Pathways Of Foreboding Chapter 14
"I Am The One With The Time God..."
By Paul Nathans
She collapsed, knees buckling, then swayed. Dileta gasped, looking at the knife in his hand, and stepped back, even as her last strength gave out, and she fell.
The knife, blood on it now, fell from his hand and clattered to the ground. He stepped back, breathless, as the full enormity of what he'd just done crashed down upon him. He staggered to the side, then collapsed to the ground, circlet rolling off and falling into a still position.
"Ramza " he breathed, thinking of his friend. "What did you get? " Was he still alive, and how had he been spared this? "I "
His knees buckled too, and he fell, letting sobs pour free. He ripped the robe-mesh off his back and flung it against the wall. The people had accepted him, rumor said they were already married, when they had been engaged but December 26th, the day the area south of Orbonne Monastery erupted, and what had looked like Alma's body, although with white hair, had been found.
He'd guessed Ramza had been vaporized, pursuing that idiot Vormav down into Orbonne, perhaps elsewhere. They'd placed Alma below the ground but a week or so ago, it was now the middle of January. He'd grieved, but had been ready to resume the Ovelia/Orinas Council, as Ovelia had become increasingly withdrawn. Orinas Clarence Atkascha and Ovelia "Atkascha" still held tied votes, but there was no more friction. He'd had to reveal the truth about her, for her sake, had been demanded to execute her, but after faking it and promising to visit her where she'd been hid, he took back the whole plan, he realized he couldn't go through with it, would never harm her, and asked for her hand in marriage.
That had been the morning of that day, he'd set up a time to proclaim the truth about her ever since the day he'd been asked to stand as Regent for the moment, a few months after he'd had to jail Olan and Balmafula in their quarters. When their engagement was announced, only an hour later they'd seen the bright light. Well, now he really had taken her life.
Now this had happened. Why?
Soft footsteps on the ground startled him, and he looked up.
"R Ramza!? Alma!?"
W what was going on here!
Ramza stood in the 'doorway' of the ruined Church near Zeltennia Castle, his mind reeling. Dileta, the robe and circlet proclaiming his new rank flung away from him, while he was sobbing. He'd been directed here by one of the Castle Servants. He saw Ovelia, and a faint gleam of sparkling light, and his mind reeled as he drew in a shocked breath.
He knew what had happened now.
"D Dileta, what !?"
"No, no!" his friend gasped and took several steps backwards. "Please, not now! Don't do this to me, don't make it worse! Don't force me to hurt you too!"
Ramza searched his friend's eyes for any trace of who had once been Dileta, even the grief-stricken one who he'd thought to have lost, who'd sworn never to be used again, to take his life. He'd assumed
the rumors that he'd heard the weeks he'd tried to find out what had become of Ajora, after he and his friends had woken up in a shack off Dorter, a month after the Dark God had met his end, this time, hopefully for eternity. He'd heard about what most people thought of him, had found those rumors, among others, ones about Dileta. He'd had to see for himself.
Yet now all he saw was grief, and a sense of commitment.
He'd never gotten over the loss of his sister. He'd been using them, using the church, he "Dileta, no, I didn't use you. Stop this, please."
Dileta let another tear fall. "You you but you "
Ramza sighed and bowed his head before it snapped up. "You think I don't care, didn't grieve for her too, Dileta! Its my fault that she's gone, I know it! I should've been faster, instead of worrying about Miluda once we've passed her! There are thousands of things I could have done!" He flung his Ragnarok to the ground and bowed his head again.
"There. Now you know the truth. Avenge your sister if you want to."
For a moment, just a moment, he considered it, and was then shocked he would even do so. Ramza had been his friend ever since
he strode up to him though, and didn't know why.
"Well!?" Ramza looked up at him. "You didn't have to take her life!! She was used, if the rumors were true! That's why they thought you wed!"
"Engaged!" snapped Dileta, almost-automatically, he'd grown so used to correcting that stupid rumor. His voice began to shake. "And yes, she's not Princess Luvelia. I don't know why I'm just so used to being betrayed used."
"I told you it was my fault Teta's gone!" Ramza retorted, his own voice shaking. He picked up Ragnarok and twisted it, thrusting its pommel into Dileta's hands. His hands were shaking as he looked at Ramza, braced himself
a cry rang out and a sword clattered to the ground.
They'd left Midgar as fast as they could, Red XIII riding beside her on a helicopter Ensalin promised her. They'd picked up the stone, which at first had seemed to represent Gemini, but then was seen to represent Taurus.
Red XIII had supported her with Megalixirs, while Tifa had kept a constant stream of Life 2s up, refusing to fall asleep. The Lifestream had seemed to leap up, suck part of Cloud away shortly after that beast had perished in an explosion of lightning, the same way Ensalin had 'felt' it gather.
'As if something roared and a dome broke up, thousands of spirits cried out in pain, and great wisps gathered and crashed into Kerem,' she had said. And as Tifa had kept up the healing, that's when Cid had remembered the Chocobo Sage.
That was when they had been on a helicopter, heading towards the Northern Continent. She'd never left his side in the helicopter. And now they entered his house, ready to confront him, to find out if Cid's suspicion was true.
"Who the-?" the Chocobo Sage paused, then looked at them. "Oh, its, uh, who are you people again? Can't remember for the life of me?"
Cid was up the steps and grasped the old man by the collar, slamming him into the wall. "Listen up, Cetra!" he growled. "We've had enough of your games! You could've spared us a ton of misery if you had tried to help the Planet earlier, but you left it to Aeris, and she perished!? Who the heck are you!?"
"Excuse me, but I'll have to insist you leave," the short, dwarf-like man responded, shaking himself free.
"No way, pal!" Cid snapped. "You've been here for 300 Years, you said! When Red XIII mentioned Cloud might need help from Cetra, and then was afraid there weren't anymore alive, well, I remember their description of the Cetra who live in the Temple of the Ancients! I want answers NOW, or you're gonna' be sorry!"
"Who are you?" the 'Chocobo Sage' spoke. "Can't remember for the life of me!"
THAT did it! Cid grabbed the Zodiac Materia he'd been carrying around and thrust it in front of the old man's face. "Recognize THIS!!!!!?????"
The old man's eyes widened. "Oh, my!" he breathed, backing up at step. "Oh, my." He paused, looking at Cid. "Where did you get that, young man?"
"So you ARE a Cetra!!" Cid dropped his Venus Gospel to the boards beside him. "My question first!"
"Very well," he said, sighing. "My name is Liukhan, Watcher of the Stars and Prophecy, and the sole survivor of the Crescendia Tribe. I'm sorry for the disguise, but I had to be sure your cause was just." He moved to the side. "More as we walk through the library. I sense you have a friend in need here."
He walked down the stairs and placed his hand on Cloud's forehead. The blond-haired man floated up, off the cot they had him on. He turned to the Chocobo. "Shoo, ye' great beast!" he demanded.
The Chocobo nodded, giving out a series of warks, and darted to the side, through a wall that seemed to have just opened up. The straws in the stable vanished, replaced by a floor with a strange symbol on it.
Liukhan strode forwards, the others following, Red XIII now with a questioning gaze. He opened the door, and walked towards the symbol.
"Engo slaiste re la na no, ensel ya! Delinnius beckons through the doors of Time, Ryletha through the Doors of Balance, open the passage!"
The symbol glowed, then came to life. Large pillars of light erupted and swarmed outwards, encircling them, embracing them, flashing as they connected with each of the life-forms.
Dileta stepped back, shocked. One moment he'd been about to run Ramza through, before he'd realized he was attacking his friend again, a sword in his hand bringing a familiar-feeling into his body. As he'd stopped, dropping the sword, another blonde-haired male was there, who had taken the sword, and fallen with a cry.
"What!?" Ramza's gaze was as questioning as Dileta's.
"Please " he gasped. "I had to or I would've become " he gasped, coughing. "Like like " his eyes closed.
"Emily!" he shouted, finally realizing they now had not one, but two, wounded people in the vicinity who might be near the end of their lives, or might have already reached them. "You and Merlin tend to them, now!"
The Summoner and Mediator, who had been watching the whole thing from the gate, moved into the area, Emily approaching Ovelia, Merlin approaching Cloud.
"I I can't believe its gone this far," Dileta rasped, his hoarse voice making it hard to understand him. "I I thought I never knew!" He swallowed, regaining his voice. "You didn't take her life, it was my fault! Algus was right when he said I wasn't able to do anything about it, only able to be used! He "
"Why do you think I fought so hard to keep Ophelia alive!?" Ramza shouted back. "Didn't you hear me way back when I found you were still alive, at Zirekile Falls! I don't want anymore victims like Teta! Darn it, I thought you'd joined the Nanten to get back at us when I saw you alive, then I didn't know what you were doing, I thought the Church had deceived you!!"
"At first they did," he answered. "I told you, Teta saved me. I don't know how, but I could almost hear her calling to me, telling me to just jump from that platform. Maybe she was still alive, barely, and her life was truly ending then. I jumped, but I might not have made it! Two people by the names of Izlude and Meliadoul found me, and nursed me back to health. I found out they'd taken Wiegraf in, but he seemed sensible enough, and Vormav kept him busy most of the time with his private conversations. They'd been sent out to Fort Zeakden, to help those who were still alive. Eventually I went to Murond and met High Priest Funeral, but his speech, his plan about helping the kingdoms. Parts were right, about how sometimes you must use strange ways to achieve goals, I believed, enough for me to act that way at the time, parts weren't, I didn't believe he should change the legend of all the Zodiac Braves stood for, I could tell he just wanted to become ruler of the Kingdom.
"But I went along with the plot, until Larg and Goltana were out of the picture, then I turned my back on them. As Rumors probably say, well, its true that Ovelia and I grew close, especially after I explained to her why I'd betrayed the High Priest, after she overheard me talking to Olan and Balmafula in Zeltennia, how I had to wait until the right time to betray them." He sighed. "She'd been used too, although the public wasn't willing to accept the truth about her, and the majority of the Council demanded her execution, or pretended execution. I thought I could go through with it, hiding her and helping her, but couldn't. The public just had to accept she wasn't a princess. By the end of the day I'd been engaged to her, we could help each other. Yet after the report of you and Alma having perished, she became withdrawn.
"And now, I just don't know why I stabbed her."
"You never let it out, did you?" Ramza responded. "When you thought you'd lose Ovelia, you had to lash out, and hurt her instead, didn't you?" Dileta looked up, blinking. "That day at Fort Zeakden, when I thought I'd lost you both, I just left them all. Pado, Merlin, Emily, Jane. They caught up with me, they didn't convince me to go back, although they stopped my blind flight. But I wandered aimlessly, foraging a living, I refused to see anyone, except, perhaps, Alma. Then I met Gafgarion, who gave me a set way of life. That's how I eventually ended up at Orbonne when I found out you were still alive. I'd thought you were gone. You stayed away purposefully because you thought I was using you?"
"At first, yes. I was very angry with you. But by the time I got assigned to the Orbonne Rescuing Mission, I realized just because you'd been using me, even if you didn't know it, I decided I'd seek you out. But you still had to pay for using me, I thought. I just didn't know, I had to cling to something!"
Ramza sighed, and placed a hand on Dileta's shoulder.
"Remember when we returned to Igros after saving the life of Marquis Elmdor?"
"You were willing to take the blame for me then, even after I told you once not to. I had to repeat it wasn't your fault a number of times before you stopped. If I was using you, wouldn't I have let you take the blame?"
"I I don't know."
"What Algus said at Fort Zeakden was his opinion, what he saw. You have to believe me, Dileta, you have to stop before you become a heartless person who's immune to all around him. Let her go, Dileta."
He didn't respond, but just took his Reed Whistle out of his pocket. "I I can't understand. Its all just confusion to me."
He began to play his Reed Whistle. Ramza just stood there for a while, having no idea how to respond to this. Then, as he had each time when they were kids, when they didn't know what to do, he began to play too.
When they reappeared, they were in a small chamber, water rushing down the sides, into the lake under the cobblestone floor, which was completely-enclosed.
"Where are we?" asked Nanaki.
"Elslumina Haven," he answered. "One of the many gateways."
He motioned his hand again, and a pathway rose out of the water at what was the room's north exit. Cloud began to trail after him, floating again, and Tifa moved to cast another Life 2.
"Don't disturb the stasis," Liukhan spoke. "He'll need more help to heal, but don't disrupt the condition he's in."
Tifa nodded slowly, and followed him down the hallway.
It was full of bluish-purple stones, water trickling down the sides, up to the tops of their shoes. Red XIII spent a while to look around at it, then sighed.
"I believe you were going to explain why you have acted as a Chocobo Sage for so long," the warrior stated.
"Indeed," Liukhan nodded. "I should have time to explain as we continue through the Haven." He took a long breath, then began.
"I was born around 150-Years after the Jenova-Crash, during the time the Cetra record as AJ, or 'After Jenova's Descent.' Like the rest of the Cetra, we traveled the Planet in search of an answer to our existence, to find out the true riddle of the Promised Land, and other such things.
"When I first found this out, I was filled with wonder, as was my best friend, Sarda." He paused to sigh. "Our main purpose then was to heal the Planet. When Jenova crashed, the resulting impact made the Tectonic Plates so unstable the continents were almost-constantly shifting, crashing, creating mountains, rivers, all types of landmarks. Two of our Tribes, Evalense and Dwelvanse, probably known in a changed tongue by those who know of their existence now. In time, they grew frustrated with the task at hand, and settled down, much as the humans. In the common tongue, they would be known as the Elves, and the Dwarves.
"We had finally managed to set up a community of Cetra, each at a specific portion of the land, to speak to the Planet of the general surroundings, and it was able to quiet down. And we learned of the poisonous chemicals Jenova had injected into our Lifestream at that time.
"The Planet was forming beings to balance them, who would come to be known as Poltergeist, Goddess, and Doom, but the two beings produced by the poisoning, known as Chaos and Creator, gained life then. Chaos, being what he represented, could draw thoughts out of his newborn-mind. It was so easy for him to master the Ultimate Time Magic, that of the Deltentrius, and traverse the Timestream, at least into the past, as the future is uncertain. This, none of us knew of until 250 AJ. We wondered what was happening when Elves began to be tricked into learning forbidden-magics, what the four monsters that we randomly-sighted were, and other things. We knew the Lifestream needed something, and as a result, the Four Orbs were created, placed in strategic locations, to amplify the powers of the Lifestream. Instead, it became a target for the four monsters, Fiends, if you will, at least, after they'd destroyed the Lefeinish Civilization, and taken the Sky Fortress.
"We did not know of Chaos, we could only guess, it took 120 Third-Moons to guess this, we had a Third Moon then, one that had two years in the space of our one, just as the Sky Fortress had four in the space of our one. It was our recorded-calendar. And once we found out, we injected all of our energy into destabilizing the Fiends. Sarda formed their root, while twelve of us created a Prophecy, hoping that the humans would put trust in some of their own, if we gave them the proper urgings.
"We eventually found them, a quartet of adventurers who were currently headed for Coneria to seek out and dispose of anyone who was a general nuisance there, by name, Asan, Clin, Ease, and Drax. They helped us, unfurled the organized plan of the Fiends, Lich, Kary, Kraken, and Tiamat, and took out Chaos.
"It was in the past, though, and somehow, his future-consciousness perceived what would, or rather, did happen going down this course. So he disappeared from sight. And when we were certain the aftereffects of Jenova's Crash had been dealt with, we removed the Orbs. Some humans even followed our example and stopped using what was a very-crude form of what is now Materia, but it remained, was ingrained into others soon enough.
"The Continents shifted once again, and settled into another form. During this time, the Baronian Empire, of which others would later be named, rose and fell, followed by the Paramegian Empire. The latter almost managed to disturb the balance of those in Celestial Elslumina.
"One by one my friends had been called to the Temple of the Ancients, to guard the Black, somehow we were gifted with immortality, with the exception of Sarda. Mine, though, was a heavier task. I was to observe the constellations, and stay hidden in the small valleys of the area that is now once as it was."
He paused for a moment, asking if there were any questions. Barret seemed about to ask one, but Red XIII shot him a glance, reminding him how far his interruptions had got them when Cloud had told them of Sephiroth back in Kalm. Barret caught the glance and snapped his mouth shut.
"I could observe Paramegia, and the destruction they wrought. I've been much of an observer, tending to the Hybrid Dragons of Cardia/River/Mountain Chocobos, which possess the ability to fly. But I never guessed, after the Supercontinents crashed together, what would have come next.
"At the time I thought it was do to the colliding energies of what those fools in Paramegia and Chaos had done previously, but time, quite-literally, slowed down. The Planet's reproduction was slowed by the time the Supercontinent was stirred, I should've sensed this portended something greater than the ensuing conflict. After eleven nations had been established, seven, Murond, Gallionne, Limberry, Lionel, Fovoham, Zeltennia, and Lesalia, engaged in a struggle that is in your history books perhaps recorded as the 50-Year-Cataclysm, for that was the time the Planet reproduced. The Cetra's influence on the Timeline wasn't gone, since geological-stratums and other main features of the Planet had ceased to change, our gradual influence on the Timeline was fully-accepted shortly before the rise of the Second Baronian Nation.
"But I'm getting ahead of myself.
"The 700-Year-Cataclysm was only ended by the arrival of Lucavi, a Dark God with a group of servants. They fashioned twelve stones modeled after signs of the Zodiac, constellations that had appeared in the sky the time the Planet slowed down in time. Thirteen humans got a hold of them, were able to twist their nature enough to work for them, and disposed of the monsters the creature had created, but could only send the God itself back to Hades.
"The Planet seemed to speed up over the next year, the earthquakes, volcanic-eruptions, and other disasters that were caused as the Planet returned to normal were unheard of before. For the next 50 Years the Planet continued on a normal course. And then, when the Thirteenth Sign of the Zodiac appeared, the Planet slowed down even more, in the next '50-Years, 1,800 Years passed by. In other words, this year is somewhere around not 2,500 AJ, but 5,000 A.J.
"The first of those 1,100 Years passed in peace and contentment, expect for the fact that a mysterious new nation was arising, hidden in that of the two that combined the whole Planet, Ivalice and Ordallia, named Eureka. During that time I was wed, and was gifted with a shining pair of twins. I thought they might have the same length of life I had, but I was wrong. That was when I became completely-secluded in this cottage, coming out, besides tending to my duties, only when it was vital.
"Most things I observed in communications with the Planet, up until the time the first crystals were fashioned, when my meditation was necessary to begin. Thus is the rest I can relate to you, for in the meditations, I studied the flow of time and the universe, not just this pebble within it.
"All 13 Zodiac Signs *FLARED* the night Ajora Glabados was born."
"Now this is interesting!" whistled Yuffie. "This guy can record one of the most important figures of history, and the guy who founded whatever this forsaken time calls a Faith! Or at least, what Godo says general faith is based on, although most have forgotten. My dad sometimes acts like a walking library."
A quick glance from Cid told her to shut up. Liukhan nodded, and continued.
"Ajora Glabados was the eldest of a twin, Germonik Glabados being the other. It is true the following morning something enabled him to speak, protecting his family and one other family from a plague. It was close enough to where I lived, it got my attention, I followed this guy around. You would not believe how thrilled the people were. They showed him with praise as a Miracle Child, Mircale Infant, and such. But I could sense the plague was magical in nature, and this person, who could become a gifted wizard, had been made aware of it for the reason of whoever sent the plague. Not even the mighty Elidibs could surpass that feat, although he was far-stronger than anything Ajora could do in his lifetime.
"They boy loved peace, and shared knowledge with everyone, following his ideals, fashioning what he thought was the case. Too many believed him, and the Eurekian Empire, which was what the Euekians now called themselves, sidled up to him to use him for political reasons. Fara-Faith in Murond, who's daughter was engaged to Germonik at the time, sent him out to follow him. He encountered me, together we managed to find out they were using him. Naturally, Fara-Faith, for religious reasons, could not let the truth of what he did be known. The Holy Yudora Empire, another name for Fara-Faith, named after one of the Connectors, Faralath-Yudora, tried to track him and his 12, well, 13, since Germonik stuck by his brother, down. For some reason he'd gathered the Zodiac Stones, I finally caught him that night. I remember that conversation all-too-well."
"There!" the 20-year-old boy wailed. "There's your darned stones!"
Tears could be seen on his cheeks as he handed over twelve of them to a flickering entity. "Now release Eslesle's father! Don't torment her father anymore!"
The figure chuckled, its voice deep and booming. "Oh, Ajora, Ajora!" he sighed. "You didn't really think I'd release him! I NEED him, you fool!" The figure seemed to rise up, forming a dark visage, and the twelve stones circled him.
"The blood of the Ancients flows through my body like a fire! The powers of the Cosmos and the strength of the Zodiac, I own them all! I'm not just a simple wizard, you *pathetic*, *moronic*, *FOOL!!!!!*
A beam of light flashed out, ripping into his face. He flung up a shield, but was still cast back to the ground. "Will you use your powers yet, boy! Will you attack me, or will you still defend me!!!!!" It chuckled. "Afraid for your soul, aren't you, boy!"
"Who who are you!?"
"I am a succession of dark forces that live as I will them! I am one who saves lives, owns light! There's no light and darkness, good and evil became them in the minds of the weak-willed brats!" Another blast leapt out of the thing's body, tearing into Ajora and knocking him backwards. "I *own* you, *BOY*!!!!!"
"What!?" Ajora stood up, placing his hands on his chest and activating a healing spell. "You most certainly do not! Name yourself!"
"You don't have the rank to demand that of me! Oh, as an afterthought, here's your girlfriend!" He blasted out of the clearing, leaving a bloodied girl with auburn hair behind, bones twisted at odd angles, the twelve stones surrounding him.
Ajora collapsed, knowing that Eslesle had either perished by now or would soon, still weeping, as the stars seemed to vanish behind him. The calm forest air was no-longer inviting, it was somewhere he'd want to leave.
A twig snapped behind him, and he looked up.
"Who ?" he asked through tears.
"Liukhan of the Cetra," the old, dwarf-like man spoke, clutching his multicolored-wizard's-hat. "That was an interesting exchange, Ajora."
"That doesn't explain what you're doing here!!" he cried out in indignation. "And why you didn't help sooner! I thought you Cetra are Protectors!!"
"I I needed to know what he wanted of you, whether he wanted to use you, like the Eurekians "
"How do you know about them!!!!!" he shouted.
"I and Germonik have been following you, son," he said. "Fara-Faith was suspicious of you and wanted to check out your actions. I met him, listen, Ajora, I've listened in on them, they want to use you!"
"How am I supposed to believe you!" he shouted out.
"Because I know something that I don't think you can deny," he said. "Remember the Well of Bervenia from the day after your birth?"
"How could I forget it!?" Tears began streaking down his face again. "All because of that one incident, that when I was little I thought was a child's dreams, people act like all I say is true, following their ambitions, taking their lives because of me! And I can't tell them what I say isn't true, my closest friends, besides " he glanced down at the lifeless body she held " besides her! My closest friends depend on me, they have no lives without what I 'teach' them! They call themselves disciples, I can't hurt their pride even if I don't want any, make them nothing, make them seem like idiots! I don't want to hurt anyone!"
"True friends stick by others, without abandoning them," Liukhan spoke. "Listen to your words, Ajora."
He thought back. Ambitions, 'following their ambitions '
"NO!!!!!" his cry rang out into the forest. "They can't, its not true, its " He collapsed on the body of the lifeless girl he'd cared for, weeping hysterically.
"He turned himself in the day after that," Liukhan continued. "And was arrested on the charge of heresy, then executed at the Golgorand Execution Site. Eslesle hadn't perished, she was in a coma-like state, and I stuck around that night, trying to bring her out of it. Ajora never noticed, he was just determined to set things right. So she had to suffer. I tried to stop the execution, but was too late.
"The Zodiac Signs flared again, brighter than before, almost glaring, laughing at the Planet. I managed to free the girl's father, for some reason I felt bound to this kid, and as we, along with Germonik, approached where he was placed, to 'speak' to him, the night after he was executed "
"Ajora," Eslesle began, stepping forward, making no effort to conceal her own tears. "Ajora, my love, I " she shed a quick tear. "If I had known "
Liukhan laid his hand on her shoulder. The bond he'd formed with the young man just one night ago had been strong, and it was torn away.
Their thoughts were interrupted by a blast of blackish-white energy that descended from above. The blast hit above where he lay, and the area erupted in an enormous blast of heat, flinging all three back.
Germonik was the first to open his eyes.
"Ajora!" he cried out, seeing the body floating in air, the same dark figure that had ripped his life apart the night before floating behind him.
"So, you submitted to me so soon," the thing purred. "I never imagined, I never thought that, that you'd come to me *one* day after your summons."
"Leave my brother alone!" Germonik screamed. He'd been right to follow his sense of foreboding and come to this place armed, but it did him no good now.
The burning left eye of the figure sent out a huge beam of reddish-gold light, striking the blade and melting it. The thing, which for the first time could be seen clearly, a large, humanoid monster with a metallic-replacement enclosing the cybernetic parts around the orb that made up his left eye, clawlike hands, heavy boots, and strange garments approached him.
"I am Ralsalin, born 600-Years-Ago, my coming heralded by the appearance of Serpentarius because of my potential, and Lucavi's servant! I have come for the boy! Let me take him and I'll spare you, for now!"
"Are you insane!" Eslesle shrieked.
He threw a bright green-gold stone at her, causing her to crash backwards, something which Liukhan recognized immediately. A Zodiac Stone, and it represented Serpentarius! He looked at his opponent, and for the first time realized the stone hadn't done this to him, whoever was behind the stones was.
No, Ralsalin referred to himself as Lucavi's servant, but in a way that suggested him was far from being so.
He reached out, and the stone flew into his hands. The other twelve appeared around him, and began to encircle him again. "Elslumina Laskensa Endoria Ryentho Elsletlo!!!!!" He began, thunder crackling around the area.
"Planet, hear my voice, answer my cries!" Liukhan shouted. A blue-white beam of light leapt up into his hands, and he blasted its resulting beam at Ralsalin. A greenish-white shield absorbed it, the 'human' remained unwavered.
"By the powers of Lucavi, the Zodiac, and the Whorlex, with the leave of the Cosmos, the Sign of the Supernova, join with the body of this human and create another to master your arts!"
The stones began to encircle him faster, flinging the trio back with a series of blasts, then converged into the space Ajora's form occupied.
He seemed to shift form from blonde-haired to having hair of greyish-white, then dome-like energies encircled him. Ghost-like cries lit up the night as energies from various places converged on him, all the time the area glowing brighter. Then they expanded, and electricity rippled throughout the night.
And was silent.
Immediately afterwards, a white glow took form, changing, then flashing. When it cleared, a reddish-gold-winged 'thing' was in its place, with white hair swept back in a ponytail, simple clothes, and menacing eyes. He roared and ripped into a straight position, glaring at his opponents.
"I am Altima!!!!!" it screamed.
Eslesle, Germonik, and Liukhan stepped back, while Liukhan made a quick motion, and a glowing staff appeared in his right hand. "That's far enough! I want some answers, and I want them now!"
Ralsalin just ignored him, and spun, raising his hands to the sky.
"Lucavi, you promised me!!!!!" he roared out, not caring as the back of his hood fell off, to reveal shimmering white hair. "I've waited four-hundred years for the means to travel the Universe, to discover its secrets, all its knowledge!!!!! You promised me that if I gave you the boy, you would give me the means! Keep your end of the bargain!!!!!"
Great energies crackled around the surrounding area, opening up just a bit. "Then bring 'Ajora' to the Floating Fortress, where all shall be made clear!"
A rift flashed open through the crackling energies, and Ralsalin walked in, Altima trailing behind him. None paid any heed to the three figures that followed.
The rift opened in a small chamber, a strange, triangular-teleporter beneath them, the windows clear so they could view the stars, the Planets, below them, their very own Planet. A passageway led 'north' thin in size, for a long distance. Outside, many interconnecting spires, including a hexagonal one was below, four floors of ancient technology.
A blast of crackling, blue-green energy that pulsated inwards and outwards caused the trio to crash backwards, slamming into the wall behind the teleporter, as Ralsalin turned to face them. "Keep back, mortals!" he hissed.
"Spirits of the Planet, Harken to my Voice of Distress!" chanted Liukhan. "Seal Evil!" A large burst of energy ripped from him, slamming into Ralsalin and casting him backwards, binding and paralyzing him.
In a moment he was free, balls of pure power leaping from his hand, swinging around like a mace, knocking Germonik, who'd been charging, into one of the walls.
"Ashes and Stones, Quasars and Stars, bring your judgment to those who would oppose us!!!!! Bahamut ZERO!!!!!"
Germonik lunged forwards, shoving Eslesle out of the way as an enormous blast of energy descended upon them. The shields Liukhan erected barely-held. Ralsalin spun, flipping his hands, and pounced, grabbing Eslesle and slapping her into the wall. Multiple energy-beams shot from his cybernetic eye, sending the other two staggering to the ground.
"I don't have the time for this," Ralsalin growled. "WarMech, take them!"
He teleported farther down the corridor, leaving an enormous machine in its place, with strange, claw-like feet, interconnected mesh-like joints, blocky and yet smooth, with phase-sifted, five-layered silver-diamond armor. Turrets unfolded from various areas, while a huge one was at the front. This thing was easily five times their size, and was definitely a threat.
"Innocent Sword, slash evils and protect!" shouted Eslesle, whipping a Kiyomori free of her Sword-Pack. "Kiyomori!"
Shimmering lights flashed out from the sword, shattering it, but surrounding them, raising various shields, protecting their bodies from serious damage, and taking away the exhaustion all three of them felt.
"Intruder Alert Confirmed!" the thing Ralsalin had called WarMech droned. "You have 30 Seconds to clear this zone! This is not a test!"
It paused for a second. "30 29 28 27 26 25 24 23 22 Zzt! System Malfunction! 3 2 1! Countdown Ended! Terminate all intruders!"
Its front, golden-yellow turret glowed as sparks shot up from the whirring thing, even as it came fully to life. "Nuclear!" the thing droned.
The golden-yellow turret on the front of the thing erupted in an enormous blast, shooting into the ground in front of them, then detonating, throwing the three backwards, ears ringing, minds reeling, as the enormous explosion produced by the blast seemed to try to rip them apart. The shields held long enough to protect them from the full force of the blast, but dissipated as the fires settled down, still scorching them. Germonik fell back, gasping.
The other turrets opened fire, and a single purple laser-beam came from the turret under the Nuclear Blaster, slamming into Liukhan and launching him backwards yet again. He accessed an X-Potion and stood, his glowing staff transforming into a sword, which he aimed at the sky.
"Absorb power in the sky and strike! Lightning Stab!!"
Just below the roof of the corridor, electricity ripped into existence, focusing, then blasting downwards, smashing into the WarMech, overloading its circuitry. It lashed out with a claw, slashing Eslesle across the chest. She responded by using her bow to shoot one of its turrets, even as the thing exploded from the overload of electric powers Liukhan had thrust into the thing.
"Come on!" he motioned, activating a quick Megalixir. "I don't think we have much time left!"
He rushed down the corridor. Eslesle and Germonik exchanged quick looks, then followed him.
Gasping for breath, Germonik entered the room.
As if that WarMech hadn't been enough, they'd found themselves besieged by a myriad of creatures, which Liukhan identified as things like RedHydras, Naochos, Sorcerors, Evilmen, WizardVampires, and Oozes. They'd encountered a few more wandering WarMechs, too, but had continued on.
And now they had opened the door to a large room, with a black-tiled floor. In the center was the ruins of a steel altar, special panels with a triangular, silver emblem on each side of their entranceway, approaching the altar, heading up to it. It was the same on the other three sides, and at the north end of the chamber was a silver-gold throne, laced with red, also destroyed, a socket where something like a sphere might have once been carved in.
And in the center were three figures. One was Ralsalin, who stood behind the altar, Ajora, in his 'new body' hovering above it, behind, a shapeless, writing mass of energy and dark tentacles, two blue, glowing eyes in the center, Zodiac Stones embedded in its body in various places.
"Welcome!" grinned the third figure, who stood behind and to the right of Ralsalin. "Welcome to your doom!"
Liukhan didn't waste any words this time. He raised both hands and sent out a current of green energy, blasting the writing mass of energy back into the far corner of the room, right of the throne, then turned back to Ralsalin.
Eslesle ran forward. "Stop it, I order you in the name of the Beoulves to leave him alone, now!!!!!"
Ralsalin turned to her, eyebrows raising with interest when he perceived the seeminglty-weak, auburn-haired girl faced him with nothing but a knife, dressed in blue, simple clothes, and obviously not ready for a real match.
Ralsalin turned to Ajora. "Who is this girl, Altima?"
He turned to face her, and fixed his eyes on her, checking her features, as if trying to discern some memory of where she'd been before. Finally he spoke, slowly and without question as to whether what he said was the truth.
"I do not know," he spoke.
"Its me, Eslesle Beoulve!" she shouted. She stepped back, whispering now. "This can't be happening."
Germonik screamed out in anger, flipping through the air and slashing Ralsalin across the face. He stepped back and brought down both claws, forcing the boy to the ground. The young Glabados was up in seconds, swinging his foot, tripping the lumbering giant, who sent energies through the floor tiles. They blasted upwards, suspending him in mid-air.
"Its not Ajora anymore!" Germonik shouted. "In name, but not really him! He perished at Golgorand where he was hung! Its not Ajora, something else is in him! I can feel it! He keeps my brother alive, and in pain, so much pain!!"
A large black claw grabbed him, as the strange beast emerged from the corner. Germonik swung his sword, slashing through the claw like light through a darkened mirror. The spirit staggered backwards.
"Go, Ralsalin!" he shouted. "The Hangar Bay on the First Floor! Take the Amoeba with you! You are Ra Devil now as I promised! I'll finish this!!"
'Ra Devil' nodded. "As you mish, my Lord." He clapped his hands together and vanished in a burst of flashing white light.
In the center of the room the two 'things' stood, facing Cetra, and two humans, one male, one female.
"So you're Lucavi," spoke Liukhan, readying his true staff for battle. He flashed a small smile. "You have no idea how long I've been waiting for this, demon!"
"Cetra can't use Magic," that which was Lucavi spoke. "You're more than Cetra, yet a Cetra, and thus do not know where your true powers are. An opponent that I believe I'll have to deal with." He spun to face his new 'pet.' "Altima, take out the others; do it now!!"
He leapt forwards, into the path of a small blast of energy, and swatted it aside.
"The Magic of the Cetra is that of the Planet!" Liukhan spoke. "The Cetra are in communion with the Planet! What is yours in?"
Lucavi reached out another of his tentacle-claws and wrapped it around the dwarf, lifting him off the ground. "You expect me to answer that?" He paused to block an energy-blast aimed at him, and to take in the strafing blasts of Ultimas Altima was inflicting on the two humans, who were currently dodging the assault, the mail blasting back, and the woman throwing Elemental Balls, whenever they had the chance.
"I guess I should, since you don't fall into the scheme of things, if you survive, you won't be alive when I'm ready to move, and legacies are destroyed. Why do you think it was in the past, before Ajora's birth, most thought crisises were averted by Zodiac Braves?"
Liukhan responded by cutting himself free and channeling a Cyclops, followed by a Knights of the Round, out at his adversary, who easily-negated each spell, responding with a strafing run of white light, causing the 'Cetra' to duck for cover.
"Because legends of the past twist their minds, cause them to view so many things as what they aren't. Didn't you use a similar method when Chaos roamed free?"
"We did it, not the minds of others!" Liukhan retorted, palm placed forwards, as a Holy spell erupted free. Lucavi negated it was a Dark Holy and sent out an Ulmaguest, causing his opponent to erect a Mega-Barrier.
"Yet if it exists long enough, it would've gone, unless they needed hope," Lucavi answered. "That's why you'll fail, when I'm ready, if the humans take me down then, it'll prove that they can learn something! My mission is to destroy them if they can't destroy me, I evaluate the greatest threats to the Balance and destroy them. I am, in a sense, the Lifestream of All, its tool, the only essence that is separate from itself, thus perhaps more-powerful, perhaps not, but the only one that can do its job. I *MUST* destroy!! I was created that way, it is my purpose!! That answer your question?"
"No, but my Mind-Probe did."
"You lie, mortal! A spirit cannot be probed-!"
"Flow through me, use me as your vessel, Planet! Purity!!!!!"
A huge blast of reddish-purple energies tore free from every section of his body, white threads caressing the sides of the spell, smashing into Lucavi and cutting off its access to the Plane of Beings.
"I know," spoke Liukhan. "But I did manage to get you to divert a small amount of concentration. You were prepared for tricks, so you turned out being unprepared. One of my favorite of Sarda's philosophical statements!"
"Too true," boomed the voice of Altima. "Black, White, Time, speak true to your actions and make a Flare from Holy Meteor!! Delta Explosion!!!!!"
All known colors surrounded Liukhan, bursting into a huge ring, which constricted on him in glowing bands, then spread to cause a paralyzation-effect like a Stop, even as a Meteor, glowing with white energy, appeared where he was and erupted in an orange-purple explosion, the subsequent detonation hurling him to the wall, where he slumped down. A lesser being would have perished instantly, but he had been built for this.
The Holy Angel had shields of energy in front of him, and were using them to pummel his opponents. "I now know my purpose!" this time his voice was like that of a thunderclap. "I am the vessel, the Ultimate Existence, that is why I am here, born from the lifeless-body of this idiotic young magician, who's power surpasses any known yet!" He paused, grinning maliciously at his adversaries. "That in case you two are wondering is why he was chosen."
Eslesle stiffened, that statement finally telling her the enormity of what had just happened. "You you you you "
She shrieked, a scream of pure animal rage, and flung herself forwards, blasting the shields with elemental-balls, tearing into the demon with her claws, causing him to gasp, punctured in his left lung. He fell to the floor, writhing, and Eslesle looked down, her breathing suddenly gasping.
"You defeated me in combat, mortal, but you won't take my life. There may be a chance to get back your precious Ajora. So you won't. And in minutes, I will heal, and you will all perish!"
"She may not be able to, but I still can!" growled Germonik, leaping forwards, sword pointed down at the heart of what had once been his brother. "This is for my brother." And he plunged his sword into the demon's heart.
"The time has come to end all lives strike down as I latch on!!!!!" Altima screamed, before exploding.
The detonation sent Germonik flying across the room, smacking into the wall behind him and slumping to the ground, even as Liukhan had.
Who was now up and approaching both of them.
Then the fortress lurched as blue-white straps seemed to latch onto the side of it, dragging it downwards, its speed increasing at an incredible rate.
"No!" Liukhan swore, the floor rumbling as the rate of their descent steadily picked up. "I should've realized that was what this was about!"
Below, a multicolored ship launched out of a docking-bay in the fortress, swiveling and shooting off, away from the Planet.
"What's happening!?" screamed Eslesle.
"The fortress is heading for Artesta at a speed that will tear it to pieces if it collides!!" Liukhan responded. "Hold on tight!!"
He slapped the bottom of his staff down on the floor.
"Channel all energies into dust, collide and compose! Implode Space!!!!!"
The flickering lights immediately ripped free of the outside of the fortress, latching onto one small portion of it, unnoticed, which fell free and continued downwards. The fortress lurched to a stop so abruptly all three of them lost their balance and fell to the floor.
By the time any of them could think straight again, the complete enormity of what had just happened hit them like a freight train. Eslesle, in the process of getting up, fell back to the floor, sobbing.
"The small portion of the Floating Fortress that hadn't escaped the magic, just below where Ajora had been destroyed, continued its descent towards the Planet," Liukhan went on. "By morning, it smashed into the area near Fara-Faith Headquarters, and that section of the continent fell into the waves, the writhing energies putting up some sort of air-pocket around it. I didn't know that was the true plan, that energies surrounded a destroyed Airship just below where the actual section of the fortress had landed, keeping it in some sort of 'All-Plane.' Or about the teleporter that was created in the Orbonne Monastery.
"Nor did I have time to find out. I managed to get us home, and over the next several days managed to get back to the point where we could cope, although I had the lives of all those who had perished in Old Murond on my conscience. Ambitious Priests began to craft lies around Ajora, trying to gain power. Germonik refused to let the truth about his brother be forgotten, and recorded his life, his abilities, and all he knew about him in a book, over the course of several years, and kept it hidden away. Eslesle almost found happiness, but couldn't really stay married when she ended up so, and divorced, raising her child by herself.
"Sadly, I was called to depart from civilization again."
They had reached the end of the passageway. With a gesture, the wall slid open, revealing the entranceway to a large library. Liukhan strode through, the others still following, and once they were all past, the wall slid shut behind them.
"I began recording various works, I even got a copy of the syllabus Germonik created, and placed it here, in this underground library. I collected rare artifacts, all the while watching over the life of the Planet in general, for the next 1,150 years. When a huge conflict erupted, I could tell it would last a while, and nothing could truly be done. With the rest of the Cetra, we resolved to find a way to make sure the Planet didn't destroy itself when its evolution began again, we could almost sense it.
"That was my last act with the Cetra, by the end of those 50 Years we'd begun the construction of crystals. Miners had begun to near this library, this knowledge could not be found now. And I had other things to do. The Planet sped up as the 50-Year-War ended, something was moving. I tried using some of my tools to check it out, and was blasted right through the heart. The Planet guided me into the Stasis Sphere," he made a sharp left turn, approaching what looked like a giant key. "And placed it and some useless books outside the library, since I wouldn't be able to transfer them, I'd only started to move the more-important to the back. And my spirit healed, while I remained in communion with the Planet."
He motioned at Cloud's form, which began floating towards the sphere. "30-years-ago, the cries of the Planet woke me up. And as I probed, I knew Jenova was free, but also knew that I could do nothing. I had to remain isolated, I had been told my task, and I am not permitted to reveal that to you.
"That is all."
"So you left it to Aeris, huh!?" growled Barret.
Liukhan turned to face him. "By the time she would've been taught, all would end. I finally understand what is causing all this, but I cannot disclose that to you at the moment. I've learned memory-locks, I am now outside of the range of the being, but you would all perish by knowing, for if it knew you were a threat " he bowed his head. "You would not be able to stop it from destroying you. I can help you, but I cannot do anything else, much. I must remain like this, century after century, until the thing finally makes its move. Then, I just hope that we don't all perish."
"You said this library was big," stated Nanaki. "How big?"
"To the right of the entrance, it extends very far, and backwards, also back to my living quarters. I keep a pet Red Chocobo, perhaps the last of its breed, here."
"Interesting-what are you doing with Cloud!!??" Tifa straightened, her mouth hanging open as she watched him pass into the huge key-like structure's end-globe.
"This should heal him," Liukhan stated as he passed fully into the globe. "All I need to do now is-!"
The machine flashed.
All questions, regarding the story they had just been told, the library, and any others vanished as a large black-and-green blast of energy leapt up around Cloud's body, which was now all the way in the machine.
"What!?" Liukhan backed up. "I knew there was something strange about that sword wound, but *this!!*" He made a cupping motion with his hands, and green Lifestream energies surrounded Cloud, then blasted Liukhan backwards a few feet. He was up again in seconds.
"What's happening to him!?" shouted Red XIII.
"He's been exposed to Jenova Cells, Mako Energy, and Lifestream Energy before!" the sage responded. "This may be problematic!" He drew in a deep breath and faced the throbbing globe.
"Celestial States, access an outlet, suspend from Time and bring healing to those who are jeopardized! Statis Storage!!!!!"
Whirling blasts of purple and red shot from his hands, clocks bursting free, all of the energies shrieking as they dove into the Celestial Globe. Just before they impacted, Cloud seemed to open his eyes.
The explosion sent him spinning in a green current, carried away from them, and yet still trapped inside the globe, and a final blast of energies occurred as the Lifestream-Current and the energies from the Stasis Storage impacted again.
A soft moan interrupted the calm symphony of the Reed Whistles.
Delita dropped his immediately, spinning. "Ovelia!?"
Emily's head turned to him. "Not yet," she said. "The wound was deep, very close to being mortal, I may have to place her in Sleep for a while. Any movement could cause the lung to tear back open, maybe even-wider than before."
Ramza could never imagine what was going on in her mind. Like Merlin, the other Cadet Chemist, she was silent, usually-concentrating on mixing fabrics and special ointments together, also seeing if she could pull out any Magic. Like him, she was usually silent, introspective, yet ready to act if someone asked for it, and could handle herself well in a battle. Unlike him, though, she excelled at knowing specific things that not even White Wizards could master, and any time he had sent out any of the Cadets, or Agrias' Recruits, on a Job Proposition, she'd usually gone, and had usually been essential to the Proposition's success; she knew more about many things than the rest of them together, maybe.
His thoughts wandered to Alicia, Rad, Pado, and Jane. He wondered how they were doing. The former two had been two of Agrias' Recruits, the third being Lavian. Alicia had been very serious about her work, Rad, just the opposite, trying to get the job done for its purpose, and only that. He'd dismissed them when they'd encountered Beowulf after the Battle of Bethla Garrison, sensing both would get on the nerves of the 'Monster Hunter.' Pado and Jane, his other two Cadet Friends, had saved his life numerous times on that dreadful mission, and its none-too-successive attempt to rescue Teta, that had torn him apart from his best friend. But Jane had become weary with the fighting, and was scared there might be one with Dycedarg, knowing he had Capricorn. So she'd been dismissed.
Pado had stayed until they had cleared out the Deep Dungeon. He knew all that remained was Orbonne Monastery, and when Ramza had posed the question the night after Elidibs' Defeat, that any who wanted to leave now could, they might only encounter a few Job Propositions, he'd sensed Pado didn't really wish to have to deal with Ramza's 'personal conflict.' But he'd been the most-enthusiastic of the people, the only one who'd shouted out he'd stay, while the others said it politely. Ramza had talked with him later that night, and it had ended with both going their separate ways.
"O..okay," Dileta answered.
Ovelia's eyelids began to flutter. Emily sighed and cast a Sleep Spell on her, then went back to her work, mixing two X-Potion Fluids and one Elixir Fluid with that of a Phoenix Down, and a small fabric, then pressed it to the wound. The fluids moved through the wound, closing it from the outside and holding the internal body-parts in place, while slowly sprinkling healing powers on it.
"Aaugh!!!!!" Merlin's anguished cry caused Ramza's head to snap in his direction, a movement he was accustomed to doing. He reached for where his sword normally was, and found his Dragon's Whisker, attached to below the sheath, five years of continuous-treachery taking away much more than an inward grimace, and sadness, at another betrayal.
Merlin gasped and fell, and an emotionless Cloud arose.
"Jenova, you fool, you had no idea!" he laughed, a chilling sound, then clutched his head. Ramza tensed, ready for another of his mood-swings, but this time he was surprised to see blue light flow through him.
He turned, and lunged forwards. Ramza moved to the side, tripping him and chopping him in the neck quickly. The Soldier just whirled around, shoved up off his elbows, and slashed at him again. Ramza parried, kept him off-balance, and tried to flip his sword from his hands. Cloud brought it around in a wide-arc, flipping it through both hands, then spun it and stabbed at him within mere-seconds. Ramza barely set up a parry, and had enough sense to tuck and roll, pretending to thrust but grabbing for a near pebble and chucking it at him.
The sword slashed through, arced around, and came down at his head. He barely managed to evade, and responded with a simple punch, before Mustadio had him in Stasis-State with am Arm-Aim.
His sword was pointed forwards, horizontal to the ground. "Finishing Touch," he spoke, grinning.
Instead of being pummeled with blue-white energies, a bunch of Ice-Boulders, and a tornado, the other two features trying to rip him into the tornado, paralyze him, petrify him, or crush him, a huge blast of wind came out. He had just enough sense to find a foothold before a huge tornado appeared, its circumference in a shape that made it so it was near each of them, save for Alma.
He was in front and to the side of it, and quickly locked his shoulders, waiting until he found an arc of wind at a good-enough angle to knock the sword from his opponent's hands. Right now, though, he had to worry as he suddenly felt nature's forces trying to drag him forwards. Emily, crouching on the ground, had turned, ready to arise, but was completely-unprepared, and found her own clothes trying to drag her in an upwards-flip. She was only forwards a few feet before she managed to grab onto some grass long enough to flatten herself to the ground, and clutch sections below it with her arms and legs as the rest of her body was moved backwards. The others had found similar-footholds, save Ruass, the Byblos, who had taken the first wind-current and was even now spiralling around, waiting to pick up speed, and Alma, who'd opted to hug a nearby pillar, arms clasped around it as the rest of her body was dragged backwards, up in the air.
"Ovelia!" came Delita's anguished cry. Ramza broke off the Ultima and spun, watching his friend leap to catch his love's motionless body as it was being tossed around like a rag doll, moving higher and higher. He jumped too high, and was unable to gain sufficient-footing, so that left Ramza to do so, now struggling to keep his feet on the ground as the wind picked up to its Terminal Velocity.
"It continues until you're all sucked up into its pulsing energies," grinned Cloud. Malak was actually shoving his way through the wind, grabbed Merlin on his next move around, by leaping. His sister wasn't far behind, and tackled them both, in the exact-center of the tornado, keeping their bodies pressed to the ground. The others had struggled outside its range, looking up, he could see Rauss get flung into a nearby spire, having swooped on the perfect current, naturally, right before the terminal-velocity was reached, and his small wings that had unfolded from his sides didn't adjust well enough for him to do anything but end up crashing into the ground outside the church, sheltered by the walls.
"How nice to know others are on the receiving end of wind," Cloud spoke again.
The pillar Alma was clinging to teetered dangerously, but didn't break free.
Ramza regained his footing at the same time as Cloud's 'Don't Act' wore off. He kept his sword pointed forwards, now beginning to breathe heavily, having to struggle to hold the sword in position.
"Such energies, this truly is a blade of Pure Materia." He grinned again, stopping the Finishing Touch, only to leap towards Dileta, grabbing him and kicking him into the wall. He turned back to Ramza. "True Limits require specific-concentration. I had some here, in my state of mind, that's why I could use the weaker forms. However, to those accustomed to them, like a lightning-flash group of fifteen slashes in a sword-point and an explosion forming Omnislash, sometimes you don't recognize the move until its there. And with this Materia "
Ramza tucked and rolled over to where Alma was, while Cloud busied himself by casting Stop, spread by a blue streak of energy. Ramza ducked, yanking Alma down with him. Cloud turned to him.
"Why are you doing this!?" Ramza cried.
Cloud blinked, not stopping in his charge. "What are you talking about? Finish your talk with Dileta, I " he seemed to see himself for the first time. "Blast! Like Zalbag, huh? I went through a memory-disruption and emerged stronger, and went through its tricks. This won't work!"
"Mini!" Ramza and Alma ended up in front of a tiny crack in the pillar, and Ramza looked up at Cloud, who was aiming his sword at them, as if to cast Finishing Touch yet again.
The siblings bolted under the pillar, down the passageway, as he cast the Limit, this time aimed at them. he twisted it horizontally so it was yanking at them, and applied full-pressure so they were hit with the strongest amount of wind that could flow at anytime, and much, much smaller than their normal size, like people to a horse was how they were to an ant.
Both braced themselves and moved forwards slowly, walking forwards until they reached the edge of the corridor, the Finishing Touch pinpoint, source of the wind, was right at the entrance to this 'corridor. When in front of the wall, Alma quickly positioned herself to the wall, while Ramza moved his body in front of her, shielding her. He began to chant an Ultima when a few 'small' leaves batted him backwards, one picking her up and launching her forwards. She collided with him, knocking him down, and continued backwards, grabbing for something with hands and feet. He tackled her quickly, keeping them both on the ground, then relaxed as a stone crashed down in front of them, keeping the wind on the other side of where they were.
Ramza turned to cast an Ultima again, and, naturally, the whole top of the wall was sucked free. Alma moved against it, and was picked up by another leaf, causing her to have to spin and grab onto the wall. She held on, but the stone came free. He had to stop the spell and grab her again. This time he had her successfully-pinned to the wall, and got an Ultima off, to sense it reflected farther away. Another stone came near them, marking a halfway-point, while the one above them knocked them free, pinning them to the stone.
Alma was about to drag herself forwards, him, too, when the Finishing Touch changed directions to above the pillar, sucking it up and causing them to fly upwards. He caught onto the tip of the stone, which was caught in the ground, and held them there, chanting another Ultima while crawling down. This time it was not aimed at Cloud, but at the area beneath him, blasting him backwards. Ramza finally had time to activate a Remedy on them both, then hurl an Elixir at Merlin, who's chest-wound was still bleeding.
"Well, I see I'm evenly-matched," he spoke. "That was an interesting test." He charged forwards, activating a Cherry Blossom, ready to do another to the others, finally tackled by Rauss, who slapped him across the face, knocking him out.
"I won't let others be mishandled," he spoke. "I especially don't like you thinking they're 'tests.' Elidibs called me a test, a better Lifeform. He made me too intelligent, so I awaited the chance to rebel. These are not 'tests.'" He spat the word.
"So its a body-control," whispered Ramza, as memories of the loss of his own brothers rushed back at him. He felt Alma squeezing his arm, but already knew he could counter the grief with just looking at the brighter side of things. He still had someone in his family left.
The Stop Spell wore off, and the others slowly attempted to move forwards. Ramza knew the feeling, like your whole body was held in place in a vice-grip, and felt somewhat-crushed.
A black-caped man strode into the church grounds.
"Marquis Elmdor!?" This time Ramza couldn't hide the shock.
The man glanced at him, his gaze penetrating, at once showing that he was, in fact, maybe only related to him distantly. "My name is Sephiroth," he spoke. "Or was, when I was still alive. Thanks to a monster I'm stranded here, but I may at least be able to make reparations for some things I have done before."
He turned to Emily. "I remember our encounter a long time ago. It was I who dealt you and your friends the Darkness Ray, but I didn't know where I was, and my thoughts were torn apart. I've recollected some by now, my violent nature of Time-Travel made my memories jumbled again. Of course, if Jenova really is my mother I'll have to believe this lie for now, but if I have to make reparations for this "
He moved his hand, and energies moved from Cloud. "If that fool hadn't found those Zodiac Stones, if I hadn't ended up here, Cloud Strife would not be under this influence, but his reach is far."
"What about the Zodiac Stones!?" shouted Ramza. "I flung them into the core of the explosion that ripped apart Altima!! They can't still exist!!"
"They do," Sephiroth answered. "This link may be our only passage home, but I don't think we can pass through yet. I could sense the disturbances here, hidden from view of the others in the area, but I believe people are expected home, and I caused somewhat of a 'disturbance' with the Castle Soldiers." He smiled faintly, then gestured, and a large orb of energy appeared. "When the time is right "
He faded from view.
On the highest platform in the deepest section of the abandoned caverns beneath a tall lighthouse, which existed, partially-ruined, on the surface, lightning began to pulsate and play. It burst once, twice
before finally coalescing into a wizard, gasping for breath and clutching his chest, an open wound where his heart would normally be. He fell to the floor, groaning in pain, and struggled for air.
"Don't bother " a voice spoke from the depths of his mind.
"L Lucavi " Elidibs breathed. "W why? How are we still alive?"
The wizard instantly regretted that statement, and screamed in pain as every inch of his body began acting like it was being torn to shreds, then crushed.
"You ARE NOT Lucavi, fool!" he roared. "Just my vessel! I've come to offer you two choices, Elidibs!! Two choices!!"
"What are they," he gasped, still struggling for air.
"One is to let go of me, in which you can perish again, and I will be reborn again in someone when I sense their potential. There is no possible way you could become human again, merge with me, or the Lucavi itself, and separation is an instant end. You also don't return to the Planet." He paused, growing annoyed with his 'body's' constant attempts to breathe. "As you are probably aware, you are thinking as a separate entity again. You've never had to breathe before, don't bother now!"
Elidibs nodded. "The second choice?"
"Disappear, allow us to fade from existence. Lucavi is the group, yet my name, for they are but parts of me, with a different will. You were born to be my vessel, but that can change, you can become me. I've been pondering this ever since it became apparent we're going to have to await another 'Nexus' before reattempting a reincarnation of 'Saint' Ajora, pondering what else to do, if things have been damaged. I decided to revive you for this instant. I must know."
Elidibs growled, realization dawning upon him. "You you fool!" he screamed. "I'll tell you my choice!" He was up, in the same position he'd been in when that freak had ripped his heart apart with his sword. "None of them!!"
Lucavi roared in anguish. "Then perish again!" He grinned, and relaxed 'his/Elidibs'' control on the Warp-Raise. Once again in demon-form, both roared and exploded, a sound that echoed up through the circling corridors that connected each level of the Deep Dungeon to the one below it, and caused some of the stones in the Lighthouse to fall.
Since then, she hadn't left his side.
"You were supposed to protect me," she muttered, staring up at the floating figure, who had fully-recovered within the first week, but had refused to leave, Liukhan couldn't drag the unconscious spirit free. Red XIII had been busying himself with reading, after Barret's initial annoyance with Liukhan had subsided, he'd been making some sort of plan with Cait Sith on making sure there was absolutely no way the Shinra Corporation could start again. Yuffie was studying the history of Materia, and of the Shinobi, whenever she could, Cid was busying himself with comparing Airships to ancient designs, the Lefeinish Empire intrigued him.
Of the others, Red XIII visited her the most during the two months. Cloud had passed his 22 Birthday one week after he should've emerged from the Celestial Chamber, unconscious.
Cloud suddenly clutched his chest again, where he had been stabbed before, moaning, and was silent. Orange-black energies burst from inside.
Tifa was up in an instant, the story about the Great Wizard Elidibs, who was dealing with some sort of strange magic that pulsed within it, just as Balbanes Beoulve, descendant of Eslesle Beoulve, she'd obviously switched back to her old Family-Name after being divorced from the forced-marriage, confronted 'Prince' Balinten, who held two war-orphans, named Rafa and Malak, captive, as the Hokuten attempted to take back Riovanes, and reason with Balinten, who had seemed to decide once he had the castle back, he'd make it a fortress, and you didn't have to be smart to figure out he intended 'violent politics,' fell to the floor, unnoticed.
"Liukhan!!" she screamed.
"Dileta " Ramza began again, realizing at the same time he shouldn't bring this up, but it was probably now or never. He placed his hand on his friend's shoulder, who was kneeling over Ovelia. He looked up. "Were you going to stab me?"
"No," he answered. "I its not your fault my sister is gone, its mine. If I hadn't been a peasant, if I'd been able to *do something,* she'd still be alive."
"Algus again," Ramza answered, sighing. "Do you honestly believe that would've made a difference? First of all, even if we had met, and had been in the same position, Wiegraf's pals would've kept her until they got what they wanted, because you'd be a noble. She'd have perished anyways, by someone who thought you'd done the wrong thing in aiding them. And you might not be alive now, might have ended up slain in the Lion's War, with this country still engulfed in battle."
"I know that!" he snapped back. "I'm just trying " he sighed. "Now that I've finally gotten into the position to help people, with apologies already in mind, there's nothing that you can do." He sighed. "Except for saving Ovelia. And maybe you'll help me explain to her what happened." He sighed again. "I can't see much difference in anything now, if something else happens."
He stood up. "I'm sorry for what happened to you, but, I just don't know. We're still friends, but this can't change much." He clenched his fists again, unclenched them, and took a deep breath. "Nothing changed."
'I'm sorry, too," Ramza said. "I know who's fault it was in what happened to Teta." He sighed, too.
"What will you do now?"
"Since I still may be able to do something about those blasted stones, this time cut them apart! Its crazy how they're still causing so much chaos!!"
"Maybe this whole incident can pass unnoticed, but I am going to have to tell them something about the church, and what that Setirop whatever guy did."
When the column was sucked from the area by Cloud's Finishing Touch, the walls around had fallen, too. This church hadn't been repaired, tribute to a decisive battle in the 50-Year-War, but they didn't want it damaged anymore.
"Tell them you had some unfinished business with someone who may have grudges against you from the Lion's War," Ramza answered. "We can't just reveal the truth to the populace, at least not until the Zodiac Stones are truly gone. And I don't want anyone in the Church harming you for helping a 'Heretic.' I don't need any thanks for doing anything, anyway."
"Well, I'm thanking you right now for saving Ovelia's life," Dileta said. "And yes, your explanation will work, by the time you're gone, the person should have disappeared. If there's questioning, I can point to a disguise used by those Churchmen who have been harassing the Council and the staff, that should give us some grounds to get them away from here before someone gets hurt."
Ramza smiled briefly. "I believe that would work."
"Then let us move now," came the voice of the stranger.
The air coming from where the voice was consolidated, and the form of the silver-haired man took shape again. "Once I take you where you need to be, I have things I need to tend to. Dileta, get a skilled wizard over here and make sure that these magical-energies do not expand, things like what might be the aftermath of what I do have caused focal-points of the chaos to be formed in history, countless lives were lost each time that happened."
He seemed to think something through, then spoke again. "I'm not sure how many I can support, so unless you think this is fully-necessary, speak up!"
Merlin was first, awake now, a throbbing-pain in his ribs all that remained of the wound he received from Cloud. "Ovelia may need Emily and I to monitor her over the next several weeks, so we're out." Emily nodded, agreeing with him.
"I've been meaning to ask you this, but kept forgetting, as you seemed rather busy," spoke Lavian. "I'd like to find out what happened to Rad and Alicia," she turned to Agrias. "If you don't mind."
"You may go," she answered.
"I'm staying with Ovelia!" Agrias announced.
"And I'm returning to my father!" put in Mustadio. "While a bit more cataclysmic, I've been through plenty of things like this before, although definitely not as long, and by no means tend to stop my work."
"Worker 8, go with him," stated Ramza. "That's an order."
"Acknowledged," spoke the Steel Giant. "He is master now."
"No," answered Ramza. "Not a master, but a friend."
The robot looked confused, but nodded again, then went back to what Ramza was used to calling the robot's 'relax' position.
"Reis and I have our own life to set up," Beowulf said. Reis nodded.
"Take Boco with you, please," Ramza added. "I'm sure he'll be helpful."
"I've got some things I need to dictate to Dileta, then I'm going to visit Olan," put in Orlandu. "I may not be able to appear to the general public, but I'm not losing him."
No one else spoke.
"I don't really have anything here," spoke Malak. "I'm coming."
"I'm with my brother!" Rafa said. "I don't want to be separated from him again."
"This isn't over until the Zodiac Stones are destroyed," Meliadoul said. "I intend to avenge my father and brother, I may have already, I'm not letting others get harmed by that crazy 'thing!!'"
"There's much I have to atone for, much you do not know, and other things that I may be able to do," Ruass spoke. "I'm in!"
"That's five, including Cloud," the black-caped man spoke. "There may be room for one other, so if any of you think you can make somewhat of a difference "
"No one ever let me speak!" shouted Alma. "I'm in this with Ramza!"
"NO!" exclaimed Ramza, perhaps just a bit too-loudly.
"And why not?" retorted Alma.
Ramza sighed. "Outside of the church," he spoke. "We'll discuss it out there alone." She looked at him questioningly. "Now."
Alma left through the arch.
Ramza followed, pausing to glance back at the silver-haired male. "Wait here."
Alma was facing the arch when her brother amused.
"I want an explanation for this!" she demanded. "You let me come with you here, saying I'm safer with you, which is true, then tell me you can't come when you head off for an unknown place!"
Ramza pursed his lips. "That was because I thought you'd be safe with Dileta."
She crossed her arms. "With a bunch of churchmen around here, the general populace thinking I'm not alive! Ramza, get serious!"
Ramza crossed his arms too. "After what happened last time you got near a Zodiac Stone, there's no way I'm "
Alma cut him off. "I don't think that's going to work, brother!! If the stones traveled from here to there, they could travel back! Besides, I only got captured last time because you left me with Simon!! I am going to run through the reasons I gave you at Lesalia, different, in a way, because this is different, and the ones after Altima perished, the reasons you let me come with you, are you going to let me come!"
Ramza groaned. "You win," he said.
"Come back alive, Ramza," Dileta stated. The others had said their goodbyes, and those who were coming had stepped into the portal. Dileta affirmed he wouldn't be expected back until twilight, which was two more hours away.
"I hope to find some way to affirm you're still alive if I can't return," answered Ramza. "And I hope you do too."
Dileta clapped him on the back, and Ramza did the same. Then he turned and entered, the portal snapping shut.
The others had left the area, on the chance someone might wander in, while Emily and Merlin, assuring him Ovelia would recover shortly, had left to allow him to talk with her himself.
She stirred, moaning again. Dileta was crouching by her side, and hoped she would listen to him. He'd made sure any weapons were far away, just in case this would happen again, and took a deep breath.
This time, it would end differently.
Go To Chapter 15
Return To FF7 Fanfic