Pathways Of Foreboding Chapter 19
By Paul Nathans
The area was awash with colors. They flowed, separated, collided, congealed. Faces, shapes, thousands of things would form from them. There was light as suddenly as darkness. Calmness and destructive blasts, they seemed to come from this place.
He whirled, crackling, lashing out, the undulating greenish-black mass of heads that was Xagor curling and cackling, sucking in white lightning and letting it blast out in a cacophony of streaming webs, pulling-in blue spheres, unleashing them as enormous white-golden crescents that burst outwards and ripped apart, letting-loose sweeping beams. He cackled again.
He was whole.
Rejoined with his Godlike body. He could return to Pureland, access that Gateway where the Pureland Water Entity had entered Artesta, but something else was beckoning him, filling his head with knowledge. This Universe and its Central Planetary System seemed trifling to what he was now, what he learned showed him how to do more than lead it to ruin and reshape it, how to destroy all.
Destruction. He had entered the All Plane nearest a lifeless Planet to access his body, which was floating almost-disjointed from the Spirit Plane, to do so because he was a spirit, he needed to be able to manipulate it first. When he'd first created Entities, he'd done it easily, yet he'd made them complex. He'd forged alliances with others, like Duga and the Dwelg Master, twisting beliefs of the others, yet had needed his. Thus, with the exception of Duga, his pets were the only survivors when those he'd tricked opened the portal to the other Universe, ending-up at the misbegotten Planet of Artesta. The others had perished. He'd arranged it that way.
There were no more Pureland Immortals.
He could create more if he wished, but he'd wait for a while to see if something better, or something that could help him if he repeated those actions, showed-up wherever he might go.
As he began to move from this plane, another shift he'd just realized how to perform, he saw some type of Shadowy Comet appear behind one of Pureland's Two Moons, to orbit always out of sight, blocked in its shadow, while an army of 100 Emerald 'Things' moved around the other, ringing it. A shadowy thing moved onto the 'Meteor.' He looked at it to determine its nature, reaching across the thousands upon thousands of stars to where he'd sensed this, could see it flanked by two others, one Ruby, one Emerald. With the 100 other Emeralds, each in a Diamond Form, 33 at each section, the 100th Flanked by Five resemblances of some sort of he saw the name, Sephiroth five Ruby, five Emerald, in front was a Diamond one. Atop the Comet was another glowing thing, holding what he knew to be Mako.
He could sense all this from here!! He'd forgotten what it was like to be all-powerful. The knowledge finished arriving as the Gateways to his absolute power opened-up, and he was no longer the Petty God he once was, he was what he'd been before and better.
He emerged into the Pureland Universe, so-named because the Immortals had learned to travel the Stars, had traveled the whole Universe, thus naming it, eventually what led to the war, when that vast interstellar civilization was demolished.
He emerged, laughing insanely.
Supreme-Exdeath, Absolute Reverse of All, was yanked away from this shimmering mass that surrounded the two Universes. "What what is-!!??" He cried aloud, although there was really no one to enter him.
'You are the Mu itself, you fool! Its time you understand, to gain the knowledge of which you've been denied! Xagor is out, Pureland is in place, we just need you!! You will come and you will serve us!!'
He was above the Universes now, the Mu pulsing blue-yellow in moving strands, along with threads of purple and green as they twisted about the Universe. He was above, all its energies, save the colors, gathered into him. Now was the time to truly test his theory. "I serve no one!!!!!" he roared.
'The Mu would, but it needs to become 'lifeless,' to not exist! Here is the knowledge you need!' It came into his head, he simply laughed.
"I serve no one! I am the Master of the Mu!!!!! I'll destroy you!!!!!"
'Then you'll have to merge with them all unwillingly. Two birds once-again, it seems! I bring forth my champions!!!!!'
Elmyra stood at the window of the Clocktower, looking-out at the Stars. From their position in the sky, she could tell it was indeed night.
Something had once-again burst into her life and taken one whom she cared for from her. First Aeris now Marlene.
She hadn't attempted to stop the tears, the realization of what had happened to Marlene had set-in sometime before the darkness descended. The 'Shinra' Members there helping repair, to a certain extent, the damage to her walls and door, just to be polite, had been ushered away, the Repair Crew, caught in the panicking citizens, hadn't arrived until the following morning.
She'd went to bed, upset, had walked around as shocked as she'd been when her husband had perished, as shocked as she'd been when she'd lost Aeris.
'And now you've lost Marlene, too!' a little voice seemed to taunt her. 'You couldn't take care of Aeris properly, neither could you take care of Marlene! You failed her, just as you've failed Aeris!! You'll never see her again either!!'
She clenched her knuckles on the open window below the clock until they turned white. She had understood about Aeris, seeing Cloud again had prompted her outburst to him. Yet she wouldn't let grief overwhelm her again! She knew the voice was just her own fears.
Still, as she turned to a picture of Aeris above the Fireplace Mantle opposite the window, and saw one of Marlene to the left of it, both smiling, it became harder to hold back tears. At the right side of the central picture was Aeris, as a child, something she hadn't missed. She turned back to the window, drawing it shut silently and closing the curtains over it.
One tear fell to the floor as she strode towards the stairs out of what had been Marlene's Room, and down them, flicking the light off as she descended.
Clitor hissed and hurled a fallen beam from the earlier battle across the room. "Answer me!! Please!!" he begged. "Someone!!"
He'd tried to make contact with Ralyon, and instead had found himself blasted with some sort of weird, pulsing energy, thrown across the room almost-completely, had found himself submerged in some sort of void as someone tried to answer him, yet cries seemed to emanate from the very Planet, warning him away.
Was the Planet relying on him for something!? Wishing that he not receive knowledge from some outside source other than Ralyon. He'd crawled up to the Altar, he'd tried to puzzle this out. Was the Planet keeping him from Ralyon, or was Ralyon with the Planet, keeping him from more lies?
He wanted to suspect the latter, because he didn't want his life to be a lie, but he knew the other was probably true. Too much was at stake, the Planet was speaking to individuals now. It felt threatened, there was something
he grabbed his sword nearby and placed its point above his heart, preparing to drive it in. He was unsure of his role in life now, he'd almost reentered the lives of others who should never have known he was still alive.
It would be so-much-better for them just to forget.
He started to thrust inwards, and blasts of white appeared before his eyes.
He dropped the sword, gazing up
up into eyes of hatred.
Attune stood before him, having formed out of the air, energies crackling amongst his hands. "I see your doubt, so now I must slay you!"
"What!?" Clitor was up, grabbing downwards and picking-up his sword, holding it in front of him. "What do you mean!?"
He laughed, each cascading cackle rebounding from the walls, his eyes crazy. "You're such a fool! I held some genuine respect for you, so I didn't yet wish to slay thee, but now now I see there's true reasons! And I won't have to take the blame!!"
Clitor continued to hold his blade, circling this treacherous freak; the other circling with him, golden bracers, spikes on the ends, held forwards. "You're unworthy of your name!! You're no Zodiac Brave!!"
"Get a clue, you fool! None of us care whether we get our hands dirty, only you and you despicable excuse for a brother! I hold three of the Objects of Power in my hand, with four left to find! That is when the Special will be activated, and I can ascend the pathways of Elslumina and place myself above all planes, in control of all!!"
"I'd have believed you if you weren't a traitor!! What is this about places of power, though! Those were lies!"
"I think you're about to have a religious conversion, flea!" Before Clitor could respond he lunged, grabbing him and throwing him backwards. Clitor cupped his hands, a strange book was withdrawn from the folds of his cloak and flipped open to a bookmarked page in a fraction of a second. In the next third he muttered a brief series of words, obviously from the page(s.), sending out a bright blue-white light, paralyzing him in place.
"Do you honestly think materials forming Mu and the Universes could only form those, you idiot!! Does this world only have for power the Lifestream!!??" He laughed again, hair spraying in the breeze, colors shimmering, changing, until it was a brown-red. "The Spiritual Side of things holds a power far-greater than you serve, created and maintained, never accessed, but always there!! As many Universes as we want, only a few things more have to be in place! When your Master attempts to activate the Healing, I'll activate the Power!!"
Romoreto dropped down behind him, trusting a dagger into his neck, silently and with complete stealth. Attune stiffened and fell like a tree; Romoreto uttered a few words, ripping the stone free and holding it within an orb, then all was still.
"All I saw was you being attacked," the assassin stated. "Explanation, please."
Slowly, ever so slowly, Ramza blinked and opened his eyes.
The chanting still continued, now at a crescendo of maliciousness. He suppressed a moan, rising, ever so slowly, to his feet, attempting to make as little noise as possible. All he had to do was get one clean stab, making sure he held the Virgo Stone, too, which was between the lifeless girl and the infant.
He didn't dare risk a glance anywhere, all he did was draw a small dagger, unused since Gariland, and tiptoed forwards. Again and again, until he was on the columns. He jumped, gasping as his collision made a great amount of noise. The girl was chanting loudly now, and thus did not hear his next jump.
She heard none of them, unless she was pretending to not hear. He tiptoed up the stairs just as cautiously. He drew it back, ready to stab her in the neck...
...yet he couldn't.
If she was not yet one of Lucavi's, she didn't deserve this fate! What kind of person had he become to take the life of one who may have just been misguided. He knew it without a doubt now, they weren't as human as before, they were like silent fighters. He let go of the dagger, it clattered to the floor.
The woman spun. She looked down, and then up, before grinning. "Idiot!" she laughed. She drew back her hands, ready to slap him, power tearing from her. Ramza realized, his eyes widening, that she was indeed one of Lucavi's.
He staggered back from the blow, somehow managing to keep his footing.
"That's why we're superior!" she laughed. "Your humanity showed-through at the wrong times! You didn't use the logic you needed! You had me at your mercy, didn't you! That's something you'll pay for, something you'll regret!"
A red-orange dagger was out in her hands, pulsing, roaring. She stabbed forwards, he dodged to the side and punched her in the face as hard as she could. She staggered back, recovered, and stabbed down low, giving him the opportunity to attempt to punch the dagger from her hands. She reversed the thrust and kicked him, cauing him to stagger-back again, standing on the edge of the platform.
"Earth's Anger running through my arms! Earth Slash!" he shouted, punching downwards. The lady used the explosions to her advantage, leaping off one unharmed, crackling white energies expanding from her hands and slashing at him, cutting across his Genji Armor, almost-completely-shattering the upper section.
He grabbed his dagger, kicked out of his hands quickly. The lady proceeded to grab his neck, hoisting him above the water. Below, Crysales stood, poised to end his life with a slash.
She released him, turning back to the symbol.
"Srayentral Esornor Reskan Cetra Allurea...Monseta Elor Realyena!!"
She clapped her hands above her head and pointed.
Below Ramza had flipped, kicking the beast in the face and flipping off her to the ledge. He blacked-out for a few moments, exhaustion overcoming him, before managing to regain consciousness and leaping towards his target.
The energies from the lady sailed into Marlene, forming blue-white ripples around the whole room. A pulsing bubble expanded from the Virgo Zodiac Brave, throwing Ramza backwards again, onto the floor, blasted back by a series of ripples again, flipping to the edge.
Teeth clamped on his foot, and he tried to drag himself upwards. He let out a grunt of exertion, grabbing his nearby dagger again, and threw it downwards. A howl of pain as the jaws let go told him that he had at least decapitated the beast. He was up, channeling a Chakra through himself to ward-off the pain of the ripples, watching as the pulsing around the lady reached its height.
"Exorx...Realselie...*Ajalnora!!!!!*" she gasped, letting-loose another blast of pure white energy into the infant, causing such an incredible shockwave that the very walls of the place began to crumble. Ramza was thrown backwards, all the way across the room, his head impacting with a crack.
The energies in the ground shot through the symbols around her, straight through the hexagon of the Virgo stone, and into the other girl, bathing her in iridescent energy as her body rose, crackling, all sorts of colors pulsing-out as it contorted. Letting out a shriek, her eyes snapped open as she shot forwards, standing up straight.
Somehow, Ramza was still awake. Somehow, he managed to try to move. The Virgo Zodiac Brave looked at him mockingly, gesturing, throwing him before her, and turned to the other, who, this time, did not have white hair, but wild blowing red-orange hair, gesturing towards him.
"Vengeance?" she asked, lip curling in a sneer.
Ramza tried to answer, but only succeeded in choking out ,"You ...don't ...understand..." before falling into unconsciousness once more.
On the pathway, the beast known as Red XIII began to stir, faintly.
"Experience has taught me caution," he/she responded. "Let us go!"
The thing gestured, blasting upwards along with the Virgo Zodiac Brave, a tendril of Magic probing for Crysales, but missing, as he was too near their allies, thus showing an unnecessary risk. Ajora/Altima/Whatever waved its hands.
As they completely-disappeared from the area, the citadel above began to shake, before finally blasting outwards in a white light before crumbling in on itself, crashing down into the 'Underwater' Chapel, bending the huge beams as it continued downwards, causing them to shatter as the whole center of the Forgotten Capital smashed down upon itself with a loud, resounding gong.
And then, silence.
Shera shut the door behind them all, the blizzards above having increased in fury, before collapsing onto the floor. "Poor Cid," was all she could think of to mutter.
He was still unconscious, moaing and tossing. Yuffie was somber, she'd managed to bring her back to consciousness with a Restore Materia, using-up the last of its energies; she hadn't used any of the things that people commonly used to their Materia to fix that condition, obviously she hadn't felt the need when Cid wasn't seriously-wounded, and together they'd gotten the others into her house.
She might've been, so she'd come first.
The whole process had taken at least an hour, or more, the snow swirling around them. It had cut them off from the crowd, which wasn't in a commotion, for all she could hear. Assuming she could hear over the blizzard, that meant the people had managed to force themselves to be quiet, probably focusing on something they now had in common, something they could change.
The state of the town.
"Where do we put him?" The Ninja asked hoarsely.
"Room to my right, on his bed. Put the Android there too, and we'll take things from there."
Yuffie nodded, turning towards the task. For all she knew, she could be someone more-important than any normal person, perhaps the person who'd helped the adventurers she was a part of the most. Now, however, the final haughty barriers around her had been dropped, she was just a simple, lost, girl.
That's where Shera's own paternal instincts kicked-in.
Yuffie was weeping.
Not openly, but the tears were still forming in her eyes, cascading down her cheeks, and falling to the floor, barely a sound heard as they did. She wasn't making a sound, either. Perhaps she was unaware that she was weeping, or perhaps she knew, but did not mention. It didn't matter whether she knew or not, though.
She was distressed.
She was weeping.
Shera waited until Yuffie had place Cid on his bed before placing her hand on the Ninja's shoulder.
She looked up, brushing away a tear.
"You're upset," Shera stated calmly. "I don't know what happened that caused this, but I'm not standing idle when I might be able to help."
Yuffie sniffed, wiping her nose.
"You have no idea," she stated quietly. "You wouldn't even understand."
Shera moved to a couch across from Cid's bed and motioned for the girl to sit down next to her. She did so silently.
"Listen, lady, if I can calculate how to determine the status of a Rocket, understand Cid's stories about Lifestreams and Crazy Geneticists along with misbegotten sons, I can understand this! What's the harm in telling me!?"
"I..." She seemed about to tell her she didn't want to talk about what was bothering her, but stopped abruptly. "Since your Cid's friend, it couldn't hurt."
She settled back against the couch and began.
Cloud blinked, startled out of his half-sleep by a deep cold.
He heard a moan behind him, and turned to watch his childhood friend blink and open her eyes.
"What is it!?" She asked drearily.
"I don't know," he said, disintangling himself from her and standing-up. He tiptoed over to where Barret was sitting, sleeping as well, and tapped him on the shoulder.
"Barret, wake up!" he whispered sharply.
The head of the tan-skinned miner came up abruptly. "What!!??"
"Something's happening." Barret's eyebrows rose. "I don't know how I know, but trust me, I do."
"Another of those weird feelings, eh?"
The door opened, causing the AVALANCHE Leader to rise to his feet immediately. Someone wearing the garb of a Shinra SOLDIER stepped in.
"Your weapons, Items, and Materia are in the back room," he/she/it spoke. "Take the hallway there and push through the wall at 4.50 Inches from the right side upon entering, 13.628 Inches above the floor. You should be able to climb out to the staircase there. That'll take you down between the Back Room and Front 'Courtyard.' You should see a similar staircase on the other side, that leads to the other Cellblocks. Your friend should be there."
"Who are you, anyways!!??" Barret responded, shaking his cyberarm. His Gun-Attachments had been removed, leaving him with his old "Gun," which was stripped of bullets. This much he could tell by just looking at the insides through the firing holes, which he had. "We ain't foo's!!!!"
"You must leave. Clitor demands it." The voice was raspy and steely.
"Oh, yeah!!" Barret responded, shoving his Gun-Arm in the humanoid's face. "You can go tell Clitor he can shove his demands up his-!!!!!"
The other grabbed him with both hands and hurled him out into the corridor. Barret crashed into the wall very hard, and slid to the ground head-first, toppling-over in a heap of limbs. He was up quickly, to find a dagger at his throat.
"There is betrayal here." The voice this time was a hiss. "Clitor will allow you to keep your weapons and stay together, not imprisoned, for he can easily overpower you should you prove to be lying about Ralyon. Leave now, yet remain within the building."
"Who are you!!??" Tifa lunged at the hood of the figure, yanking it back...
Cloud was at her side immediately, on his knees, glaring accusingly at the figure. "What did you do to her!!??"
"She cannot touch what is inside, for it would be her life. Do not force me to put you all to sleep."
"Try it!" snapped Barret, attempting to punch the thing in the face.
He slumped over immediately.
"This is no sleep spell, it forces sleep. The victim does not awaken for a day, at least, if the conditions are reversed. If not, they will continue to sleep, preserved forever...at least until they perish from loss of food and drink. Now listen."
"Reverse your Spell or I'll..."
His eyes suddenly felt like lead, while every part of his body sagged. In almost a second they would be shut, yet something within him stopped this from happening. He wouldn't fall victim to anymore of this.
"If you will not listen, you will have to be destroyed another way."
The hood was pulled back quickly, leaving Cloud gaping at what he saw.
His adversary punched him in the face, then shifting to something else while putting 'his' hood back on with ease.
"A simple statement of pretend betrayal and shock is good-enough for me. Even though I doubt you could move well in your condition, I stay cautious."
He fell to the floor, as if tripped quickly, and Tifa rose to her feet. "I brought my friends through Sephiroth's Reverse Aurora, yet you think some cheap shot like this is going to hurt me!"
The thing hissed, letting loose ripples of black energy. Both Cloud, Tifa, and Barret, who was awake, which meant he'd obviously been expecting a blast and was waiting for a good moment to retaliate, cried out. The black energies erupted on them like electricity, and each fell to the ground, silent.
He was falling.
Falling through an endless pit of flashing lights and swirling shapes.
A pit that was no-longer-endless, but opened into a nightmare beyond the likes he'd ever seen before.
Something was below him, something that must be larger than Galaxies, judging by the distance to the glimmering platform of energy below. In a shorter time than scientifically possible, he was on that platform, even as Tifa and Barret appeared beside him.
Brief flashes tore through their eyes, allowing them to see every feature of what called itself Supreme-Exdeath, Absolute Reverse of All, to see the two Universes that they floated above on some plane of reality.
Then their vision returned to normal.
'These are your *champions!!!!!*' The thing shouted to something, a flickering presence that vanished an instant after that insult came. The thing looked down at them, before rearing-up and laughing. 'You've just given me those I wished to torture!!!!!'
The devil-thing glared down at them, a smile twisting its most-prominent head. 'You have seen me, you know your lives are specks to me. You shall see more, now, as I shall finally get to torture ones worth torturing.'
Cloud glanced around quickly, placing his hand on his sword. Whether this was an illusion or a 'reality' of some sort, there was always the chance he'd face physical torture, provided he wasn't being lied-to and set-up.
"Wonderful, isn't it!" The acid tone of the voice behind him caused him to drop his blade, whipping around and widening his eyes in astonishment.
Nanaki was standing right there. It wasn't a family member or someone who would've been expected, thus he was caught off-guard. "You get used to it after the first 5 Millenia have passed."
"W-What do you mean!?"
"Don't you know where you are!!?? We're in Mu now!! There's no way out!! We learned all we could only to perish! I survived to be cast here, we're trapped! You don't even know how long we've been here!!!!!"
He began gesturing wildly, a haunted, sunken look in his eyes.
"You're not Nanaki." He bent down and picked-up the sword from where it lay on the swiveling colors, spun, and slashed at him, expecting the fake thing to tear into pieces, ignoring the look of fear on the thing's eyes.
"Darn it!!" He hissed and dropped the Ragnarok. "I figured if you were chopped in half it'd be a fake you, since I had no blade! I've figured out I'm a machine, I'm counteracting it! That might've worked before, but not now! So get me out!"
"Cloud, what's wrong?" 'Red XIII' padded up to him. "You know its me."
"It is not!" He struck out with his fists, before he suddenly realized that he could've been played for a fool indeed, and watched as the kinetic energy from the blow snapped his neck.
He scrambled backwards, thoughts moving too quickly for him to calm down. He did, however, notice that he was indeed moving. Therefore, he thrust himself to his feet and bolted away, ready to swing at the first thing that moved.
The parts of his mind that could reason told him this was just another mind game someone was playing with him.
As of now, they won in the battle for control.
Tifa clutched her chest as she crashed into a group of strange, wavy lines that seemed to crisscross at all angles. Expecting something, she thrust herself up, spinning and preparing her fists, only to find that the lines crisscrossed everywhere.
Two bodies appeared in front of her, one of Aeris, another of Cloud. Both were limp, dangling above an inferno, attached by the wrists to lowering cords. She snorted in amusement.
"Some torture!!" she shouted into the air. "I can think of Holiday Resorts that offered more pain than this, you crazy Lifestream reject!!"
A third figure appeared, almost causing her to gasp. She recovered herself seconds before a sound was emitted, her mind showing her all possibilities for the scenario that seemed to approach.
She was staring at herself.
"Let me guess!" She shouted. "I cut down Aeris and save Cloud because I don't care for her, and get taunted for taking a life, while being shown scenarios that prove I was responsible for Aeris perishing!"
Instead, though, that which resembled her from head to toe, brunette hair, karate gi, short lowergarments, even weaponless, spun and chopped-apart the cord holding Aeris, watching as Cloud descended into the inferno.
'Come now!' The voice came. 'Where is your jealousy, freak!'
"I wasn't jealous at all!" she shouted back. "Aeris was the heart and soul of our whole group! She gave Cloud reason to fight, gave us all hope! I'd sacrifice my life willingly to restore her, so shut up!!!!!"
She hoped that covered all the taunts that were forthcoming.
Once-again this creature was ahead of them. Her 'clone' drew a strange knife and stabbed Aeris in the neck, taking her White Materia. The lines in front of her shifted, showing her on the side of the Crater. She activated Holy through the powers of the knife, and watched with satisfaction as it tore through the Crater, saw Sephiroth in agony before he was ripped-apart. Then she saw herself restore Cloud, a puppet melded to her will, before a light descended from the heavens, striking her.
A transformation initiated, and she watched as she grew to a monster bearing the typical size ten times that of the human common amongst those in control of the strange forces they faced now. The puppet, one she could sense enslaved to her, was shattered, while the thing, resembling herself yet with pointed ears and leathery-white wings, leapt into the air and soared towards a nearby town.
Before blasting it into rubble.
"Oh, and I'm *not* this Maitreya character I was accused of being before!!" she shouted. "Is that your best!!"
'Don't you know I can send you to a false world!?' The voice roared through her head in amusement. 'All things are real in Mu! I could show you what would've happened if Meteor had struck!'
She simply rolled her eyes.
'Fine, then!' The voice sounded more amused than before. 'You'll never return to your world! I'll suspend you in these illusions forever! You may think I've perished, been slain, but I'll always come back! I command everything! You'll never know whether or not you exist in reality or my fantasies!'
"Better a sweet world of lies than that of dark truth!" She shouted back. "You just don't stop! You could duplicate everything, but eventually something would show me whether I live in an illusion or not! You don't know everything concerning my world!"
'Ah, but you could be in an illusion years!!'
"Same to you! What if you're an illusion!!??"
There was a momentary pause in this strange litany, and she knew she'd hit. What if this thing wasn't at the top? She could just-as-easily use Lucavi's methods of attempting to confuse the opponent. If she showed-up in another 'world' years later, she'd bear it. She'd suffered enough surprises, she'd take what was probable.
The lines vanished, and she found herself alone, looking-up at the towering beast. 'How *DARE YOU!!!!!?????*' It roared. 'Now you shall become one with eternal oblivion!!!!!'
Barret struggled again.
He'd seen what both had been through. Cloud was lost, Tifa was about to perish, and he couldn't free himself from this wall of dark-blue energy. A wall that waved behind him, while the rest of this vast palce showed in front of him.
His Gun-Arm pinned him.
His view was cut-off as he saw a tail swing around and connect with Tifa, showing him only black in the direction he was now gazing.
The blackness shimmered, shooting forth a ray of pure white energy. It collided with him, and he roared in pain, trying to tear free.
"*DARN* *YOU!!!!!*-" He screamed again, before launching into another series of swear words. He shut his eyes, only to see a vision of burning Corel forced into his mind. It shifted to the side, replaced by the two Makoro Reactors he'd helped destroy, and saw each cry of pain, intermingling with his own.
He opened his eyes, seeing those thousands of people, other animals, creatures, anything that had perished in the blast, contorted in misery, wounds open, skin charred, everywhere, forced to see all at once. Hideous wounds, charred flesh, gaping eyes, skulls visible, brains visible, sometimes one or both broken in places, and burning with body parts and blood pooling around them; all could be seen.
Save Myrna and Eleanor. And they all began to charge towards him.
'Destroyer!' The words reverberated.
"I been through 'dis!!!!!" He shouted. "Dyne opened my eyes to my own folly, so I don't need ta' see 'dis a'gain!"
Then he noticed where the gazes of each being was directed.
'Your "Mark of Destruction!"' The voice chanted, forcing him to see the gun. 'It proves you're a Destroyer, an uncaring, revenge-driven freak of nature!!!!! It is what is keeping you here, forever, to atone for what you have done!'
The charging people disappeared just before they reached him. There had been too many for him to see Eleanor and Myrna, thank goodness, but he had a feeling the worst was yet to come.
Marlene appeared in their place, eyes full of tears.
"What's wrong, Daddy?" She asked, sniffing.
His gun began to shake furiously.
More blood...must have more blood...I demand...
Destroyer...you must take lives...I must live...weapon...you're a Weapon, just like hose from the Planet...
...now she must perish...
"*SHUT UP!!!!!*" He howled, trying to stop the gun from jerking.
The sphere was moving as it jerked, and he could see where it was trying to aim. He growled and grabbed at it with his other fist, digging into it.
"Daddy?" Marlene's voice was questioning.
"You...dare!!??" he growled, trying his hardest to jerk his arm away, receiving a searing pain through his right arm that caused his eyes to water.
More blood...more blood...more...
Help us...don't abandon us...more blood...
Demon...give us more blood...make it rain...let us drink it and become one...destroyer...give us blood...
...Your hatred...we need it...must destroy...please...
...Terrorist...more blood...give us more...more blood...rain upon rain upon rain...falling...our water...loss of life...feel their pain...
...give it to us!!!!!
'Shut the-' he began to snap into the depths of his mind.
...Your hatred...more blood...hear their screams...their blood becomes ours...a rain of blood...give it to us...shoot her...shoot her...more blood...more blood...destroyer...crazed freak...
Helpless...need blood need blood need blood need blood destroy rain let us feel the rain of the blood the blood destroy them eat lives the blood...oh, the blood...give it to us...shoot them all...slay them all...more blood...hate them hate them hate everyone demon give us a rain of blood...
...Give us a rain of blood a rain of blood...give us a rain of blood a rain of blood...
...Shinra gave you fire...give them fire...you ignited their destruction as they ignited that of your family...avenge them...crush them all...
Eleanor appeared before him, eyes open, giving him a view into her roasted sockets. Her body was criss-crossed with burns, one leg snapped in half where something had obviously hit. Black-haired and beautiful, she slapped him across the face before twisting his arm apart.
...Shoot her or she'll continue...shoot her or she'll continue...
He tried to close his eyes, only to find them held-open by some invisible force. Myrna appeared next, just as he remembered her. He attempted to look away, wincing as she grabbed him and twisted his neck back, the left side of her body bleeding and scorched everywhere, the right side almost-completely ash.
He lost his food...several times.
...Weakling...they attack you...shoot them shoot them give us the rain of blood start a roaring fire the rain of blood the fire firestorm inferno rain of blood destroy them take their lives let them burn as you lost...
Give us the inferno rain of blood destroy burn inferno rain of blood...
He howled and lunged to the sides so hard his right leg twisted. He collapsed, noticing his Gun-Arm begin to move again.
'SHOOT THEM!!!!!' The voice commanded.
The Gun-Arm moved to face them, and he grabbed for it, punching wildly, trying to wrench it off that arm. His right elbow snapped with the strain, yet still he tried. Myrna and Eleanor disappeared, giving him a look at Marlene, now sitting on some 'surface,' crying hysterically.
Blood erupted from his hands, slamming into his eyes, cutting into him like razors, as again he heard the shrieks, saw their faces.
'Your fault...you wanted revenge...'
He saw Makoro Reactor Number 1 explode, saw a father his age instinctively reach to protect his wife and toddler before being burnt by the shockwave ignited by the bomb and crushed by their own house as it collapsed around him...
...more screams...he'd never known them...he screamed with them now...seeing others ignited by the explosion of the Makoro Reactor Number 5, a simple child playing with her friends, a baby thrown by a shockwave to be impaled by a sharp pole that wrenched-loose of a balcony superstructure...
...and went on and on and on and on and...
"I'M *NOT* YOUR SLAVE, YA' FOO'!!!!!" He roared again, slamming his right elbow into the sphere behind him, wincing and biting down on his tongue as the pain increased there.
'What about the future?'
The blood washed away, and he saw Marlene again, only it wasn't Marlene.
'This is what they intend to use her for.'
Marlene, body flaming, laughing maniacally and firing projectiles of blue-white flame into the citizens of Junon, laughing as Priscilla was tortured by the fires...tortured and fell, a burnt body that crumbled into dust.
She hovered above Artesta, lower body like Sephiroth's 'Safer Form,' reclining and throwing pinpoints of energy through the atmosphere. Cities and forests were lit ablaze, and she laughed again.
'To save the Planet you left her, now see what she has become!!?? Your daughter or the Planet!?' The voice wouldn't stop.
"It's...not...real!!!!!" He grated.
Yet these illusions were rocking him to the core.
Marlene spun to face him, letting loose a blast of white rays from her eyes.
HE WOULD STAND NO MORE PAIN!!!!!
His Gun-Arm swung-up and let loose a Catastrophe seconds before he realized what he'd done.
The 'Safer-Marlene' disappeared, to be replaced by the crying child who looked up, intense fear showing in her eyes. Then the beam of energy tore through her. The shriek of pain she emitted became amplified, tearing through his ears. He collapsed to a 'surface,' free of the bonds that held him, clutching his ears.
The energies of Catastrophe and all of Marlene save her head vanished. Then it began to crumble and implode into ash, eyes and bones crumbling and falling to the same 'surface' he was on, scattered-away on an invisible wind.
He'd done this out of fear of more pain, more agony. Not for the Planet. Not for anyone but himself.
He fell, whimpering, defeated.
He was broken.
He strode through the forest near the outskirts of Zeltennia, taking-in the pleasant smells through his nostrils.
Olan probably thought he had perished. He remembered how devastated he'd been when his father perished, only three. He could picture him performing his duties now, at least, like a ghost.
Orlandu allowed himself a grin. He was in for a surprise.
Something sharp struck him in the back of the neck. He gasped, whipping Excalibur free and attempting to whirl around and to the side, instead managing to only complete the motion halfway before he fell backwards.
A sharp pain lanced through his chest, and he looked-down to see a sword sticking through it, the point in the air above him, pieces of his armor shattered, the blade struck deftly between the metal locks that composed it.
"It would've been much easier to shoot you in the neck with an arrow, but you had to know." A dark-haired male, probably no more than seventeen, appeared above him. "That wound isn't fatal."
He tried to move, yet found he lacked the strength. The rock had obviously snapped his neck, not in a fatal way, but at least what those at Goug Machine City had termed a spinal cord.
He could smell the breath of the one holding him, another teenager, he found, as the face peered at his.
"But you have to know why," the one facing him from the front said as the head of the other disappeared. "For my father, whom you slew in the 50-Year-War. Goodbye, butcher of lives!"
Two daggers came at him, one scarcely behind the other. The first to reach him stabbed into his neck, the second under his helmet into his brow and brain. He was already losing consciousness as the second hit, and could register nothing as everything vanished.
'Such will be your fate!'
Cloud had stopped abruptly upon being presented with this 'vision' of the past, grasping instinctively for his sword hilt, and finding it not there.
He brushed-off the comment now, too.
'Your hand went to where your sword usually is! You Planed the Bombs that destroyed Makoro Reactor Number 1 and Makoro Reactor Number 5! Bastard! Butcher!'
"Yeah, yeah, whatever!" he snapped. "And I suppose a Creature of Destruction has the right to judge me! Judge yourself first! I've seen better than childish illusions and simple parlor tricks of living beings and false weapons!'
A huge boulder shaped strangely-familiar seemed to be swatted towards him. He quickly ducked and rose both fists, placing them at a weak point in the rock, bringing them down hard.
A faint snap could be heard, and suddenly Tifa, neck broken, lay before him.
He rolled his eyes and stood up, stepping over the illusion, ignoring the fact that it didn't dissipate, and walking onwards in the direction he'd been heading.
'You now shrug-off emotions with ease! Have you become that heartless!!??'
He rolled his eyes again.
'No one knows! She never will know! You don't care about anything, do you!!?? Do you!!??'
For one of the rare times in his life, he muttered a short, swear-phrase directed at the thing attempting to torture him.
Instead he heard a laugh reverberating from everywhere, one of amusement. 'Pathetic!! You acknowledge nothing and think you're countering torture because you've been through this before! You'll never be free, though!'
He ran a quick list through his head.
"Okay, I'll answer your questions before they start. One, I don't need to tell Tifa anything because she knows our feelings for each other, two, I'm not some cold-hearted freak or wouldn't have even ended-up where is was before I was brought here, I would've run Clitor through, three, Jenova Cells or not, whether or not anyone accesses them, I can countermand them now, and fourth, you can do whatever you want, but your intention was to break me, so if you keep me here for eternity or slay me you'll still have lost!"
'Quite like your girlfriend's attitude!' The thing snapped.
"And fifth, I believe we're in Mu. That's destruction. I'm alive. They counteract. I've figured it all out now. The only way to destroy a creature of destruction "
She staggered to her feet, seeing Supreme-Exdeath, Absolute Reverse of All again, visions shifting again.
He was a monstrous being with four-hundred claws, all intertwined around each other, eight-hundred hand claws coming off each of his normal claws. Each arm possessed two hundred bodies of every monster in existence, the arms locked, forming tentacles, which reached out to form wings connected to his body and extend farther outwards, grotesque, twisted, made up of bodies, other wings extending from them. The interconnected mesh of bodies and wings were the wings, his face sparkled with purple-blue on its brow. His whole upper section was composed of connecting beasts, intertwined mesh, with a few glowing orbs. The beasts each had heads, two-hundred arms, four-hundred arm claws, and were interconnected so they circled him. Each was of every different color in a dark and bright shade, his wing monsters were a dark shade, his arm monsters were a bright shade. His hair was composed of himself, his Muah Tree Body, billions of them extending out, while he had horns jutting from his head, interconnecting with other sections on his forehead. His eyes burned, at least, in his central face, the rest of his face was surrounded by Neo-Exdeath Formations, attaching to it, composing it. Greyish-white marble-like skin connected his legs together, where all designs of the void twisted, composing beasts.
The Muah Tree Bodies were in fact simply formations, where swaying, interconnected skulls were, attached to other skulls surrounding it. Those skulls traced down the curving, tornado-like tree, where others jutted out, and tails wrapped around, connecting the hair. Each part was red. His face-formation was composed of bones twisted at odd angles, the sections clearly visible. The sides and sections of his face were somewhat visible, as bones poked through the skin where Muah Tree Bodies grew, only these were maroon. On each formation rested an orb-like structure, with spidery-legs sticking out, connecting, forming his face-line. The only visible section of his face was reddish. 800-Leg-Claws extended from his 400 Legs, each made up of twisted parts. All over his body, where monsters weren't placed, except on his head, bones were shown twisting, along with occasional red-and-marble skin. Here, between the shapes of beasts with all types of legs, in all sizes, with all features, the bones connected around the outside, that mesh squeezing in parts of the monsters. Fallen-off heads attached to his sides and main body, his whole main body was made up of skin ripping through itself. The heads were attached to monsters they weren't suppose to be attached to in some places, in other places they were just part of the body.
And his tails were simply attached, ripping out, lashing outwards, shades of all colors and falling bones attached to more mesh. Fourteen heads jutted out of its neck, each grotesque, twisted faces, his eyes and nostrils burned with fire, when his mouth opened there was the same energies inside. This whole thing was on top of one of his fourteen heads, other obvious spectrums repeated, composing identical other fourteen heads in all shapes, them part of fourteen heads, each of the same shape. The huge thing itself had these bodies jutting from the heads to look like spikes, and its tails twisted downwards, forming larger legs, composed of skeletons with all shades, monsters, jutting bones, and heads, in each spectrum, with more mesh. Twice the size of the front body, just above, attached on its neck, was a collar. His warrior-form was in the front, below was the tree, between was his Neo-Form. Around the other sides were meshes, extending smaller parts of his other body composed in all different ways. His real head looked like the one of his body, except tails extended from his neck. It extended from a large section coming from his back, his legs were in the front and back to attach to other parts, there were twenty-six. The tail extending from the back of his body was super-composed of mesh of all colors. And his wings, main part of his head,
shape-forms on his cheeks, arms, and legs, were the opposite of the other form in
colors, and on the cheeks, arms, and legs, in shapes.
This thing, jutting backwards, his wings sticking backwards and up to make his neck, tail-parts behind him, wings curving to the center, half his main-body claws sticking down to form the semblance of something crouching, was Supreme-Exdeath.
She instinctively launched herself to the side. The mental-link had tried to divert this by hoping to focus her knowledge on the Muah Trees, giving them names, showing him what he'd been in the past and how he'd improved. That was designed to stimulate fear, both of which would prevent her another successful dodge as viewing shifted.
She glanced away, getting smacked across the dais of rainbow colors again. Again she rolled to her feet, having thrown herself backwards the instant of the impact so as to not end-up with a crushed skull, a simple trick Zangan had taught her.
Not knowing what else to do, she charged again.
" is to make it come in contact with life!" Cloud appeared out of nowhere, hurling himself into another huge tentacle swinging her way, causing it to shatter instantly. He spun, facing her, smiling, while a huge arm behind him chopped down, and watched as it too dissolved before it could crush either of them.
Both appeared again, withdrawn, though.
"How-?" Tifa's gaze was questioning.
"He's a creature of destruction. All we have to do is acknowledge such, and it can't harm us. We're living beings, so we simply have to absorb it. No fighting gestures, simple absorption. It will shatter before reaching us, though, negated."
The thing tore back through the essence that was Mu, tearing up through the air and clasping forty of its hands together. 'Oblivion is all that remains! Enjoy your scant few moments of life!'
The hands extended, while each of its Muah Trees began to glow. Cloud instinctively leapt to the side, yet even he could not dodge the enormous rainbow projectile that tore down towards him. He simply spun and kicked down, ripping through the Nothingness, creating a safe-pocket around him.
Muah Trees could hold leaves that could stay on branches for 400 Years.
He barely had enough time to punch downwards again, aiming enough destruction into his force to cause it to ricochet, blasting him over the huge crescents that came at him.
Tifa was rolling, dodging, jumping, ducking, and just plain attempting to near her adversary. A foot lashed out at her, quickly reversing direction and coming down.
He elbowed backwards, letting the energies throw him to her, knocking her out of the way. Exdeath ascended again and cupped all his hands together, then intertwining them so they emerged to form a huge multifaceted hand.
Blue balls of power appeared to the side of the thing and collided in front of it, merging and pulsating, changing to a clear mixture of black and white, somehow with no gray. An enormous ray shot from the true head of the thing, causing the beam to erupt in a swirl. Cloud elbowed again, allowing them to be thrown back, right into the path of an enormous beam. He tore forwards, gently dropping Tifa to avoid touching her, and clutched his chest.
"He can't harm you physically," he gasped. "Just acknowledge he's destruction and we're life and he can't win."
'My willpower is stronger than yours.'
"You rely on that too much!" He kicked backwards, letting the 'dais' launch him into the air, and cupped his hands in a protective fashion, sailing into the front-center-skin of the thing's front, and causing it to crack. Tifa followed suit, breaking into the crack of the body.
50 huge white blasts threw them backwards, down an impossible number of feet, faster than they had launched up. Cloud managed to twist to the side, while Tifa dodged between both. The 'Ex-SOLDIER' tore through the dais again to submerge himself in a floating essence, while Tifa spun to the side, simply landing as if on a cushion. Her left ankle felt numb, but other than that, she was fine.
A vortex of energies appeared, expanding and ripping at them too. This time she was the one who protected them both, simply falling into the Mu, causing it to ripple and draw Cloud in, too.
They emerged atop the dais, unable to move.
Supreme-Exdeath, Absolute Reverse of All, uncoiled his hands, showing his now-healed body, and waved each, swinging his tails and tentacles around. His eyes and head each emitted a thread of energy, all merging at one pinpoint that slowly began to grow.
The true head of the thing laughed. 'Some champions!!!!!'
Cloud tried to move, to at least have the Mu below him break as the discus thickened, now a mile or so from them. They could each feel the heat, too.
'I told you my willpower was stronger.'
The discus was even-closer now.
"I'm sorry," he sighed.
"You always are," Tifa responded.
She watched as his eyes suddenly widened, and he grinned.
"A Lifestream will destroy you for sure. You can't touch our spirits with any method, and they're immune to Magic. They'd negate each other, so if we go down, so do you!"
The thing had grown so much at the start its growth was slowing now, but it was still now a quarter-mile from them.
"Where does the Spirit go?" He asked.
And then he was moving again, not as fast as he'd launched himself so-many incredible numbers of miles, not even close to how fast he'd used the Omnislash upon Xagor, either, but picking-up speed.
The fabric of the Mu around them shifted, and a seriously-wounded Barret crashed to the 'surface' of the dais, barely-conscious.
Cloud entered the discus, now seeing only flames before him. He picked up speed again. His mind had been strengthened by his ordeals before, and he put it to good use. Here in Destruction, he could control Life. The Mu around him began to crackle, letting-out electricity as it became imbalanced.
Orange and green flames were all he could see as his speed entered the Quadrodectillions. Exdeath seemed to sense his intent, and it maneuvered up higher, making the distance to the beast more-unfathomable, for caution.
Yet Reality still had a grip here.
Cloud's speed was reversed, and he was shot backwards. Life energies interchanged between himself and the Discus, and he glowed green, like a Lifestream Spirit for a second, the energies of Destuction preventing him from snapping his neck as he was thrown backwards quadronontillions of miles, colliding in a crumpled heap near Tifa. The Destruction energies fled upon impact.
They kept him alive, but his muscles ached with incredible pain. He barely had the chance to look up as the Life Energies did to the Discus what the Destruction Energies had done to him. The Discus could destroy, yet wasn't Destruction. That's why he hadn't been canceled out, and had reversed direction. And that was why the discus was sent upwards cencillions of miles, Life Energy pulsating through it. Because it was a Magic Spell that the Life Energy had entered, it amplified the discus, making it become Life. The demon attempted to shoot away, but it was too late.
The Life Discus tore through the true head of the thing, unleashing a concussive shockwave of Life Energy. It merged with the Destruction as it flew apart, and had now built-up enough force to neutralize its opposite. The colossal monster shrieked
And the discus vanished within an instant, as did Supreme-Exdeath, Absolute Reverse of All, itself.
The area shimmered around them, and they were no-longer in the Mu.
Clitor muttered one final incantation before turning to the black-robed figure beside him.
"That was one of the dumbest things you've done yet."
The figure shrugged. "They should awaken soon."
Clitor turned back to the 'Altar' in front of him, and launched a huge blast of red energy at the Zodiac Stone sitting upon its center.
"*Ralyon!!!!!*" He roared.
His Lich was burnt into ashes by the resulting shockwave, and the room began to snap, until the roof vanished in a blast of energy, replaced by a close-up view of the Center of a Galaxy. At the very pinpoint of that, instead of a Black Hole surrounded by a discus, was a smooth spherical ball of red-blue energy, surrounded by a discus.
An illusion, of course.
"What have you done?" a voice from the Central Star pulsed, carrying with it an impossible amount of pressure.
"I felt we have an emergency." He spoke.
He ejected the thoughts Cloud had thrust into his mind and thrust them into the mind of the thing, preparing a defense just in case Ralyon did retaliate, if it was real, and if so, just in case they could withstand what Ralyon retaliated with.
The illusion vanished, leaving a blue-white 'something' pulsing in front of the 'Altar,' pure power generated by it.
"You will NOT find out the truth!!!!!" As he'd expected, the voice of the thing facing them seemed to come from everywhere, and yet nowhere. The thing gestured, and his Lich arose. A clicking sound came from the room to their right, and as they turned, a Crystal Dragon slowly lumbered out, fixing them with a hated glance.
Followed by the rest of the things they'd bred.
"Destroy them," the flaming creature ordered.
Romoreto flung himself backwards, quickly expanding the Magic he held, just for a moment, to encompass the floorboards and enter their emergency gong inside, before drawing a kinfe and preparing himself for battle.
If all went well, they'd have aid coming soon.
Cloud jerked-upwards with a start, finding himself in a small room. A quick glance showed him a small bed to his right, as well as a battered Barret to his left and Tifa, with a twisted left ankle, to his right, too. They had been placed on a simple green carpeting.
Before he could figure-out if they'd just experienced a nightmare, he noticed Ruass staring at them from near the door. Obviously the Byblos had ascertained the same thing they had concerning escape, too.
"What is-?" he began.
"A black-robed figure brought you three here and placed you in this position, before telling me to inform you that we needed to be here in the case of Clitor discovering the worse about the one called Ralyon and not being able to aid you."
"Are you related to Nanaki, by any chance?"
"What?" The Byblos gave him a puzzled glance.
"Never mind." Cloud flashed a half-hearted grin. "Its just that you knew what I was intending to ask before it was completed."
"So I'm expected to be less-developed than humans?"
This question caught the blonde-haired male totally off guard. "No, it isn't-" he began, before registering a double take.
Sure, it would be rather obvious what he was probably going to ask. Anyone could figure that out, and he knew Byblos shared thought patterns quite-similar to that of humans. So unless he really did hold some unconquered 'base' expectancy concerning the intelligence of each species
"-No, you're probably right." He finished.
"Oh, and our weapons are under the bed," Ruass added.
Cloud nodded, and was about to ask if he'd noticed anything 'unusual' about them when Barret moaned.
Cloud turned to him, for the first time noticing how-serious his injuries were. Both legs were broken, as well as his right elbow and his left arm, and in various places. His back was scorched, as if crisscrossed with electricity, and there were cuts all around his eyes.
"Marlene " he moaned.
Cloud reached-over and helped him up.
His gaze flicked wildly over his surroundings, and he tried to move back, moaning and clutching his chest, upon which one scorch-mark could be seen.
"What happened?" Cloud asked, placing a hand on his shoulder.
Barret drew-back, gasping again. "Leave me be!" he snapped.
He heard a faint stirring behind him, but ignored it. Tifa could wake-up by herself, and he'd never seen Barret like this. He'd expected some remark, even a haughty ignorance of his wounds. He'd seen him awaken sharply after nearly losing his left lung courtesy of the Midgar Zolem, and had just complimented them on good use of Healing Materia before staggering to his feet.
It was the eyes, though, that clued-him-in immediately.
Never had they held such fright.
"Barret what what happened!?" He whispered sharply.
"Shot her " he gasped. "Tricked me that freak shot her."
"So it was real," he whispered under his breath. He didn't know what had been done to Barret, but he had a feeling that the AVALANCHE Leader had succumbed.
"Monster I'm a no good monster!!" He gasped out, before arching backwards and falling to the rug again.
"What do you mean?" That was Tifa's voice.
Cloud glanced-over at her, receiving a quick smile and a nod to assure him she was okay. He responded the same way to her, before turning back to Barret.
"What?" He asked.
"Couldn't stand anymore pain all the blood fire shot her."
Ruass padded to his side. "Please explain."
"The darn thing tortured me!" The dark-skinned man shouted, as Cloud noticed Ruass whisper something to Tifa out of the corner of his eye, then saw her turn and move towards the bed. "Showed me Corel, told me I was a monster he made me feel all their pain and agony showed me all the blood showed me Marlene! They made her into another Sephiroth!" He screamed, scrambling up. "Or will she attacked me and I shot her, darn it!!!!!"
He let out a small gurgle and crashed to the rug again.
He heard a muffled grunt from behind him before Tifa managed to pull-on her Premium Heart.
"Careful," Ruass whispered. "Those wounds appeared out of nowhere. You have a twisted left ankle."
Tifa swore and pressed her Full Cure towards it, while slamming her foot down on it. She quickly blinked away the tears that appeared upon that motion. The Full Cure mended the wound, now placed back together. She turned towards Barret.
"Ignore me " he gasped. "I don't deserve to live anymore."
Cloud clenched his right fist. "It was an illusion! Someone transported us to fight something, I believe, and it tried to torture us! You did what it wanted or it would've continued! Darn it!"
Ruass allowed his eyebrows to raise briefly as he took this into his mind.
"The thing's gone!" Cloud continued, before lowering his voice again. "It was just an illusion, don't let it do anything!:"
"You'll get the details later," Tifa told the Byblos quickly, having seen his response. After saying that, she turned back to Barret.
"I don't care!" he moaned. "It still proved what I am. We "
He lapsed into unconsciousness.
Tifa cast a Sleep to keep him in that state while she dealt with the injuries. She wouldn't be risking anything right now
The door slammed open, revealing a red-robed figure standing beyond, probably a messenger or whatever. He was carrying a staff and a gun.
"Bad news!" shouted Ruass. Then-"Equip yourselves!" Before he threw himself at the humanoid, biting into the hand that held the gun and wrenching it free. He tore-off the thing's hood, revealing a nondescript brown-haired man seemingly in his 40s, and whipped around his tail to slap him unconscious.
Instead he was thrown through the air into the wall.
"He carries some sort of aura!" Tifa reported, her Sense Materia now glowing.
Cloud acknowledged this, reversing his quick swing into a kick, before activating a simple Lightning. The human fell-back, now unconscious
"Get Barret out of here!" He shouted.
Tifa nodded, activating her Master Magic and Escape, before slapping her Item Sack on. She turned and quickly placed Barret's Weapons next to him and cast an Escape on them, too.
"He should be in that shack we arrived here in." She stated. "That should keep him warm, although " She left unsaid the rest.
Cloud pulled one last armband on, before quickly throwing a punch to test his skills. "Time to pay Clitor a visit!" He said, before turning to Tifa. "Oh, and I'll explain later what I did to that Mu Monster."
Tifa nodded. "Remember, use minimal force when dealing with Clitor and Romoreto," she added.
"I know," Cloud responded, before risking a glance into the hallway.
He jerked his head back as a White-Laser shot past where it had been seconds ago. "Okay, we'll be activating a desperate escape after all."
Tifa cupped her hand over her Sense Materia again. "47% to your right, approximately 15 Yards away."
Cloud nodded and activated another Lightning Spell.
"Status: Comatose." She reported.
Cloud nodded and bolted into the hall again, before shooting a quick glance down the corridors. "That black-robed thing told us the layout of the place, which means a shortcut should be "
He slammed into the wall, using his Materia Blade like a sharp hammer. The boards snapped apart
leaving them face-to-face with a WarZone.
Some of who were supposedly their adversaries were firing-out into where the Main Hall probably was, while others were staying-back, tending their wounded. A few glanced their way.
"Escapees!" One snapped.
Tifa simply channeled a quick Ice 3 through her Enemy-All, and let those not firing into the other room drop. She grabbed one who was semi-conscious, channeled Shield through the Enemy-All, and slammed the woman against the wall
"What's happening?" She asked.
"We got an Emergency Signal from Brother Romoreto. He and Father Clitor are engaged in combat with their Lich, for some reason having gone rogue, their breeds of Monsters, who have also gone rogue, and some strange thing."
"Monster breeds!?" Tifa tried to conceal her shock, but remained unsuccessful.
"In the corridor across from this one." The Byblos, remaining a bit behind them, nodded, as did a grim Cloud. "And a lot of them."
"The thing is probably controlling them," the raven-haired woman added, seeing Tifa turn back to her.
"And why were we attacked?"
"We couldn't chance things becoming more-complicated. Clitor's orders."
Tifa stood up, muttering a Sleep Spell. The raven-haired lady, already falling asleep, continued the process without so much as any reaction to the Spell.
"We go in!" she snapped
The Shield around them vanished abruptly, and another of the 'cultists' charged, using a quick underhand strike.
Ruass leapt towards the man, slapping it across the face. He fell, too. The Byblos turned towards the rest when the wall was smashed
A White Dragon lumbered-in.
One of the cultists activated a Freeze Spell. A claw grabbed the man, lifting him up, and crushing him before he could complete the Spell. Another activated her Contain Materia, starting a Tornado, and was thrown against the wall, head shattered, by a Shadow Flare.
The thing spun towards Cloud, Ruass, and two others, hissing.
Ruass had lunged forwards almost immediately, slashing under the neck of the thing, before reversing and flipping, planting his claws in the beast's chest. Its tail slashed under and swatted him away. Ruass didn't let go, though, thus leaving a large gash almost up to the thing's neck.
The White Dragon hissed and struck down towards a group of the 'Cultists' with its head, forcing them to retreat. At the same time, a fluorescent rainbow of multicolored laser beams tore from the right side of its mouth, sweeping the area Ruass was in. The Byblos leapt backwards, only receiving a splinter of wood in his right forepaw.
Cloud's Enemy Skill Materia flickered, letting out a huge silvery question mark. Billions of stars appeared in its general area, surrounding the thing and causing it to look around, confused. The question mark detonated as the stars flared an incandescent white.
The White Dragon howled in response and backed-up into what remained of the wall to its right, causing it to buckle and crash in on itself.
Like an icicle shooting out of a desert, the thing reared-up, spreading its wings. "Lv..el 3 Flre," it hissed.
Cloud, one of the Clitor's Fighters, and Ruass were thrown back into the room as the raging inferno that was Level 3 Flare erupted around three of them, explosions pounding into their skin, opening wounds, before the whole firestorm erupted, hurling them away.
"Full Cure!" Tifa shouted.
She let out a short gasp as a Sinking Spell caught her. As a geyser of superheated bubbles erupted around her, a pattern of ice claws shot along the ground, tearing into her legs seconds after they were freed.
She responded with her own Flare Spell.
Another Level 3 Flare was cast, randomly-selecting three targets and erupting in their faces. This time, one of its victims wasn't so lucky, an explosion tearing right into the poor man's face and crushing his skull.
Cloud placed his sword in front of himself, completely-vertical. "Omnislash!" He muttered.
His Mako-Induced Cells flared to life, allowing him to concentrate energy through his arms, all the way into his blade. He shot forwards, slashing downwards and pole-vaulting up again with each successive blow, driving the Dragon back into the Main Hall. He concluded the combo with his usual white-hot thrust, before jumping back, and again positioning his sword vertically.
"Cherry Blossom," he spoke as he brought the blade forward in a perfect arc. Instead of a formation of Elemental Energies, this time a huge crystal of ice appeared atop his sword. It shot forwards, gathering electricity out of the air, before smashing into the enormous creature, right atop its slim, yet strong, neck, causing it to shatter
At the same time the right forepaw of the beast swung around in one last, desperate stroke, trying to tear into the swordsman, and instead ripping straight through the upper chest and neck of Tifa as she began to perform her Limit Break Combo.
She crumpled to the floor.
Cloud spun. "Angel Whisper," he spoke. A white ray of light shimmered to the floor, too, surrounding the brunette, flowing over her wounds and closing them.
She let out a low moan and sat up, clutching her chest.
Cloud let out a sigh of relief, kneeling beside her. "Thank goodness that was only a surface gash," he spoke.
She nodded, and he helped her up.
"Let's go see what's going on in there!" She pointed towards the door to the Main Hall, where a cacophony of energies was exploding through the air. A few of Clitor's Followers had been glancing at them, and now moved to block their path.
"We have to go in there," Cloud said.
"We appreciate your help vanquishing that White Dragon, but I'm afraid you cannot enter," one of them replied.
Tifa was about to ram through the blockade when curtains of aqua-blue flames swept into them, cutting them down. She leapt over them as they sank into the boards nearby, followed by Cloud and Ruass
Entering another WarZone.
"This is pushing the phrase 'Out of the Frying Pan, Into the Fire,' to its limits," Ruass remarked curtly.
Lifeless bodies of several monsters were strewn about the room. At the epicenter of the room stood Clitor and Romoreto, back to back, fighting against what looked like a three-headed, purple beast, two red Behemoths, and a group of gray Ahrimans. Various other types of beasts were throwing Spells at the 'Followers' and at the two in the center of the room, as well as a familiar black-robed thing.
Hovering where the 'Altar' used to be was a creature of blue-white flame. It towered-up a good twelve feet, around twice their size. If it had legs, they were pressed closely-together. Where the legs would be was a pillar of flame, extending downwards and arcing to the ground like a robe. Above its waist was an orb of incandescent fire, its shape forming an Infinity Symbol surrounded by other, Omega Symbols. Tongues of the same fire would randomly erupt outwards like tentacles.
At critical points in the thing's body hovered red orbs, pulsating with an eerie, yet powerful, light. One was at the center of the vertical 'Infinity Symbol' and others could be seen at 45% Angles from that one, four exactly. Eight surrounded the outside of the thing, each 45% from the four composing the Inner Circle, two for each.
One was positioned at each side of halfway-up-the-pillar that served as the thing's lower section, and four surrounding those at more 45% Angles. A final two floated at the waist of the thing, one at each of the two 25-of-the-way to the center of the waist.
The thing waved a tongue of flame towards the new arrivals and let-out another sweeping blast of blue-white fire.
"Darn!" Ruass swore, leaping to the side. Tifa ducked and rolled through two of the flames before the ran into the floor, while Cloud hurled himself over them.
The brunette's Sense Materia glowed. "The 'White Dragons,' are Crystal Dragons. The Moogle-Like things are Fallen Mogris, the Ahriman-Type Creatures are Nano-Heads, the 'Malboros' are Zi-Ochus, the three-headed things are Hopeless Ones, those Behemoths are Holy Behemoths, the black masses of tentacles are Evil Stars, and the black-robed 'thing' is a Lich. The Sense Materia has no idea what the flaming thing is, though."
A gunshot rang from the hallway. Cloud spun and unleashed an Ultima, sending the rest of Clitor's Followers flying back into the wall, all appearing to be unconscious or stunned.
"Behind you!" Ruass shouted.
Cloud spun, instinctively stabbing upwards, blade connecting with one of the Nano-Heads. He muttered another Ultima, letting the green furnace of energy tear the gray-headed monster into pieces.
Cloud clenched his teeth as another curtain of flames crashed into him, throwing him across the room. He tucked rolled, coming to his feet. On instinct, he rolled back again, leaping-up and spinning around, slicing through the two Nano-Heads that dove at him. He spun once more, in the opposite direction, invoking another Pandora's Box.
The two beasts fell to the wooden floor in pieces.
One of the Hopeless Ones exploded from the inside, revealing the exhausted face of Clitor. "You should not have interfered," he spoke, trying to keep breathing steadily.
"You're family!" Tifa responded. "How could we abandon you and your brother!!??"
Clitor was about to respond, when a shouted cry from Romoreto caused him to reverse directions. He cupped his hands together, and a red projectile flew out and into the face of another Hopeless One. He unleashed another flurry of those projectiles, before clapping his hands and watching as it, too, exploded from the inside.
Cloud positioned his blade forwards, about to cast another Ultima, when one of the black, quivering masses that was an 'Evil Star,' rose up through the floor and slashed at him.
He cried-out as the poisoned barbs lashed across him, covering his face with his hands even as he lost balance and fell to the ground.
"Full Cure," Tifa spoke.
"Ulmaguest!" That was Romoreto.
"Magic Breath!" Clitor.
A low growl sounded from the back of the room.
All but one Hopless One, one Evil Star, the Lich, and, of course, the flaming thing itself, vanished from the hallway, leaving four surprised humans and one startled Byblos behind
"This should make it MUCH easier to concentrate," a half-annoyed, half-emotionless voice boomed out of the center of the flaming creature.
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