Pathways Of Foreboding Chapter 12
Threads Upon Which Many Travel
By Paul Nathans
She didn't know how she knew, she just knew it was moving forward. The howling winds tugged at her, trying to drag her closer to the enormous thing that was pulsating. A wide-ranged sweep of energies caused her to jump back, forgetting about the winds, and almost losing her footing.
"Incoming!" Cait Sith spun his Slot Machine onto a Toy Soldier Connection. His lower midsection opened, blasting out a large group of toy soldiers, each created out of hardened diamond. The wind added to their speed, and each fired bullet shells. The thing gurgled and roared, a gaping wound opening, then sighed in contentment, seeming to grow stronger.
"Now!" shouted Nanaki.
Yuffie instinctively knew what to do, and quickly focused her OMNI-Powers, letting them flow from her into her Conformer, concentrate, pulsate, and erupt in a growing beam of light. The Conformer became much heavier as the beam, making contact with something that was the exact opposite of life, and yet could use both to its advantage, enlarged to maximum size.
If not for it being inbred talent, she'd have lost her arms. Cait Sith had lost his Toy Soldiers, not the the wind, but to the incandescent lightning. Even as the thing's wound opened, more skin replacing it, the All Creation connected. And it did so while the thing was still a wound. Pulsating powers greater than Nuclear Energies ripped through this thing, creating its wounds, and giving them, giving it healing, what it didn't want, but not letting it heal itself from the damage caused by healing.
This was she knew its name now Mu.
The thing gurgled and roared again, then disappeared without so much as a low thunderclap to announce its end
but the wind was still as strong as ever, and the portal hadn't closed.
"That was almost too easy," spoke Cait Sith.
Lights began to flash from the inside of the portal as soon as he said that
and the very air seemed to rumble as something seemed to shake itself out.
"I am Exdeath!" it roared, flexing its multi-part limbs. Its head, a combination of lion and cracked, ripped apart skin, along with a twisted face and extra skeletal eyes, was all that emerged besides those arms and its hairy, twisted neck and broad, greyish-brown shoulders. Each arm was composed of purple-blue extra claws, eleven each, to be exact. "I have been forced to exert myself! The opening has come, but I am not ready! Therefore you will pay earlier than when you would have!"
It motioned with its arm, and the cliff they were standing on was replaced with a starry, rippling blackness. Oddly enough, they could still stand, although the wind was as unrelenting as it had been before.
"I don't care what you are!" shouted Yuffie. She turned to Cait Sith momentarily. "Next time shut your mouth!" Then she turned back, unslinging her Conformer, which she had subconsciously put back as the battle ended.
The thing glared, a throaty laugh erupting from it.
She focused another All Creation. Red XIII prepared to cast his Cosmo Memory, and the thing just laughed, pinning him inside a triangle, which tried to compress, roaring through him, and out the other side. Then the force inside dragged him in, as extra energies erupted, and others tore into him from the side. It swung him out one more time, then placed him in to keep him there.
"Now I know its usage," the thing said. "I saw as this portal opened, but I understand too. It gave me balance, making me unable to stay in Mu, yet I can regulate it, and do as I wish. Or I came up with that. But I am now free, and the Being!" He roared once again. "Let's see how you like your reality imbalanced!"
Yuffie responded by tearing into him with an All Creation. He simply put up a shield and and absorbed it. She increased its intensity to maximum by herself, just now realizing how, and the beast's shield wavered, but held. Then the thing roared, smashed the shield, and swung forwards, rainbows erupting from its palms.
"You know how much I hate interfering fools, even ones that show me what more I have!?"
"Shut up and stop bragging!" she retorted.
Cait Sith spun his Slot Machine. He reached out and ripped two halves of its face, the center and right side, to the front, then moved the bar one to the left. The All Over energies backfired on themselves, producing All Over, which he simply absorbed into himself. Then he aimed another finger and blasted the Android with a small stream. It shrieked and crashed to the ground.
"And I hate machines!" he glared.
A huge vortex appeared, ripping out of him, greyish-white balls flying around. The thing straightened to a plain and back again, exploding in stars, all within a second, ripping open huge wounds.
"Feed me your pain!" he laughed. Then he turned and detonated one area of his Star-Layer, and ripped through the rock, making a grasping motion with his hands. Pink threads of energy tore into the throats of her companions, and he yanked them up. Then he attached them to the pyramid in which Red XIII floated.
Yuffie glared, and Exdeath turned to her again. "I saved you for last, since you alone possess the All Creation! Give it to me!!!!!"
"Dream on, ugly!"
"I may not, but I'll make sure you do!" he laughed. He snapped his fingers again, and the ground below her vanished. With no footholds, she shot up in the winds into a portal he had just created.
Well, almost. She grabbed onto the side of it with her hand, and crawled downwards. The beast rolled its eyes and blasted at her. She held up her Conformer, somehow able to focus another All Creation, and this time
she aimed it at the group. It seemed to understand her intent, as it bathed them in healing energies, freeing them from the trap. Its backwash flowed through her, then it erupted like a V through that Exdeath thing, tearing through it, and straight into the Mu. The Mu itself let out a gurgling sound, and the huge beast seemed to tremble. It glowed ivory white, expanding until 2,000 small necks, each attached to 4,000 large heads, emerged from every portion of the thing's body except its head.
The head crackled with light and tore itself into pieces
giving more strength to the larger heads, each resembling a twisted visage of their own faces. One, formless, right in the center, seemed to search for their innermost throughts. Then it laughed, and an image of Aeris, broken and ripped apart, along with Zack, lower-left, and Vincent lower-right, both below, appeared. A snake-length head blasted through the center, its front portion forming the body they had just destroyed.
All seven bodies, the Android's still crackling, only having managed to retain footage, were placed inside white spheres which immediately became the shape of their bodies, paralyzing them, yet holding them tighter than Xagor had.
The being grinned.
"Didn't you know Exdeath was just a Shell!?" it cackled. "Destroyed long ago, the Mu absorbed its pain, taking him in, demolishing, and using his mind to form Mu. It never let him/me have enough access to its memories, that's why I still search. I was Neo-Exdeath, I tried to destroy all then, was destroyed, that just made me stronger! Mu cannot be destroyed, for it is destruction!"
It cackled again, then looked at Cloud.
"I know who you are, Cloud Strife," it said. "I know how you accept your emotions, yet not state them, for no need. I know your internal conflict, how it resolved. Yet the night after, and now the night previous, it was just reopened! Don't you understand the suffering will never leave, it will eventually become part of you!? And your internal conflict about not fightning, not getting involved!? Why hasten it, though, I think it can return to you faster! And force you to fight at the same time!?"
He snapped his fingers again, and Cloud was sent swirling up into the huge Mu Circle, still within his paralyzed state. Tifa shrieked out his name as he went.
Next he looked at her.
"Tifa Lockheart," he spoke. "You, even like Cloud, don't show your emotions, but you're afraid to show them, because you're afraid of what other's answers would be to them. You finally know you can express them, yet you haven't gotten the chance. That's lucky, because since you haven't gotten the chance, I'll show you why you must keep them to yourselves! Let's see if you can deal with your own fears! Oh, and just for the record, if Cloud survives the vengeance of the person I've sent after him, he's lucky!" He snapped his fingers, and she was away, too.
His head swiveled to Barret.
"Barret Wallace, leader of AVALANCHE," was the thing's intonation. "The one who truly carries guilt. Yet you put it away as you began to understand about how you still have a future to look forwards to, how all people seem to. But is there really anything you must live for!? Elymra can look after your 'daughter' just as well as you. Why don't you just see for yourself!"
"Make me, you son of a-!" he was whisked away before he could complete his sentence, leaving the thing chuckling.
After a few seconds, it stopped and faced Red XIII.
"Nanaki, son of Seto, grandson of Bugenhagen," 'Exdeath' grated. "Your lacking qualities are vague, but they're there. You're only 16, and you know it." It paused, as if to emphasize it. "Your Lifespan is long, your friends will perish. You may make others, they'll grow old and lose their lives, assuming they live that long, and it will keep on happening. You've found a new family in each of them, I doubt you'd want to lose them. However, what would happen if you don't? Go look."
Nanaki was whisked away.
Next, Exdeath faced Cid.
"Cid Highwind," he began. "You used to work for Shinra, ignorant of the damage it was causing. You pursued your dreams, but at times became selfish. You spared Shera only to treat her like an inconsiderate brat, not acknowledging your own faults. Have you, yet? You still want to spend a while in space, that's easy to discern. So why not go there, and experience all its joys, and its pain eternally!"
Cid was whisked away before he could even retort.
The creature faced Cait Sith.
"Android," it spoke. "You're just a soulless, unfealing machine whom is controlled by someone equally unfeeling. I know who you are, Reeve, and I know that if you begin to head the reconstruction of Midgar, you could become as selfish as Rufus. After all, what type of being would communicate through mindless things!"
It snapped its fingers, and Cait Sith was flung against the outside of the starry area, blasted through, electrical energies crackling around it, and somehow Yuffie knew it had been disabled completely, at least for now.
Then Exdeath faced her, and she gulped.
"Yuffie Kisaragi " he began.
And something snapped.
"SHUT UP!!!!!" she screamed. She, Red XIII, Cait Sith the others, they hadn't been able to respond, only watch, listen as he passed his mock-judgment over them. Tifa had cried in concern for her friend, Barret and Cid, refusing to fall without giving up, refusing to lose, had been able to speak, none had been able to counter him.
Her whole life, first a war, then a shattered town, then a traveling existence she'd been free, but she'd known what was missing, only the pride she had discovered, and the determination that came upon her, when she wanted to restore Wutai. It was misleading, her life hadn't really been a peaceful one. Just fighting
"You can't judge me, you *freak!*" She swung her Conformer, something akin to the determination of her All Creation seeming to grow inside her.
The thing let out a booming laugh, each successive portion of it seeming to crush the first, even as waves dashed against the shore. They shattered, they tore into her, she knew they were trying to make her flinch.
Well, no more!
"I've had it, I repeat, HAD IT, with self-proclaimed, ancient beings who seem to feel the need to intrude upon the tranquility of this Planet!" she shrieked. "*GET AWAY FROM ME!!!!!*"
And she was free, tearing into this thing with an All Creation, its backwash channeling and multiplying her energies, ripping them out and replacing them. The two energies, both Creation and Nothingness, were the mass that created this beam. They centered, coexisted, but couldn't, thus erupting in concentrated cacophonies that ripped through the air. All of these powers focused, it was probably one of the strongest forces in the whole Universe, and she was learning to control it.
Now she could negate with it. Her rage seemed shunted back, replaced by an almost-inhuman perception. All Creation was once again at its highest intensity, but it didn't weaken her this time. She could experience its fibers, and could guide it. This thing, Exdeath, was shocked at this onslaught. It countered, and she countered. She focused every fiber of the beam on Nothingness when an existing Spell was thrown at her, when it used Nothingness, she used Creation.
The beam soared over the body of this colossus, ripping through it, destroying and healing it again, yet in such a way it couldn't respond. Spells of such magnitude whole galaxies could suffer seemed to rip into this enclosed space, this was cosmic, but then, everything hung upon all battles. The choices each person made reflected this thing she faced was literally skewered into pieces.
It repaired itself again, but by now she was combatting inside the wind, had forced this thing back to the portal. Her beam cut through its darkness and blazing lights, the very portal shimmered
more magical energies would gather here, another Catastrophe would take place, more lives would be destroyed
she ripped the beam around this Void of Life, the skies beginning to cascade in upon it. The stars below seemed to shimmer and smash into the circle. The area seemed to shatter, replaced by the normal landmarks, then pulsed with alien colors, all flying into this thing. As more and more of this beast's flesh was melted away, she could see it simply resembled a claw, grasping out of the portal.
And the claw was ripped away, and fell downwards. She let the portal soar open, larger than it had been before, and it sucked the thing upwards, inside, then reduced it to the size at which it was struggling, not letting it gain any ground.
"The life force of these humans is still strong!" The Void seemes to shrink in size, expanding at the same time, then rippled outwards with large, shimmering flashes of light, forcing the winds outwards, tearing through the negative energies. They circled around and reentered the portal, even as she threw herself backwards, away from the final backwash and destruction of this imbalance. She tucked and rolled as she landed, then spun to watch the wind finish sucking in
and the colors and shimmers ceased to exist.
A calm seemed to flow over the North Crater once again.
'Wha-what?' Ceile tensed, scanning the perimeter of their Craxyold/Whorlex. Aisha was off to one side, formulating a section of the feet of their Intersteller WEAPON. And that thing coming towards them, which seemed to be flashing out several names towards them, through things it had created, of course, which they would probably ignore, was still too far away to really communicate with them.
'Both the Lifestream and the Crater have been Stabilized. No more Wild Cards, except for maybe them.'
'Who are you?' she cried into the depths of the blackness.
'Mu, the Dark Star, Xagor, they begin to approach,' the thing responded. 'Its really all so simple. Letting the Mu through attracted the Planet, they'll be wondering why it managed to break through. So when the Dark Star comes upon this Planet and that will keep its Goddess busy at two places, both merged with its current protectorate, and to stop the Mu from opening again. That means Xagor can become what he was. I'm offering you a chance to become part of that.'
'Who are you, what do you know of the Mu, and Exdeath?'
A sigh seemed to flow out of the calm.
'Exdeath perished that day he was sucked into the Mu, but, as it has over the billions of years, it simply adapted to the name of the most-current being to enter it, one of destruction. That's why it became Neo-Exdeath, and now Supreme-Exdeath, Absolute Reverse of All. But then again, I may be Mu/Exdeath/Texardo/Etcetera. I may be theorizing. You won't know unless you come.'
'I don't know who you are, but get OUT!!!!!' She cast her thought out with the force of twenty Supernovas. Something about whatever was communicating with her was too profound to be acknowledged. If she accepted, there'd be no going back.
'I can't.' It paused, seemingly chuckling quietly. 'I'm not approaching your erratic sister or the oncoming creature, I have need of you. One was forced, unwillingly, to provide the means for a stabilization in Pureland, I'll use you for the other stabilization.'
'Look up the word no!' she snapped back.
'I know its definition, I just thought you might want out of here.'
Ceile drew in a breath.
Years ago she would've gladly accepted, wanting to be freed from this prison, hating it, wishing it would be ripped into shreads, smashed into pieces.
'There's something wrong with my sister, I can't come now unless there's good reason. Tell me what you are!'
'I'm not going to.'
'Well, you can't make me come, or my 'father' would just come here, assuming he's learned to care about anything! If you've got plans for an exact time, if you're truly the embodiment of Mu that stretches all the way from Supreme-Exdeath back to Reizestrez, and its beginning, you'd just endanger yourself. The Dark Star can '
'I know full well what it can do. Wild cards must be annihilated, though. Rather than freedom, you'll lose your life. Think about it.'
Then the sense of this thing's presence was gone.
Ceile decided it wouldn't be a very smart idea to tell Aisha about this. She looked again through the solid, yet clear, blackness, both enclosing and infinite, then turned back to working on the current section of WEAPON Molecules she was composing now.
The next thing Cloud knew, he was surrounded by surreal lights, waving in hypnotic, peaceful patterns. The only time he'd seen anything like this before was in the All Plane, but that had been a place full of a blue-green background, all parts Lifestream energies that separated, forming open pockets, pulsing with colors, both there and not there, that he could see through. The pockets spread, and seemed to fall into the blue, replacing them, then they connected. At least, that was all he'd been able to observe, or sense, whatever his being had done, during that battle with Exor Ra.
He'd seen Yuffie take out the huge fist of the thing attacking them, he'd watched as more and more portions of the Crater and the surrounding forest were sucked up into the vortex. If it was to provide him any entertainment, it would've needed to take her out first. Yuffie had closed the portal, and was now half-conscious, exhausted. Cait Sith seemed all right, but was shut down.
His vision shifted from close-up to far away again, and he saw himself looking at the whole Planetary System, floating around. As he watched, his vision seemed to move in on a Dark Orb that was floating into the area. He could tell he was seeing the past, his knowledge, and the parts of Jenova Cells that had been with him could prove to him this. But to the display, the cycle of time meant nothing.
The Orb settled into a familiar place
jogging his memory. It was the out-of-place orb that had been shown in Bugenhagen's display, that those two meteorites had seemed attracted to.
He saw their Planet, Artesta, surrounded by three moons. The continents were in this shape, but the huge North Crater, which could be seen clearly from space, he'd seen it in the Shinra Escape Pod, wasn't there. He somehow knew it was forest instead. He watched as a very-well-known orange-red object moved towards their Planet, it was circling the Orb, and now began to move. The view was widespread again, he could see all thirteen Planets, as something seemed to shoot from the sky into the Meteor. It was converted, and as he watched, it broke away, a tiny black object drifting towards the Planet.
The Black Materia. Whatever was in the Orb controlled Meteor, it had converted it in a last-ditch attempt to save its life. The strange thing that had shot out
'Texardo,' a soothing female voice seemed to tell him, almost-motherly in the way it spoke
but he wasn't given time to ponder this. He sensed it was now 200, no, maybe 500, Years later. Something was emerging from the Black Orb. His vision zoomed in, and what he saw was a cocooned Jenova, in SYNTHESIS Form. Something shoved it, and it shot out towards the Planet. Weeks later, it headed towards the area that was now North Crater, the human form that he'd seen in his false memories, of the Jenova floating in the tank in the Nibleheim Reactor, superimposed on it. She was obviously testing her illusions.
Then came the collision that would form North Crater.
Almost immediately afterwards, he could hear the cries. Not just the Planet's, but those of the people. He watched as the Cetra were slain, the Lifestream, strange dark mists seeping into it, took shape. Kingdoms rose and fell, early types of Materia were formed, the continents shifted. The passage of time simply sped up, and he witnessed how often humanity had hovered on indecision. They'd destroyed their Crude Materia, only to feel the need for it again, made two other types, Materia Books, each had eventually been destroyed. Lives were taken, the tectonic plates seemed to be in constant movement as the Planet struggled with its very self.
The Third Moon was shattered as the Fifth Planet was, he could see the flashing threads as people were transported. Magic was intergrated into the populace, but with the arrival of mixed-up WEAPONS it went out of control. The tectonic plates, having settled in a new formation, one that would've been permanent, the Third Moon's loss had disrupted the gravity, was taken away as the Second Moon moved away. A large tower, built in ancient times, conjured up gateways. Two or three more times Crude Materia was used, abandoned, and practiced again, then finally given up. The loss of lives shaped history, Magic disappeared, the Lifestream settled. The Planets had been attached, were taken apart. The Second Moon returned.
The Tectonic Plates settled, and shifted twice more as Magic was completely purged, even though the Materia wasn't. The years ticked by, and the continents moved into their old, and new, position, the one that had been there since the last normal shift, and stayed, they moved over time. He saw Midgar, Meteor, the floating discus, Jenova shattering, Meteor shattering.
At that moment something seemed to move within the Black Orb.
Then the sights repeated themselves.
The screams came more clearly this time, the jumbled images, one over the other, intensifying them, the pain, the sorrow, the agony. He experienced billions of periods in time, at the same points, seeing through others, could see the fires, the armies, the destruction
he cried out in pain.
"What I thought !" he screamed, arced backwards, and crashed to the ground, trying to cover his eyes and ears. More and more images flashed before his eyes. A huge reddish-green Plane suspended above their star, small, intertwining portions coming down from the Plane, to end in circular balls, probably teleporters. In the center was a larbge shrine, below, it branched outwards, and connected in a large sphere-mesh. In the center were two enormous machines, no, now they'd been destroyed, far beyond, on a circular plateau, countless Cetra and one large, blonde-haired girl, the large one a gigantic being, perhaps a Goddess. A beast looking remarkably like Lord Godo's OMNI-Form cut them down, even as the Cetra worked the Planet's energies through the structures of the Plane, severing the portal links. He watched as similar towers on each Planet shattered with concussive blasts when this happened. The Goddess threw herself at the being, both crashed together and exploded, the Cetra were trapped, destroyed.
The Plane remained.
The image shifted to the Planet. He could see an overview of them, how they began to shift, the North Crater collapsing in the mountains. After two shifts, the continents came close together. Something happened, they shifted again, being ripped apart by some experimental force. When they rose again and started to shift, they merged. They shifted again, a tower rose at that time, the continents settled in a partially-merged state, and soon after the Third Moon and the Fifth Planet detonated. All Magic Books and Crude Materia were forsaken, all their types destroyed. The continents shifted yet again, leaving a gaping hole in the ground, as several continents once more. And the Second Moon floated away. The hole was crushed when they shifted another time, crushing the hole, the continents were partially-merged this time, too. That's when Magic vanished. Crude Materia Practices were renewed, the tower, it was converted, the Planets were linked by the large tower. The Tower was changed around in its reflective positions on the Planet, forming a Plane, as the continents shifted. That way the people on the other Planets would have a link back here, he combined this with Yuffie's story. Then the Tower, or, in some cases, Twin Towers, were destroyed. More continental shifting, the people were returned as the Second Moon returned, acting as a ferry. The continents were apart. They shifted again, and stayed this time.
Magic returned, within the course of a year the continents shifted two more times, the second time merging again, finally moving back to this state, the Northern Crater uncovered once again. The second year-shift was when Magic vanished, in the first, the remaining Cetra dwindled to a few. He could hear their screams, see them struggle to hold the Planet together, and be destroyed by nuclear detonations. He could hear their screams.
"Why are you showing me this!?" he grated out. "What's happening!?"
The images were ripped from him, and he found himself on his knees.
(Unless he was being submitted to the torture that beast had tried to place him through. He wasn't safe.)
He leapt up, groping for his sword, then ripped it free.
Energy crackled up and down it, pulsating. The pinkish center, reflecting his stamina, flickered, and a reddish-blue beam appeared inside it. Instinctively, he knew that whatever was happening now, whatever had stopped those nightmares, had come from this sword. He grabbed the Buster Sword out of the sheath behind him on a sudden hunch and brought both swords together.
Barret, standing in the midst of wavering colors, watched as something began to form before his eyes, some sort of portal, and he could see himself looking through it, and could see the construction of Midgar.
"I don't think so!" he roared, unleashing a Catastrophe right into the portal. It had taken him long enough to figure out that he was in some type of Lifestream, he remembered what forms of torture he would try to be shown. The area around him seemed to ripple, and he could briefly see 'down below.' Through the images of Midgar, he could somehow see Reeve's previous existence there, and where he was now. He could see Priscilla, looking as if she'd finally woken up from her many-days-long coma, Reeve nearby, fiddling with instruments, obviously trying to repair the destroyed Cait Sith, then swearing and turning to his PHS.
Which was out of batteries, so now he was asking for more. A Gongaga citizen obliged by saying she'd get some, then ran off to retrieve batteries. Then the portal seemed to shatter, and he could see Cloud.
Red XIII had simply sat still and waited, concentrating both his Cosmo Memory and Stardust Ray into one crackling energy conductor, which he was holding inside. He'd already witnessed the passage of lives, the pathways of time, up until the forming of this Planetary System. He'd wait until things focused on him, then blast the portal into bits and pieces.
"Bugenhagen told me learning of the past would be useful," he muttered to himself, waiting for the appropriate time, and hoping it would come before he was forced to unleash his hereditary powers, so he could learn all there was to learn from this experience.
So he waited.
Tifa was trapped in a lonely section of swirling colors.
She was choosing 'passages' at random, running down one, down the other, through a complex circle, trying to find one of her comrades, or maybe a way out. If whoever had sent her here expected her to sit idly, paralyzed with fear, they could wait the rest of their lives.
Like Yuffie, or someone, she didn't feel the need to remember clearly now, focusing on what directions she had taken in case she had to backtrack, had said, she was a survivor.
And she'd survive this, too.
"What gives, Cloud!?" was the first thing Barret got out.
"I don't know," he said. "The Ultima Weapon is having some sort of reaction to this place, whatever it is. It just blasted open a portal, and "
The Weapon's energies were flickering, a small black globe was beginning to expand from them. It changed to white
"Get rid'da' the darned thing!" screamed Barret.
Without stopping to think, Cloud did so, hurling it out into the air, just as it shifted forms, exploding outwards, the form of the Uitima Weapon briefly appearing. It seemed to convulse, and an image of Shinra, trying to clone Cells from it. The Ultima Weapon's form convulsed, crackling, and Cloud withdrew his Apocalypse from where it hung, with the Ragnarok, Buster Sword, and Nail Bat, in the Quadro-Sheath on his back, watching as the form changed.
It was now Topaz Weapon. Having failed to become something that might or might not be alive, it became something else, the type of WEAPON like the Ultima Weapon, but different. And it roared.
Cloud's eyes widened. The agony and knowledge that he'd only just experienced was fading, but he could catch onto two things before it charged.
One, this was no accident, some outside force had caused this, and two, the Topaz Weapon was only one thing now a destroyer
...rearing up and slamming its fists down, shriek-roaring.
Barret dodged to its left and tried to fire a Catastrophe. The Topaz Weapon slashed at him, tearing through his Missing Score. The electricity and plasma used to form the Catastrophe erupted. He cast off the Missing Score, and let his now-useless Atomic Scissors, his fourth layer, take the blow, then opened fire with his Maximum Ray. The Topaz Weapon spun, energy was released from all of its orbs, they swirled around and knocked him to the ground. He flipped up and blasted out a condensed group of Gamma Rays, clear.
Up above Topaz Weapon they stopped moving, spent, and focused. The patterns he'd fired caused them to stop now, also move into four focusing-beam-like rays. They condensed and exploded, and a Satellite Beam blasted down, catching the Weapon on the right shoulder. It spun, whitish-grey blasts laced out of its colored ribs, slamming into him. He crashed to the ground, and clutched his midsection as they erupted on his Imperial Guard, smashing through it, not just breaking his ribs by indenting it. The chest-piece, the strongest part of the armor, had been blasted into him. He let out his own bellow of pain and blasted out another Satellite Beam.
Topaz leapt up, staying out of range of Cloud, and sent a swinging, greenish-purple blast from his Central Orb at Barret. Cloud slashed outwards, the movement attuned to a special motion that only members of SOLDIER could use, because of their Jenova Cells, and how it responded to the Lifestream, and its Comet Materia. He didn't have Jenova Cells anymore, but he had had them. Ten meteorites crashed down upon the Weapon and its blast. Five of them took the blast, the other five forced the WEAPON to the ground.
It turned to Cloud this time, the 'Ex-SOLDIER' now the greater threat, and lashed at him, blasting out a Comet 2 Spell. Cloud darted to the side, and thrust through one of its wings. The wing came down, slapping him to the 'floor.' He rolled aside from a huge foot and slammed into the thigh with his Apocalypse. The WEAPON turned down to face him, giving Barret the opportunity to pelt it full of Bullets, right in the spinal cord.
The Topaz Weapon took to the air, raining a Shadow Flare down upon them. They both dodged to the side, and he found himself lifted up by the WEAPON, who didn't hesitate to slam him into the wall, then toss him to the ground like a rag-doll. He clutched his chest as he staggered to his feet, firing a point-blank shot right into its stomach as it swooped down again. It fell, convulsing for a few seconds.
"Keep you' claws away from me, ya' big ugly brute!" shouted Barret.
Cloud was there again, attempting to run him through. He was knocked to the ground by a Stigma, with no major damage except a burning sleeve, which was stamped out almost as soon as he collided with whatever made up the floor of this place. It focused on the AVALANCHE Leader again, and released another trademark Orb Blast.
Barret just darted to the side and blasted its left. It growled and spun to face him, giving Cloud the time to race up the thing's back and impale his sword into the back of its neck. It shrieked and tried to claw him, so he leapt backwards a few feet and slashed into its back. The claws clutched there, giving him time to leap up to below its neck and thrust downwards again. He wasn't able to pierce the large bone that made up its throat, he doubted the Ultima Weapon could even do that, it'd probably just dig in, but did manage to saw across it.
The WEAPON reared back, leaving its underside fully-open to Barret, who felled the thing with another quick blast. Cloud scrambled away as a small version of the Midget-Type WEAPONS took place, first the WEAPON fell apart, and a white sphere erupted from where it had been, then blackness overtaking it, as if the very energies had briefly torn a hole in its light. Then the Ultimate Weapon, or, rather, its hilt, fell to the ground, a few rainbow-colored sparks leaping off it.
But that was all that remained of it
leaving a surprised Cloud and Barret to stare down at it.
Cloud looked down at the hilt for a few seconds, after which he picked it up, undid the strap to the bag that was folded into pieces, carrying Healing Potions, and placed the hilt in one of the very few empty sections.
Then he tied the lace of his Item Sack again.
Barret was the first to speak. "Interesting development, huh?"
An explosion nearby caused both of them to spin in its direction, to the Cloud's left, Barret's right. The walls seemed to ripple, then vanished. A few seconds later Nanaki bounded through.
"Well, well," spoke Barret. "What kept ya'!?"
"Merely a desire to learn from the past," the warrior responded. "As long as what I was seeing wasn't anything unnecessary, I decided it would make no sense not to see what was being shown." He paused for a few seconds. "What happened here?"
Barret and Cloud both explained, each finding out what had happened to the other as well. Cloud, however, didn't go into detail on what he had seen, neither did Nanaki, for obvious reasons. This wasn't the place to share things like what those two had seen.
"And Tifa and Cid?" Cloud asked.
Red XIII shook his head.
Cloud sighed. "Then I guess we'll have to look for them, finding some passageway, blasting routes, or some other way."
He strode downwards.
Red XIII had failed to blast through any portions of the room because there were no portals, that had probably been the only reason they'd been able to blast through rooms before.
But they'd found a small exit, looping down and left from the upper-'left' corner of the 'chamber' Nanaki had been in, and descended, following the pathway as it twisted and turned.
He still couldn't come up with any idea as to where they were, although that didn't matter. Right now they had to find Tifa and Cid. Once again, the group had been separated, and once again, it wasn't going to stay that way. Cloud didn't let people he cared for stay in danger, although knowing both of them they'd probably escaped, and each group was looking for each other.
He sighed. Sometimes it was so hard for him to tell what any of them would be thinking. He thought he'd understood Tifa, at least a bit, but sometimes she seemed to be trying to say things he thought he should understand, he did, in a way, he just didn't think bringing up things that he suspected himself wouldn't do anything, she'd have to find out what her emotions were herself, but she'd start to bring them up, and then she'd switch topics. Although he was beginning to have doubts on that matter, in a way. He wondered if he should speak for himself, but still didn't know if there was any need. And that might be because he wasn't sure of his own feelings, so he let that subject drop a lot. And if they weren't talking about anything concerning their friendship, Tifa usually would keep them on the subject.
He could change direction in the blink of an eye. Cloud still remembered that incident on Shinra Number 26, when Cid had decided he wasn't going to help them recover the Huge Materia, then had suddenly changed his mind. Just as he'd thought they were idiots to fight against Shinra, but helped them, although that may have been for personal reasons. Then, when they were out of options, the Huge Materia having failed to destroy Meteor, he'd started acting like some ancient hero, yet with a lot of Barret's characteristics. No, they might be waiting, not looking for each other, and Red XIII, Barret, and himself.
"There's a fork in the corridor," announced Red XIII.
"Great!" swore Barret. He'd recovered his Missing Score, which was in an empty section of his Item Sack. "How' we s'posed to find them if we're lost!?"
"Keep on searching around. Eventually we should stumble across one or both of them. And if only one, then we might have to do the same for the other."
"Then let's try right first!" Cloud stated.
Barret and Red XIII shrugged, as if to say 'Why Not?' and they moved in that direction, alert, as before, in case there was something dangerous here.
The pathway curved upwards, and slowly became clear, starry. Strange images began flashing into their heads.
They saw a Planet, the tenth from their Sun. It was almost-completely covered with the ruins of an enormous city, the parts that weren't canyons and craters, while the ocean was one of lava. It was filled with great beasts and dangerous machines, destructive weapons thousands of times stronger than any Shinra might be able to build, a huge Power-Plant in the center, standing threateningly. As the Linking Tower was rearranged, this Planet and another began to shift.
The Lifestream was taking steps to counteract this, the dense trees and foilage of the eleventh Planet. Creator had to have created this, given its resources to the people that inhabited it. The Lifestreams were working together, channeling the evil into space, trying to destroy it. A chance encounter with a floating 'something' disrupted the cycle. The eleventh Planet split into two continents. Not many had populated it, so as the foliage dwindled away, and the oceans turned to ones of lava, the only structures on it were two of the mesh-towers linking that thing Cloud had seen above their Sun. The only other place to hold two, he had noted, was on the Twelfth Planet. The monsters were thrusted back to the other Planet, the earthquakes created giant mountain ranges, a sea rose up to envelop much of the huge continent that spanned the Planet. And most monsters migrated into a large, labyrinthine cave.
As the passage of time continued, a huge shrine was built on the Eleventh Planet, connecting the two continents, but was deserted after a battle with a Godlike being inside. The Tenth Planet began to shift again, the cities rose, the mixture of lava and monsters destroyed the seas, creating more lava, the city seemed to take on a life of its own, the caverns, deeper than before, much larger, remained. The Pixie-Like beings that had inhabited the caverns vanished.
Then they saw a large, Altar-Shaped Temple.
Somehow, each knew they were staring into the past. Far into the past, before the Jenova Crash. They seemed to see two different places, a being ripped back into that place, into the Great Temple, and began to modify it. There was something down there on the Fifth Floor, there was some significance to it, they couldn't understand it, though. The thing seemed to rip through time again and again, performing threatening acts in human form. Upon its return to the past it would merge with its previous self, becoming stronger. It eventually grew strong enough to create things, too. It created more destruction that way, its four monsters and he. He continued the Loop, growing stronger, after 2,000 Years of this, was slain. His body was pulled back to his form, entrapped in the past momentarily, by his servants, when his servants were destroyed, he recreated them. Then he was destroyed, and the Altar collapsed upon itself. Garland/Chaos saw this fate, and could plan again. He used the energies created by it to make demons that would slowly develop.
Then he perished when he combined with one named Zemus to create Zeromus. He was revived during the Pureland Wars, to act as a servant, and was slain.
They saw the five Planets destroyed by Supernova. The First from the Sun had been a large, desert-like place with sizzling heat, frozen, burning oceans in the shape of spikes, the people who journeyed there, except for four, either managed to give up on making living conditions there, or perished. Well, most. Two towns were formed as the Planet developed into a desert, after the demon Ashura, who created a Citadel of Evil there, was defeated, the Planet gradually became a combination of both.
The second was a small, fertile world, that had developed as one, filled with lush lakes and one continent, devoid of life. It twisted into one, they saw a father nearly perish there, a monster destroyed by to protect a girl. Afterwards, the Planet twisted agan, becoming a combination of its previous forms, too. It was destroyed.
The Eighth Planet had been host to large cities, having started out as a world of Oceans, host to a conflict between a demon named Sei-Ryu and that thing Yuffie had mentioned, Ryu-O. After they vanished, it had become a world host to large trading as the continents shifted, and the evil God Magnate sought to control it. He was destroyed. Soon after, the continents shifted once more, but that was it. The water level was reduced more, though.
The Sixth Planet had been a Gas Planet, with only a section of the clouds above it fit for walking upon. The Dark God, Venus, changed this around, constructing large cities upon its surface, but gasses would push through it upon occasion. This place had thrived after her demise, had become filled with joyful life. There was a beauty and peace about it that seemed incredible, and it, too, had been destroyed, ripped into pieces.
And the Fifth Planet. It had been composed of a civilization among the clouds, ruled by Byak-Ko. Upon his defeat, it, too, was changed into a different Planet by the powers of the Dark God Apollo, who came to it after the Cloud-Continents had shifted. Civilizations were erected, he seemed benevolent, he and the Machine God, but he wasn't. A dangerous Valcano on the Sea Floor proved that this had been a Gas Planet. It was now in pieces.
They could see the Fourth Planet, too, once a watery Planet with strange statues and two or three landmasses, they couldn't see quite clearly, one at the front-center, another at the north, perhaps another at the south. Giants, actually, Colossuses, had ended up there from somewhere, building enormous houses, so large only one small village remained, the other was enormous, covering up the rest of the Planet. It was now deserted, as was everything on that Planet.
The Seventh Planet had been a green, lush Planet. There was one continent on it, it was peaceful, but somehow linked with the Ninth Planet. It had been clogged with Magical Waters, but four people had fixed the problem. Eventually, the land became one continent with many lakes, and it was composed fully of a village.
The Ninth Planet, which it connected to, had been an Ocean World, but had become dry when the Clogging Problem had presented itself. That had been fixed at the same time as the Clogging Problem on the Seventh Planet, and it had become a Supercontinent Planet, but there was water. The Dark God Apollo had held Dragon Races on the Planet.
And the Twelfth Planet, it had started out with two Continents connected by a Shrine-Bridge. It had been arranged to be the mysterious Paradise Creator had made the myth of. He'd been created there, eventually the place came to be populated, it was the only other Planet that had had two Celestial Towers. A labrynthine mountain had been formed, so dangerous it had been named Final Dungeon by its inhabitants, because anyone who entered there usually found it to be the final place they'd go to while being alive.
They could see Altars similar to the one that had existed on their Planet at the edges of their perception. There had been one on the Second Planet, there had been one on the Fourth Planet. And there had been one on the Eleventh Planet, the Tenth Planet, and the Ninth Planet. There had also been one on the Seventh Planet, and, while it had existed, the Sixth Planet. And before the Planets had become Twelve, when they had been Thirteen, there was one on what was now the Fifth Planet, but had been the Sixth Planet before, but it had disappeared.
They arrived at a pyramid-gateway with galaxies and colors inside at the same time Tifa emerged from another passage, meeting up with them.
Immediately, she called over to them as they shouted over to her
the Pyramid flashed.
And they spun to face it.
The PHS rang.
"Yes?" Yuffie asked after opening it up.
"This is Reeve," spoke the voice at the other end. "What exactly happened, and where are you and Cait Sith 3?"
"Long story," she responded. "In short, that thing got destroyed, Cait Sith has shut down, I don't know if its functional or not, and I managed to destroy that thing that attacked, and the portal."
She could almost see Reeve's eyebrows raise in surprise.
"Are you looking for the others?"
"I wouldn't know where to start," the Ninja Girl replied. "That's what I'm trying to think of a good place to start searching. The only question is, how?"
"I really don't know," Reeve answered. "I'm really busy, I've made contact with Dio with my PHS to help direct repairs on the Highwind. Priscilla's fine, it took a long time for her to be stabilized, but if she gets into more trouble like this, she shouldn't end up in a coma. She got mouth-fed, but she's still hungry." He paused for a few seconds. "Do you think you can check to see if Cait Sith can be repaired?"
"I guess making sure the Android's back up would do some good." Yuffie nodded. "Tell me what to do," she stated.
The pyramid flashed again.
And once again, in a steady, mysterious beat. It seemed to be crackling each time it flashed, the stars and galaxies in it whirling around, zooming in on centers, ripping out so they could see a myriad of colors.
"What is this?" Tifa asked.
"I dunno'!" Barret responded. "Although I doubt its anything good! We just don't encounter mysterious things that like to help people! Our opponents usually use the cloak of secrecy, figuratively speakin'!"
The pyramid flashed again, this time more-rapidly.
"I don't think this thing should be here," stated Cloud. "It seems out of place."
"No one should touch it until we find out its purpose," stated Red XIII. He reached for his Item Sack, took out a Potion, and threw it at the pyramid.
It crackled, lashing out with lightning-type energies, yellow and white bolts streaking outwards, spinning around the area. Parts of the pyramid seemed to grab the Potion, and ripped it to pieces, then shredded the droplets that rained to the ground.
"Last warning, you little freakin'-!!!!!"
Four heads immediately glanced to a section of the torn chamber, to see Cid floating in a pseudo-space, over a pseudo-planet, pale, obviously from lack of air. Whoever had put him here had seemed to have obliged in letting him see the Planet, he was now losing his oxygen.
Or was. The Pseudo-Planet disappeared, and Cid immediately looked around.
"'Bout time!" he shouted. "I was beginning to think I'd have to get out of here and look for you while you were lookin' for me!"
Barret rolled his eyes and stood back as Cid pedaled over to the doorway, collapsing on the 'ground' and taking a deep breath of air. He held it in for a long time, then exhaled and rose to his feet.
"What the blazes happened!?" he shouted.
"There's really not time to explain," answered Nanaki. "At least, not now." He pointed to the flashing pyramid.
Cid glanced at it. "Holy-!!!!!" Whatever the second word in his sentence was going to be was drowned out as the thing flashed again.
"I have no idea what it could be, but Barret is right when he says it, like most mysterious objects we've encountered, isn't anything good."
'Come to me ' a smooth female voice seemed to beckon, its tone speaking of absolute contentment, yet this voice seemed simply-inviting. Yet it carried with it an aura of power that said it could not be disobeyed.
Almost without knowing they had, they had taken a step forwards, as for one brief instant every thought in their mind had been ripped from them, replaced by unquestioning obedience, and then replaced with their normal thoughts.
Cloud staggered and stepped backwards, the others immediately backtracking and moving into a fighting position.
'Come to me ' the voice was steadily-increasing in its moods, honeycombed with grace, while its commands seemed even stronger. Each of them had been able to grasp what this thing was doing, and now found chills ripping up and down their bodies as they fought to disobey its orders. They succeeded, but seemed to feel an incredible yearning now to run forward, leap into this thing, and clutch at it, bond with it.
An aroma started to drift forwards, slowly, each a tiny wisp. Barret immediately backed away from it, throwing up his arms as the wisp darted forwards, trying to sink into him. Tifa was able to use her Master Fist in the way Barret had, while Cid snapped his flight goggles over his face. Red XIII had nothing to defend himself with, so Cloud shoved him out of the way, and was hit with the blast.
His whole body began trembling, as every chemical within the area around him, except by the pyramid, seemed to disappear. He found himself filled with an even-stronger, irresistable longing to go now, just as he had felt before, but he had to do it now. More and more wisps fell into him, and he found himself floating in a sea of contentment, rainbow mists surrounding him. While his mind was still functioning, his body was responding, and stepped forwards, then picked up its pace.
"Cloud!" both Nanaki and Tifa shouted after him.
He noticed what was happening, and spun, trying to run back to his companions. This time, each step was filled with excruciating pain, but he was firmly in control, and continued onwards.
At least for a minor interval.
More and more wisps besieged him, until his mind seemed to be drained of all thoughts, completely-drained, except for the one that the pyramid was feeding him.
He turned and bolted, the aroma becoming stronger with each step. He was moving so fast he was at its strongest point, in front of the pyramid, about to take that final step forwards that would place him inside the pyramid, before their voices came again, all at the same time.
"Cloud!!!!!?????" they seemed to be shouting.
He couldn't hear them, though. Their voices were of no consequence.
As he was about to enter the pyramid, though, something focused in his mind, like a bright light through a fog.
He realized where he was, and what he was about to do.
"Why me?" he moaned, spinning around.
All the energies in the pyramid converged on him.
He turned around again, this time with his destination fully in his mind. Resolutely, he strode towards the Pyramid, this time moved towards it, millimeters from it, entering, entering
then whipping out and embedding the point of his Apocalypse in the pyramid and leaping backwards with one fluid movement.
The thing let out a shriek of rage, all illusions shattered, and the area around them rippled outwards, blasted back by another unfathomable force. They all stumbled and crashed to the ground even as the pyramid burst into pieces and dissolved.
'All roads lead to Nothingness,' something droned. 'That is what must be achieved, it is the only way.'
This was the same thing that had interfered with the structure of the Ultima Weapon, the thing that had made sure that they wouldn't end up in a place of torture from which it could possibly escape. It gave them the place of torture, but didn't provide any escape route. It was ancient, it had shown them that, they needed to know it was ancient, they needed to know it was useless to struggle against something like this.
Somehow, the Apocalypse remained untouched, and Cloud managed to grab it before they were whisked away on floating platforms, which were whirling around and around, cracking.
'But I cannot bring attention to myself, not yet,' the voice went on. 'Consider yourselves lucky this time.'
It chose its words well. It had gained a small victory by leaving them with the fear of something they were clueless about, something that they knew was more dangerous than all the threats they faced now. Something that was probably at the root of what had given the greed of their own race an opportunity for destruction.
But it didn't leave them anywhere under their own control.
All five found themselves strapped to the front of something large, cold, and metal, inside an enormous tube.
"What the " Barret looked around, then launched into a very long string of curses, swearwords that probably didn't even exist in them.
"What!?" asked Cloud when he was done.
Barret pointed to the wall next to them.
Four pairs of eyes looked where he was pointed, and Cloud drew in a sharp breath while Cid himself began swearing, louder and more-vehemently than Barret.
The inside of the tube said, in red-and-blue letters.
"Property of the Shinra Electric Power Company"
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