
"The plates shifted much during those years, but one of the three greatest created a huge section of the inside of the Planet to live in. Wild beasts that had evolved enough migrated there, even some from the spiritual plane. It is not known how, but a place, the Land of the Summoned Monsters, I believe, was created there. Queen Asura and King Leviathan ruled the place. When the plates shifted again, the place was crushed, the other part of our ancestors were the only survivors. One of the greater conflicts in history, the First War of the Magi, supposedly took place a century, or two, after that, and our race was thought to have vanished with the other magically-imbued ones. We carried down Queen Asura's powers, having held them through some breeding, we believe. Shortly after the Cetra merged with these people, the Shinobi were created. That is the legend of our beginnings, and it is said even now that the Water God was the same Leviathan, while the Gods of Da-Chao are the ones from recorded history, well, ones like Gods.
"Ryu-O, Ragnarok, Crusader, Renjel, and OdinX, the latter the supposed righteous one out of Ashura's creations. Ragnarok and Crusader were thought to be occupants in both Magi Wars, the Second, I believe, having occured 500 Years prior to this time, approximately, Ryu-O's existence is a mystery, he was thought to have been the brother of Sei-Ryu, according to legend, Renjel is the one who supposedly keeps the Planet stabilized, the ancient time when Ajora/Ultema perished and a whole section of the Planet erupted comes into account. Unable to do anything against most major conflicts, since by some stroke of luck most occured when the continents were in one position, it was he who finally managed to guide these Plates back to their original form, and will not let them shift again. He supposedly perished to keep the connections. That is the legend of our Gods."
"So you can see things like that...off of chance?" Red XIII asked.
"The Planet, and its Materia, provide the knowledge, and show everything," she said, tossing her hair back. "That's a Wutai Poem." Then she paused, trying to consider whether to keep this in. She finally sighed and resumed speaking again. "And that's where my love of Materia comes from. I knew I couldn't have the Planet, and what was Materia wasn't like its Crude Essences used four, five, or six times before and discarded. So I decided I'd take the Materia, and over time, grew obsessed with it. When healing Wutai presented itself, it gave me too good an opportunity for self-reasoning to go out into the world." She took a deep breath. "Sorry for all the problems that must've caused, guys. I could understand that back when I saw that twisted OMNI-Form. I somehow knew something like this had started that 'Kefka' toward becoming crazy, I doubt that'd happen to me, but I knew something like that, far-less than what had happened to him, was happening to me. And it was wrong. I still like Materia, though, my dad has, he jokes about taking it, in a way...but I'm not stealing it from any of you anymore."
Cid let out an explosive breath. "That's one small problem taken out of the picture," he said. "And its about time!"
"You're digressing, Yuffie," pointed out Red XIII. "Get to the point."
"That thing...is a product of the ripped apart mind of what only a few know about, but many myths tell about," she responded. "It rips out all life nearby, and if it sees something nearby that has survived things so many times, it supposedly extends an extra factor of its power out, even though it has none, since its full power, and yet none, is extended to its task. Barret's fallen down a cliff once, he explained, and itd be far enough to make up for Tifa's many falls dozens of time, and her capability of being with the most danger-prone person in the group, although that's not her luck. I'd imagine there's something else involved." Tifa glared at Yuffie. "And Cloud, he's fallen into the Lifestream three times, nearly been torn apart, then stopped his mental illusions from destroying him. He's also had enough emotional problems, he's still effected, but it shows. He knows and acknowledges his feelings, yet doesn't speak them, because they're there. That's waaay too easy to deduce. And the rest of us, we've survived more disasters than most people of this time. That's why its no accidents the areas around us were hit with explosions not designed to eliminate, but designed to eliminate. It wants to destroy us with accuracy, but if it can feed on us, making its power stronger, destroying it, then rejuvenating it, its got more powers." She shook her head, as if whatever understanding she'd had of this thing had passed away. "We're out of its path...for now."
"You're digressing again," Red XIII spoke. "Well, in a way. Why is it here?"
"I...I had it...there!" she exclaimed. "Almost 150 Years after he perished, Ajora was restored for an unknown reason. Its something, something that...I don't know, I can't really describe it. So much was lost during those first 100 Years, during the Revolutions, 50 years of strife that were much worse than the 50 Years War following 50 Years after it, the only survivor was Germonique himself...and something...Alma...that's her name, she...it relates to now. Sephiroth was born under the same conditions, his soul, in the Lifestream, it relates."
"So its Shinra!" Barret roared.
"You're neglecting the fact that if Jenova hadn't shown up here in the first place the Shinra would've had nothing to use," the warrior spoke. "Whatever the case, wherever it came from, Xagor only spoke a half-truth. Sephiroth simply activated this in a way. If Ajora was the focus-point of this thing at that point, whoever he may be, well, it stands to reason he'd be here again. We've got another unknown enemy."
"This does tie into Shinra!" snapped Barret. "Prac'tic'ly everythin' does!"
"There's a connection between this thing and Jenova, but I don't understand it," Nanaki spoke. "Whatever the case, how we acknowledged the WEAPONS in the fight against Xagor has shown them we're allies. That's why they aren't troubling us."
Cait Sith blinked at him.
"I don't know..." he said. "I'm in some way related to the Cetra, my tribe has always been. I've suspected that, but Bugenhagen confirmed it at Round Island, in a way."
"So we've gotta' clear this thing out or be in trouble?" put in Cid.
Nanaki nodded. "That seems the reasonable course of events. Yuffie, your All Creation is the antithesis of both creation and destruction, so you're in. Cosmo Memory is close enough to this, so it'll be useful. Returning to our usual three battle-group, and excluding Cloud, Tifa, and Barret, who else thinks they're up to this?"
"I'm sick'a' bein' tossed around by some higher being!" shouted Barret, standing. "I'm coming with the rest of you!"
"This is far more dangerous than anything we've ever faced, Barret," Nanaki spoke. "It indeed threatens the Planet, as does Shinra, but you need rest." He sighed. "There's really none among us who possess the abilities to..."
Cait Sith, who had been quietly repairing himself, stood up. "I'm just an Android. I may not be of much use, but my useless metal body will go down again if necessary." He turned to Cid, who'd been arguing with Cloud, telling him that he'd go instead, he needed to rest. Tifa'd already fallen asleep. "Sorry, but you're out. I hope you see why."
Cid nodded. Barret muttered a few swear words, then sat back.
"Just don't gamble your lives!" he shouted.
"I don't believe we're planning to!" responded Yuffie. "I can still sense it, somehow, I know that if things become out of control, the WEAPONS will help. They'll fight with us now, not against us, like before."
"Enough words!" snapped Cait Sith. "Fightin' and talkin' ain't gettin' us anywhere, didn't really when we faced off against Exor Ra and his pals! The combination may help here, but we want to attack this thing first, not wait for it to come for us!"
Yuffie nodded, Red XIII just strode forwards.
"Good luck," spoke Cloud.
Nanaki turned, nodded his acknowledgment, then they continued forwards.
Even as they stepped out into the howling wind again they knew the thing sensed their intentions. Its body was crackling, parts of it extending, then snapping back as more lightning played across it. They were prepared this time, and simply strode forwards.
Red XIII tilted his head upwards. "You want a piece of us!" he challenged. "Then we'll be more than happy to give it to you!"
The thing responded with light-speed eruptions of lightning flickering off of him, and around the whole enormous, far-north section of the continent. They played across it again, it seemed to glare
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