Pathways Of Foreboding Chapter Nine
...We Will Never Forget...
By Paul Nathans
Somewhere, familiar, yet unfamiliar.
Voices seemed to rush through his mind, pitying voices, ones who seemed to be trying to comfort him. Trying to tell him things, tell him what he already knew.
He was Jenova's Child, a Test-Tube Baby, born by a Shinra Experiment using the great Cetra, to try to see what they could do. Everyone but Professor Gast had lied to him, kept his past from him, but Gast tried to hint to him what his past was. As for what Shinra was silent about Jenova, he'd promised he'd look into why she had perished. A week later, he'd disappeared.
But they'd made their mistake when they'd sent him on the mission to Nibleheim. Thanks to Zack, he'd found out what he was. And then Cloud, he'd sent him into the Lifestream, he'd gained more knowledge, he found out that Jenova wasn't an Ancient at all.
Where had that come from?
He'd known no he'd found out how she had become Queen of the Ancients, but was cast down by the humans when the Plague fell from the sky, because she thought their combined strength could combat it. The Humans had disagreed, fled, leaving the Nomadic Cetra to perish.
He'd told that to Cloud at the destroyed Temple of the Ancients, when he'd tried to help him find his way back to the proper path.
No, he'd told him Jenova wasn't an Ancient. He knew she was the Calamity From the Skies. When his body had plummeted into the Mako Energies at the Nibleheim Reactor, it had nearly been burnt. Since the Lifestream flowed close to the surface in that area, he'd been very lucky to have entered an actual shaft. By the time his body had floated up into the Crater, he'd absorbed the Past of the Planet.
Yet something, in his mind, now seemed like it had been false. He'd absorbed the past, but then, why did he forget it?
No, he knew. He'd kept the thoughts in total clarity as he managed to entertwine his battered body in a Healing Cocoon. Nothing had happened to those memories when he'd found out about that fool, Hojo's, Jenova Clones, used by DNA Matching his. He'd kept his memories, nothing had changed.
His eyes opened wide.
"That's not true!?" he gasped. "I created the Mind-Replacements!!!!!!"
"No it isn't, my child," spoke a warm, female voice.
"W-Who!?" He finally realized where exactly he was in the Lifestream, and struggled to shift his perception to it, only to find he couldn't.
He wasn't completely there.
"My name is Lucrecia, Sephiroth," she spoke again. "And you are halfway between the Spirit Plane and the All Plane. What happened to you, to us, left us both adrift, even as a few others are."
"W-What!?" he cried out. "How do you know my name!?"
She smiled, a smile overlain with sorrow, then sighed. "I suppose I was too hopeful. When I saw you, though, I was hoping, but " She sighed again. "You never even knew me."
"What are you talking about!?" he asked.
"I'd hoped some memory of your mother might be in my son's mind," she said.
His Masamune was still with him, and he whipped it out.
"I don't know who you really are, but I know who my mother is! I have for 5 Years, lady! Whatever you're trying to do, it *won't* work!"
"I'm only trying to show you the truth, Sephiroth," she replied.
"About what!?" This lady had obviously sensed the doubts that were beginning to come to him, the doubts about his past, and was trying to inflict more pain on him. That's all the humans had ever wanted to do, inflict pain on him!
"No, Sephiroth," the Lucrecia woman said. "Jenova is not your mother. She's an Ageless Beast, one of the weaker servants of the Craxyold."
He clenched his fist, and used the Lifestream Energies to blast forwards to her, then held his sword at her throat. If he was still somewhat alive, he could still give Jenova her honor back. Meteor had failed, that much he knew, but he knew now of what the First Phase of a Supernova Spell could do.
"Stab me if you want," she spoke. "And you aren't able to return to the Normal Plane. We're two of the Trapped Ones."
This was the first time someone had ever spoken like this to him, except Professor Gast. He dropped the Masamune in surprise.
"The Craxyold is something I know very little of," she said. "But Jenova is not a Cetra. You had hit the truth, in the Lifestream, the truth about Jenova. She just wiped it away from your mind, replacing it with other memories, the same way you channeled her powers to manipulate the minds of those who had been Cloned in the pattern of your own Jenova Cells. When you were in Nibleheim, one memory had come back, in the Temple of the Ancients, the Cetra's cleansing light almost enabled the whole thing to come back. Jenova is the one who struck down the Cetra. She is the Calamity from the Skies. She is evil."
He accepted this, for now, and the part of him that did successfully hid it.
"So?" he continued. "What does that have to do with Jenova not being my mother, woman?"
"That is something I had to tell you before I told you this," Lucrecia responded. "The Shinra discovered Jenova in a 2,000-year-old section of the Planet. Professor Gast wrongly concluded she was a Cetra, and brought her back to Shinra for study." She paused, as if expecting Sephiroth to ask a question, but he didn't. "After finding out what she could do, Hojo decided to try to produce someone with Jenova Cells, injecting him/her when in the womb. We knew we wouldn't be able to do that to anyone else's child, so Hojo decided he, Vincent, and I should try."
Realization began to dawn on Sephiroth's eyes. Realization of where this story was going, although he already knew it had to be false.
"Yes, Sephiroth," Lucrecia stated. "At that time, I believed Hojo wasn't wrong, and liked his idea. Vincent was against it, and left. Therefore, I became your mother, and Hojo, your father. And when Vincent returned to see the results, you'd been taken away. They never let me hold you once " she let a tear fall before concluding the tale.
"I became sick shortly after you were taken away, probably because you'd been injected with Jenova Cells while still inside me. The Cells got in me, too. Thus, when what would've caused me to perish happened, when I began bleeding internally, and had been left alone, I couldn't reach anyone for help. Vincent came in then, but it was already too late. Apparently he went to confront Hojo about this, and Hojo decided he'd had enough of his whining, shot him, performed some other experiments on him, ones to try to make him like the monsters he bred, and locked him up, hoping for developments. Because of the Jenova Cells, I couldn't easily perish. My Spirit wandered the Planet for years before restoring my life. I had nowhere to go, and set up residence within an abandoned cave just north of Elslumina Lake. I knew if I showed up I'd just be shot. I tried to find you in my dreams, and failed."
Sephiroth narrowed his eyes. "You lie, woman!" he spoke.
"Professor Gast would've told you, but when he found out about Jenova, he came to the correct conclusion that if the Shinra ever found out who she really was, they'd attempt more dreadful experiments. He hid in Icicle Lodge, conducting further experiments with his assistant, Ifalna. Eventually they became close, and were married. Shortly after their daughter, Aeris, was born, Hojo found them, and shot Professor Gast. Hojo acquired the data on Jenova, though, and used it to further his monster-breeding. Ifalna escaped, trying to hide where she thought no one would look, the Slums of Midgar itself. She was captured again, and taken to a Lab when Aeris was still young. They escaped, but Ifalna was mortally wounded while jumping from a Train in the Sector 7 Slums. Aeris was adopted by someone else, but all of the knowledge of your true heritage was kept between President Shinra and Professor Hojo."
"How do I know you're telling the truth, though!" he demanded.
He probably already knew the answer, but he wanted to be certain of it. Or, if not, find some flaw in Lucrecia's story. Either way, there was something wrong with his past. And he was going to find out what!
"I have no reason to believe you," he simply stated. "Good day."
Then he spun and moved away, ready to try to sort this out on his own.
Cloud blinked wearily, attempting to move his head.
He was somewhere, that much he knew. Somewhere where the wind was blowing at him so hard he felt like he was being tossed around.
He could hear the movement of a propeller above him, which meant he was in a helicopter. He groaned, managing to move his body. The place he was in was vibrating. He opened one eye, and managed to look around. These not-too-blissful trips into unconsciousness seemed to be becoming a habit, one he'd just as soon break.
He attempted to move his legs, and only then found out they were chained to the floor. He moved around, and realized he was on the top of a Gelnika Airplane.
"So, the brave leader is finally up!" laughed a voice, one that was now becoming very familiar, and annoying, to say the least.
Cloud looked up. "Kenek!" he glared. "What's going on!?"
The Shinra President tossed his head back arrogantly. "What indeed, dear boy!" He spat at the area in front of him. Cloud decided to forget the talking and willed his Ultima Magic Materia into action. It didn't work, so he willed one he knew he hadn't dimmed, his Shield Materia, to work, so he could try to rip free without being shot.
He glanced down, and found he wasn't wearing his Mystile, he was wearing bluish-purple rags. His weapons were nowhere in sight, or at least not close enough for his mind to activate.
"Oh, come now, Cloud Strife!" he cried. "Did you really expect me to leave you armed, and with Materia. You have one type of each of the 140 Materia, and three Master Materia. That's quite enough to power the Sister Ray up to becoming a rapid fire gun. The rest, we'll discard."
"Yeah, your precious Sister Ray," he grated. "It has to have been longer than the rest of the long, wearisome day I was last awake in I was out. Shouldn't the Onyx Weapon have reached Midgar by now!?"
"We threw another shell at him as he passed over the area in front of Midgar. He lost his footing and our Airforce, recalled from examining the Mako Orb, dealt with the thing then. They managed to hit one of its cyborg parts with a Full-Powered Ion Cannon. Its currently in shock, literally."
Cloud rolled his eyes. "And I'm supposed to think that's funny? Where are the others!?"
"Cait Sith 2 was found as scrap metal, destroyed by extreme electricity," was the reply. Cloud could figure out why. Creator's Repent, although it couldn't unmake things, could obviously electrocute a robot enough to destroy it. "Tifa Lockhart was found barely conscious, internal electricity beginning to destabilize and destroy her systems. We've suspended that, long enough to study whatever power could've done this to her. The Wutai Ninja was suffering from extreme exhaustion. And incidentally, your armor had taken serious beatings, obviously more than you noticed. You were all badly wounded."
"WHERE are they?" he repeated.
"The only conscious one is the former Turk, Vincent, who is to be hung for the crime of attempting to take down Sephiroth, SOLDIER 1st Class when he was a child."
Cloud glared, struggling with the bonds. "He looked on Sephiroth as a son, at least until he summoned Meteor. Then he knew there was no hope for him! He'd never..."
Kenek slapped him across the face. "He is to be executed in front of the engines, then released so his body is shredded. The others will follow, it will probably be unnecessary for the brunette, as withdrawing the energy from her body should take her life."
"WHERE ARE THEY!?" he screamed out.
Kenek slapped him again. "I'm not telling you," he said. "I could shoot you now, then release you for the winds to carry you off and drop you wherever necessary."
Cloud looked, Kenek was standing unmoved by the wind because his legs were strapped to the deck.
"Why...haven't...you shot me...yet?" he shouted.
"Because you're the only one who I can break enough to get you to tell me what's destabilizing the Planet," was the response.
"Gladly," said Cloud. The Lifestream Poisoning Essence and the Shinra could take the lives of each other, as far as he was concerned. "Round Island Materia Cave. There's an Interdimensional Beast named Xagor in the Elslumina Cave, and a Water Entity in the lake the Ultimate Weapon created southeast of Junon. Their presence is probably what's harming the Planet."
"Indeed," answered Kenek. "They're disrupting the Planet, its reacting as if they're carrying something that shouldn't be allowed to exist. We'll take them out."
Cloud grinned inside.
Kenek slapped him. "You thought you'd trap me, didn't you!?"
"Where are you headed?" was the retort.
"Round Island Materia Cave," was the answer. "We just wanted confirmation. We're going slowly, so nothing disturbs the mutation process."
Cloud's eyebrows rose.
Kenek kicked him in the face this time. "Hojo was able to mutate people without the use of Jenova Cells, although barely. That's why we attached Cetra to our experiments, and to seek out the Promised Land. There we would supposedly find enough energy to continue the experiments. Most test subjects perished, though. Oh, and incidentally, that's what led to the discovery of Mako Energy."
He grinned again. "Space Director Palmer has volunteered for the task," he answered. "He's no good at fighting, and we're using the same process on him as we did to Vincent. He'll literally be able to absorb Lifestream Energy. Although Vincent doesn't know that. Hojo discarded him because he was a failed experiment, he realized he'd need someone willing. He just tested him to see if the process would work."
Something clicked. That would mean Vincent could...
"Oh, and don't think you'll live to carry this on," he laughed. He blasted the shackles that held Cloud free, and before the young man could regain balance, had him up and held by the scruff of his neck. "I'm sorry to say your life is now over."
He threw him into the air, and allowed the wind to take the boy, then turned around, striding back towards the Upper Hatch.
"One fool down," he muttered under his breath. "Seven to go."
He plummeted through the air, tossed about by the winds, the Gelnika farther and farther away from him. He made a few feeble swipes, but kept plummeting. He was too high, he'd hit the water with nothing there.
Cloud closed his eyes, waiting for the end.
And suddenly found himself no longer falling. He looked up, the air blowing his hair around
straight into the face of another Cait Sith, who was wearing pilot goggles.
"Cait Sith Model 3, at your service!" the Android laughed. One day Cloud was going to have to ask how many models Reeve had. "I see your position with Tifa has now been reversed."
Cloud tried to figure out what he was talking about, then remembered their joke about how she seemed to have this thing for falling off places wherever it was convenient to do so. He momentarily chuckled.
"They took Materia off your model," he stated.
"Don't worry," was the answer. "Elena has her Flame Materia."
"Huh?" was the shocked response.
"That's right," Cait Sith 3 responded. "I hired them again."
Cloud groaned. Reno and Elena he could stand, maybe, but Rude
"I don't think it'd be smart to storm the Gelnika. Round Island's just ahead, and I've been tapping their comms. Vincent Valentine's going to be executed, but not until they've destroyed their target. Round Island's just up ahead."
"Then we " Cloud grinned.
"I've been following you for the whole rest of the week, kid," Cait Sith stated. "Midgar's a race, if the Sister Ray is up and ready fast enough to take down the Onyx Weapon, it doesn't go, if the Onyx Weapon breaks free, then that's good."
"Or the electricity destroys the thing," stated the Ex-'SOLDIER.'
"We're moving to the cave. The Turks are going to wait until the Shinra are out, they'll probably take your friends with them. Then all we have to do is wait."
"Wait for what?" asked Cloud.
"Oh no, Cloud," the Android responded. "This time I get to be the hero! Sorry, you just wait and see what's coming up!"
Cloud rolled his eyes.
An hour later the group, minus Yuffie, who'd had to be shocked with electricity to keep from lunging at Kenek's throat when she'd heard they no longer had their Materia. Tifa had been stabilized, and other than feeling a bit weak, were trudging down the dirt path in Round Island Forest. The Gelnika had dispatched Landing Crafts, and was hooked up to the top of the mountain right now.
"They didn't free Cloud," whispered Vincent. "That means he's coming."
"I know," answered Tifa. She'd lasted too many times, it was her turn to hope Cloud could actually last through something other than falling into a Lifestream. "I know."
Barret was at the front, under double-guard, since they'd been unable to disarm him. He was fidgeting with his gun, trying to break free. Every once in a while, the Shinra SOLDIERS near him would slap him.
"Cloud's gone," answered Kenek, hearing their whispers. "Personally thrown over the back of the Plane."
Tifa glared. "Do you expect me to believe that!?"
Kenek just slapped her across the face, then turned, moving back towards the base of the mountain.
They crossed another ledge, and could all see the yawning cave in front of them. Kenek turned, bringing out an Ultima Materia, or what looked like it.
"Its a Laser's Eye," he said. "Hojo's only form of conducted research on Materia itself. He managed to produce something with the ability to channel Spells at different frequencies, types long-forgotten, too. All you have to do is experiment with their energy waves."
Barret lunged, and was slapped in the face again.
"Take me down if you can," mocked Kenek. "I don't know if I've said this before, but in case I haven't, I'll say it now. You can't stop all of us. Take me down and the Corporation will pull up another to replace me. Shinra doesn't fall."
"Neither does AVALANCHE, foo'!" snapped Barret. "The same thing'll happen to AVALANCHE! We haven't fallen yet!"
"Then I guess more people lives falling away, perhaps until the End of Time," he said sarcastically.
That did it!
Barely keeping his rage in check, Barret began unleashing bullets at the ground. Kenek personally tackled him, kicking him in the face. At that moment Vincent used his golden claw to rip free of the shackles, and ran the nearby Shinra through. He spun, slashing shackles off his legs, and did the same to his opponents. He picked up the gun of one of the others, and aimed at Kenek's head
A Shinra SOLDIER barreled forwards, slamming into Vincent, causing the gunshot to blast into the rocks above. A few of the SOLDIERS, ones who obviously didn't like to take lives, began racing for the cavern, where they thought they would be safe. Vincent swore and transformed into Chaos, leaping after them, over a group of gunfire. As he passed over Barret, he swung his magically-created saber, willing it to split and cut off his friend's chains.
It did, and Barret proceeded to punch Kenek in the face. He dropped his Laser's Eye, and Barret retrieved it, throwing it to Tifa, while at the same time willing fires to erupt from it, slamming into the chains of the others. Cid and Red XIII, who had been moved away from the hustle, suddenly found themselves free.
Red XIII waisted no time in leaping onto the nearest SOLDIER, sending them both flying down a small incline in the forest. Cid ducked and used both fists to punch a nearby SOLDIER, and was in turn slammed in the back of the head with the butt of another rifle. He collapsed.
Tifa caught the Laser's Eye, really a Tiger's Eye Gemstone, and began playing with the patterns that she could see in it. She found a familiar one, and unleashed a Quake 3, sending a group of Shinra who were aiming for Cid up into the air. Most fell, snapping their necks, and the only one that remained alive was unconscious.
Kenek had finally managed to dispatch Barret, and turned, ready to blast through the others. Red XIII sent him to the ground, the wind knocked out of him, with a well-timed leap
and that ended that particular battle.
As for Vincent, he was straining his wings, having no idea what the beast, if it was in the cave, would do to the two SOLDIERS. He strained his wings forwards, and grabbed them both, whipping backwards just as a bluish-purple smashed through the inner curve of the cave, lunging at them. He concentrated...
...and the very ground came alive, forming into a huge skull with yellowish-orange burning eyes, and the same fires escaping from its nostrils and mouth. It twirled and lunged upwards, slamming into the tentacle. A shriek came from inside the cave, and the tentacle snapped back in, bleeding in many places. The skull shimmered away, returning the ground to normal.
Then the very inside of the cave broke away with a thunderclap, and the same huge beast they'd seen in the Corel Area Materia Cave leapt forwards, only with one subtle difference. A large tentacle was extended from between its two middle arms on its left side, it had eight each, not counting the five Arm-Claws that extended from each claw. It was ten-times-their size, like their other opponents, but obviously more dangerous.
A huge ball of fire appeared between its chest-face, and burst out. Vincent leapt to the side, throwing the SOLDIERS to safety, and it neatly cut through the forest, blasting through the back of the mountain, and still moving. It continued until just beyond the horizon, then crashed into the water, exploding and sending up huge tidal waves.
It brought in several large claws, and unleashed more energy. Tifa leapt forwards, wielding the Laser's Eye, and quickly placed up a barrier around them both. Nevertheless, the whip-like energies shattered their shields, leaving them exposed. It dug its legs into the ground, concentrated, and the whole island began to buckle.
Then it ripped up into the sky at incredible speeds, and settled there.
'Threats...shall...be...neutralized!' the thing seemed to shriek into their minds...
Cloud, Cait Sith, and the Carry Armor 2.0, with Elena in the left hand, Rude in the right hand, and Reno riding its neck, paused as they saw their destination rocket above the clouds. The Shinra Gelnika atop the southern crevice teetered, then fell, smashing against the side of the mountains, connections ripping free.
"Shoot!" swore Cloud. "The group's in there! Bank left!"
...and the Entity that had formed from Lifestream Poisoning skittered forwards, energies crackling from each of its limbs, whipping out. Vincent leapt over one, and formed a pure Chaos Saber, pulsing with energies, bringing it down on the thing's limb. It was severed, but immediately grew back.
Tifa accessed the energies of the Laser's Eye, and let blasts pulsate in and out from it. They expanded one after one, forcing the Entity back. It shrieked, then its knife-like tongue ripped out and slashed her across the face. A few surviving SOLDIERS moved up, blasting at the thing, and it simply used its tentacle to bat off their heads, then squeeze the bodies, crushing them, until they exploded. Tifa got nailed on the back of the head by a flying bone, and collapsed, out, at least for the moment.
The thing shrieked, bringing in its hands. Red XIII found himself suspended, and was lifted into the air. The energies began electrocuting him. Barret grabbed the Laser's Eye and focused the energies onto a simple Ultima. The energies erupted at the large beast, distracting it enough for Red XIII to be released from his hold, and fall to the ground.
A group of arms came forward, White Lasers blasting from each. Red XIII ducked, and leapt forward. The Entity swatted him away, and lashed out his tentacle at the group. Vincent leapt into the air again, and chopped his Chaos Saber downwards, through the tentacle, and into one of the arms. Both gurgled, then regenerated.
The thing kicked at him. He dodged, slashing at it with his claws, even as Barret blasted it with another Ultima. It latched onto the energy waves, absorbing them, and blasted others out. Barret dodged as the nearby ground exploded from the crackling blast of Lightning, landed on his elbow, and flipped, firing straight into the thing's real head.
It roared as the bullet sank in, only to recuperate again.
Vincent leapt up, slashing around in a special pattern, and the Entity simply healed each of the blows it was delivered. It blasted large beams of lgiht from its Chest-Face, forcing the group to leap for cover, Barret grabbing Tifa and moving her to safety.
'Destroy...' The beast skittered forwards again, searching the area.
Barret leapt up into the air and unleashed a Catastrophe. The monster shrieked again, and attempted to absrob the energies, failing miserably as parts of its skin melted away. It just created others to replace them, and used its tentacle to swat at Barret. The AVALANCHE Leader moved the Catastrophe Beam upwards, tearing apart the Tentacle Section nearest him. As he fell to the ground, it regenerated yet again.
"How much energy can you take, huh!?" shouted Tifa, focusing the Laser's Eye once again. It glowed, and whiplike strands tore free, slapping the thing across the body. It grabbed the 'threads,' twirling them around. Tifa was jerked off her feet, and ended up in the underbrush, where energies erupted. She barely had time to put up a shield, and all it did was protect her from being destroyed before it shattered.
Vincent swooped down, twirling his sword. The beast slashed at it, and shrieked yet again as energies began to pour out of the Chaos Saber into it, electrocuting it. The energies arced about it, crackling, exploding, tearing through the Entity. This time it continued to shriek, and Vincent held his position as long as he could.
Tifa once again tapped into the Laser Eye, looking at the interlocking patterns. She gazed into them, chose a completely random one, and let fly. A light-blue energy beam blasted into the Entity, exploding in a ball. It was similar to the one it had used when they had had to scatter from their opponent.
Roaring, tails slapped around, slamming into Vincent and knocking him back into the forest. The Entity resumed its cautious skittering. It seemed to know where to take chances, and where not to do so. It unleashed another blue explosion, sending the group scattering. As Barret crouched in the underbrush, he noticed Kenek flying away in a Small Craft.
"Our next meeting will be our last!" he mocked over his shoulder.
"You's got that right, bastard!" retorted Barret. "Our next meeting will be your last!"
Seconds later, the monster swung both its tails and tentacle, driving the combatants farther back into the underbrush. Cid, who had recovered, arrived on the scene, only to be slapped in the chest by one of the smaller sections of the appendage tail, and ended up tumbling backwards.
Eight of the thing's legs dug into the ground, and tremors crackled through. "Take cover!" screamed Barret. They leapt forward just as the ground they had been on exploded in a flash of white light, pieces of it sailing up into the sky before disentegrating.
Tifa wasted no time in their new position, and focused a group of whirling orbs at the huge creature facing them. They leapt free, smashing into the thing one after another, forcing it back into the Materia Cave. Vincent swooped in afterwards, and alighted on one of the upper branches, then dove. Tifa sent out a White Laser from the Laser Eye, which cut off one side of the beast's claws, allowing Vincent to slash at its neck, and polevault back below a large route to the south and east of where they had found the Knights of the Round Materia.
As expected, the limbs regenerated. The Entity began blasting Ultimas and Mertons wildly, forcing most of the party to leap out of the cavern. Vincent stayed inside, hidden, while Cid threw himself up the trees, and withdrew his Dynamite. He lit another stick, and threw it into the main head's right eye. It roared and rocketed upwards, blasting out of the cave, and came down outside, using its tails to bring the cave down, nearly crushing the two inside.
Tifa unleashed another group of orbs as the beast unleashed more Mertons, this time aimed at the Laser's Eye. Within seconds the thing had exploded, and the brunette was on the ground. Barret leapt up, aiming another Catastrophe, and it met a group of white threads and another blue ray at the same time. They worked their way through his gun's energy, so Barret quickly turned off the beam and launched at bullet at the oncoming enemy energies, detonating them, and landing in the forest again.
Vincent ripped out of the thicket inside the cave, scattering rocks and roots, and swooped again. The back eight legs twirled around, grabbed onto him, and threw him into a tree, which immediately burst into flames. Vincent crashed to the ground, roaring.
The thing sent out another volley of Ultimas and Mertons...
...and was this time countered by a large, green, familiar machine that plowed right into the thing, while the female occupant cast a Flaming Rage from her Flame Materia, aiming it at a trajectory in which it canceled out all but one Ultima, the remaining one destroying a good portion of the cliff. A blonde-haired figure just ahead, riding a moogle, leapt to the ground, and threw each member their respective weapons. Tifa pulled her glove on, and drove its spikes into an oncoming leg. It pulled back to regenerate, giving the Carry Armor 2 ample time to open its chest turrets and send out laser blasts at the monster. It grabbed the machine, which immediately electrocuted itself, causing the monster to shriek.
Cait Sith activated his ToyBox, furthering the damage, while Rude and Reno unleashed crackshots at the monster. It skittered back a few paces before lashing out its tentacle. Elena blasted a Blue Flame at it, and the tentacle was reduced to ashes. Another began to came out, and Cloud hurled himself at the area, chopping through, and turning his sword in a thrust, twisting that section off. Even that part regenerated, and he was cast to the ground by ArmClaws, barely managing to avoid one trying to smash him.
The Carry Armor's Turrets opened, sending more electric shocks onto the beast. It screamed yet another time, crushed it, and let the electricity pour out into the ground, which suddenly became a conduit. Cloud, already somewhat electrocuted, fell. A shuriken whizzed through the air, slashing into the neck of the Entity before returning. It turned its attention towards Yuffie, and the nearby ground exploded. She leapt aside and focused her All Creation, while Red XIII performed Cosmo Memory. The Entity absorbed both, slamming them back into their owners, and both collapsed, barely alive. Cait Sith 3 threw an Elixir at each, and barely managed to move his Item Sack out of the way before an incoming arm would've smashed it.
A leg sent Rude slamming into a tree, while Reno ducked under an arm and fired his Mako Gun. The Entity just absorbed the Fire 2, and attempted to punch Reno's head off. He ducked, stabbing the thing with a Laser Knife that snapped out of its gun. The tentacle jerked back, exploded, and this time didn't recover.
"It wanted energy, so I gave it energy," smirked Reno.
Cloud was up by now, and heard that statement. "Then let's give it an overload!" he cried to the others.
Rude darted forward, knifing a tail that was coming towards him with his Mako Gun. This time, though, the Entity simply absorbed the energy into its hands, and fired outwards, having learned from what previously happened. Barret collapsed.
Reno threw him a Megalixir, and barely managed to dodge an oncoming blast.
It fired another volley of Mertons, and Elena countered by unleashing another Flaming Rage. In mid-movement, the Mertons split, and several Shadow Flares erupted out of them, empowering Elena's Falming Rage and sending it right back at her. She pressed the Self-Destruct Button on her Mako Gun, and threw it into the incoming blasts of Magic.
Another explosion was the result.
The monster/Entity/creature staggered back, dazed.
"Its no use!" shouted Cloud. "It'll just keep on adapting and taking what we throw at it, and regenerating if we would it!"
"There's only so much energy it can absorb," stated Vincent, turning his Chaos Saber into a Magic-Destroyer, and slicing apart a group of oncoming Ultimas. That resulted in the destruction of every type of tree for at least a mile, while the others hit the ground.
"And I'll give it some!" So saying, Vincent leapt at the beast/thing, and reverted, landing right in front of it.
The Entity simply spun, knocking Vincent to the ground.
'Eternity night comes!' the beast roared, flinging up a protective barrier, blasting his eight opponents backwards. The energies swirled around him, becoming rainbow in color. They merged with his skin, and he became clothed with golden armor. All his wounds healed, while the shields began to pulsate closer to the eight AVALANCHE Members, slowly crushing them.
"Cloud, do something!" shouted Barret.
"Me!" he shouted. "Look, way back when Aeris elected me leader because I knew more about Sephiroth, or thought I did! I'm not a leader, we don't need a leader! We work together, stop looking to me!"
"Solar Emanation!" roared a new voice.
Cloud, still trying to hammer at the shield that was slowly crushing them with his energy blade, turned as well. Red XIII was glowing a myriad of colors, and slowly began to change form. His fur shifted, and a pedestal grew from his tail, separating. In moments he resembled a much younger form of Bugenhagen.
"I know what you are now!" Nanaki grated. He turned, as if speaking to air. "Thank you, Grandfather," he whispered. "I understand at last."
He turned, somehow within and without the shield, and motioned, the shield withdrawing. The Entity was still in communication with something else, and didn't see its approach. 'Yes ' it said. 'The truth, Planet Reales. The Dark Star. It comes again!' He whirled, and prepared to bring the shield down on his opponents.
Nanaki formed a blazing sword in his hands and hurled himself forwards.
The Entity spun, removing the shield and teleporting the others away, placing them on small stretches of land that blasted into the air.
"The Drelwanese!" the thing sneered. "I've been given the knowledge of all."
"I don't know what the Dark Star is, but you are not part of this Planet," Nanaki retorted. "Grandfather told me, Grandfather explained. If you exist here, with Magic, something that left the Planet, if Xagor and the Water Entity are not destroyed, then the resulting cacophony will destroy this whole section of the universe!"
"I do not care!" it roared. "I have been told to find the Dark Star! I will find it! My name is Exor Ra, puny one!"
It lunged forwards. Nanaki simply held up his hands, bringing in two discuses of Cosmo Memory. They did not connect, instead twisted, growing larger, until they enveloped both combatants
"I can face you with Magic on the All Plane," spoke Nanaki. "You do not belong, therefore you must be taken away! You are one who would not understand this, either find true evolution, for you still have the chance, or I will have to slay thee!"
"That's impossible!" Exor Ra responded. "I've been told one path of evolution, my form has been taken to join it. Aisha, Zlambreax, all are drawn to the Dark Star, the ultimate Lifeform! I do not wish to be part of it, but to go against my nature would result in my end!" It paused, a faint light of recognition coming to its eyes. "And I must thank Aisha for guiding me to this Lifeform, to exist!"
"Huh?" he gasped. "Who are you, really?"
"I'm not who I was! Slay me and you'll slay he whom allowed me to live, unwillingly! Spare me and he remains alive, but I have no choice! The Dark Star is the only thing that holds me alive! I will not relinquish my life! I'm fighting for it even as you all fight for yours! Release me first!"
"I won't " Nanaki spoke. "If there's someone inside you "
"Enough talk!" the thing screamed. "Its true, then, the Dark Star was right about how you freaks condemn people to eternal suffering!"
It roared, expanding between the All Plane, changing size. The stars, the rainbows, the whole section became a place enclosed between two galaxies.
"I'll take your life!"
'I'll take you down, it is my nature!'
Nanaki saw there had been two beings inside, one speaking for it, the other unwilling to deviate from its path, its way of existence. They remained indecisive, until the unwilling, the one that knew it could only exist this way, gained Predominance.
The fight began again.
Exor Ra was first. Stretching up thousands of miles, it whirled around, and unleashed a group of Mertons. Nanaki ripped up a shield, deflecting them, and sent a pillar of light at the beast. It absorbed it, countering with Ultimas. Nanaki leapt aside, forming a long spear in his hands, and throwing it up. It connected with the lower jawbone of the beast, and it reeled backwards, only to quickly recover.
It grew small for a second, smaller than Nanaki, to lunge at him, then became maximum size, impaling the Cetra on one of its spikes.
Strangely, Nanaki wasn't hurt, or didn't feel the pain. He ripped through the spike, ignoring the gaping hole in his body, and lunged again.
"Emerald Blade!" the thing roared.
A sword was in its hand, and Nanaki simply used his small one to block it. It swiped at him, chopping off one of his arms, but he didn't even notice. Here in the All Plane he could manipulate it at will. He drew healing energies around him, creating a backwash against Exor Ra. It raised a giant claw, and brought it down. Nanaki disappeared momentarily, before sliding through, neatly cleaving it apart. He injected it with the same energies he'd used to refill his space, neutralizing its abilities to heal.
It lunged downwards, creating a spiraling circle of all 144 Materia. They trapped him, searing through him, trying to blast him apart. He gathered the Materia, drew them together into a ball, and flung them at his adversary. His adversary blocked, and pulled forth another one, one that seemed to be composed of the destructive energies that had been created when this Materia was. He threw it at Nanaki, and the detonation caved in both of his lungs.
He replaced them, lunging again, and brought down his sword on the huge blade heading towards him. It shattered, and was replaced by a Ruby one. He shattered it, and it became Diamond. He attempted to shatter it, and his sword shattered.
'Come out and playyyy!' the thing mocked even as Cloud, Vincent, and the others showed up here, unable to watch, only to observe.
Mists gathered, swirling around Exor Ra, then split with flashes. Three likenesses of Sephiroth emerged, Ruby in color, three in Emerald Color. The final one was a Diamond Sephiroth, clothed in various armors, fists and swords attached to its hands. Materia glowed on each, two new Summons there, one composed of five Alexander Materias, the other composed of Bahamut Materias and energies matching the ancient Summoned Monsters.
'The threat to the Planet has been removed,' Exor Ra spoke. 'Let us end this here and now. If my fate is to perish, so be it. But I cannot swivel from my path.'
The others immediately met the makeshift Sephiroths in combat, each element bearing a sword to match its powers. "This is a place of the mind!" shouted Nanaki. "Do not let seemingly-mortal wounds make you think you're done!"
No sooner had he said that than the destructive Materia that had been forged was unleashed upon him, blue-red energies arcing and crackling around him. He absorbed them, changed them into one of the Materias the Diamond Sephiroth held, and activated it. A huge version of Alexander appeared, blasting through from nothingness, and extended. Its rays shot the thing right in the face, while it actually reared up and swung its arms, Holy Energies emerging from them. It damaged Exor Ra, only to be punched through and ripped apart.
The energies of the Summoned Mosters leapt forward in the form of whips and shells, and Nanaki grabbed the whips, entwining them around the shells. They snapped.
"What's next," he grated.
'The end of your life,' Exor answered. He motioned with his hands, and the nearby areas seemed to fall away, revealing two of their greatest nightmares. The nearly-invincible Ruby Weapon appeared on its right, the nearly-invincible Emerald Weapon on its right. Only they were changed. They appeared more pointed, more destructive, extra atachments and turrets on their shoulders. The Ruby Weapon had more chest blasters, while the Emerald Weapon's limbs were thinner too. Each had pointed parts, and were ten times the size of their original version. A shadowy version of the Ruby Weapon appeared behind the Emerald Weapon, while 200 Emerald Weapons appeared behind the Ruby Weapon.
Nanaki spared a brief glance to his companions, Cloud was facing the Diamond Sephiroth, Tifa, Barret, and Vincent were facing the Emerald Sephiroths, Yuffie, Cid, and Cait Sith 3 were facing the Ruby Sephiroths.
'Face me now!' Exor Ra laughed.
Nanaki nodded, and almost immediately the black Ruby Weapon, which had Diamond-Weapon-Like Tails, and the 200 Normal Emerald Weapons detonated in blasts of energy. 'Remember, brain, not brawn,' he laughed.
Then he brought a makeshift Meteor at Exor Ra. It connected, causing him to stumble back, many wounds opening, enough so he probably wouldn't notice them all. He brought in another Meteor, only this one had spires, and connected again, cutting through its limbs. The Dark Weapon reared up again, unleashing a Flare Star which erupted like a Shadow Flare, damaging both him and his companions. He detonated the thing again.
This had given Exor Ra time to heal completely, and he created three glowing warriors, a fourth, an orange-purple monster that looked like Vincent's Chaos, but with a different color, in front of him. A fourth shining spirit appeared behind it. They ripped through each other and attacked Nanaki, slicing at him, sending energy beams and crescent blasts at him, all types of powers colliding with him. This time it was him who had to heal.
The others were down as well, having been sliced, cut, chopped, and blasted in almost all places on their bodies, and tons of places were burnt, showing exposure to other incredible magical energies. The Neo-Ruby Weapon and the Neo-Emerald Weapon launched a Ruby Ray and an Aire Tam Storm, wounding them even more. Had they been on the mortal plane, they'd have surely perished by now.
The Ruby Ray seemed just as powerful as the Aire Tam Storm now.
Nanaki clapped his hands, and his wounds, along with his comrades wounds, were healed. He used two more Meteors each and clapped two makeshift galaxies each together on the Weapons, completely, the second Meteor colliding with both being spiked again. They exploded into pieces.
'Now will you fight me fairly, if you wish to continue?'
'There is no fair on the All Plane,' Exor retorted.
His five warriors lunged, and Nanaki formed another blade, chopping through each.
"Massive Ultimate!" he roared. A Materia appeared in the air, and the five figures appeared at him, ten times his size, chopping through him again, taking him down once again. Again and again the blows came, then all five gathered together and unleashed a flurry of magic on him. He was down again, and Exor wouldn't let him heal this time.
Diamond Sephiroth had used Holy Blows, and the Grand Alexander had taken Cloud down, for the moment. The others seemed to be making use of their mind skills, and were forcing their opponents back. At least until the Emerald Sephiroths launched into another complex combination of blows, ending with a magical blast that appeared inside the three fighting them, causing them to fall, midsections ripped apart.
Nanaki healed them, realizing their had to be a limit to what they could withstand, even in the All Plane, and spun. The Ruby Sephiroths were forming tornadoes of energy, beating back the group by swiveling them. Now they merged with their swords and shot out, impaling each member in nothingness. Nanaki healed them, worriedly looking for his opponents. He didn't have to wait long, as each executed normal slashes, then resumed their great combo. He still hadn't gotten a chance to heal himself, and found himself losing consciousness.
"Evaporation!" Exor shouted. His Demolition Materia glowed, and blasted out its energy again, preventing Nanaki from blocking an incoming blow.
His comrades, all except Cloud, were taken down again.
"Ultra Flare!" Diamond Sephiroth screamed.
A huge, reddish-black version of Bahamut ZERO appeared, with five tails. Energies burst from its wings, concentrated at its head, and released. They were met by laser blasts from the wings and a sword-like blast from the mouth, exploding in a downwards stroke, and exploding again on Cloud. As the Bahamut ZERO Thing, which was obviously a different type of Bahamut, disappeared, Cloud staggered back himself, and Diamond Sephiroth slashed at all his weak points before twirling, flashing out of existence, and coming down with a chopping blow on Cloud's head.
He fell. Nanaki finally managed to heal himself, using the backwash to get rid of his five opponents. He saw that Exor was using another Summon Materia, presumably what let them perform moves as if they were Spirit Beasts, and detonated the thing.
A final blast of energy, directly from Exor Ra, was all it took to take Nanaki down.
"I wouldn't mind a nice little deja vu of some deux ex machina," groaned Cid before falling into unconsciousness.
Exor Ra gathered his energies. Without their minds active, he could finish them all off without any problems. Nanaki struggled to remain consciousness.
'The galaxies are the only thing holding you in the All Plane,' spoke a female voice. 'Remove them, and you'll be back on the Mortal Plane, healed from their backwash, while Exor Ra will be destabilized by the position shift.'
'Huh?' Nanaki got out.
'Trust me. The galaxies represent life now.'
Nanaki managed a weak nod, then sent them colliding together onto Exor Ra. There was a thunderclap of an explosion, a large one, yet another cataclysmic explosion
and they were floating on Round Island.
Cloud staggered to his feet, noticing the lifeless body of Exor Ra nearby, normal-sized.
The others blinked their eyes, trying to move. It took a while, but eventually they were all up, although they were weak.
"What happened?" asked Barret.
"Someone told me to detonate what placed us on the All Plane," responded Nanaki, slowly shimmering back into his natural form. "She said the galaxies were life now, and that the backwash would destabilize Exor Ra."
Cloud slowly looked around, testing his limbs, making sure he was all in one peace. The shattered island was in the ocean again, large portions of it having fallen off in the battle.
"That was close," he said.
"If I hadn't'a wished for some deux ex machina we'd be gone," muttered Cid.
Barret glared at him, silencing him. They all took a minute or so to stretch their limbs, then managed to move back into a normal position.
"What happened?" came a voice.
Barret spun, groaning. They'd forgotten about the Turks.
"I can't believe it!" Reno groaned. "We get hired to help rescue the AVALANCHE, almost get crushed, then they all disappear. After that, the island teleports to the ground, and by the time parts of it are finished collapsing you're back here, safe and sound!"
'And its not over yet!' gasped the Entity.
The group spun, seeing Exor Ra.
The lifeless forms of the Diamond Sephiroth, Emerald Sephiroths, and Ruby Sephiroths momentarily appeared, then shimmered into nothingness with crackling energies, while Exor Ra got to his feet.
'My Magic is gone, everything I had is gone,' it grated out. 'The WEAPONS even now. Lapis Weapon and Aquamarine Weapon move to confront Xagor. Over near Junon, at Condor Fort, the Garnet Weapon and the Jade Weapon move to confront the Pureland Water Entity, as do the Malachite Weapon and the Opal Weapon, from near Junon.'
"They'll destroy each other!" snapped Barret. "Good!"
"The Pureland Water Entity may not survive, as its weaker, but Xagor is only beset by two WEAPONS,' Exor Ra spoke. 'And below where he is, the last vestiges of the Crystals and the Orbs that used to sustain our Planet's Lifestream have ended up flowing together. You've destroyed Jenova, but at a cost.'
"Why are you telling us this?" Red XIII inquired.
'As payment for releasing me from this path,' it answered.
"Bugenhagen told me about the All Plane, and about how my tribe bears a close resemblance to the Cetra," answered Red XIII. "You should thank him too, if you go to the Lifestream."
'A world with fighting, and destruction,' the Entity breathed. 'You should've earned your peace, you shouldn't have to deal with this. I shouldn't have been created, this shouldn't have come to pass. There has to be a way to stop it.'
Cloud was surprised as he realized he was fighting to hold back tears.
'I'll take you to the Entity, transport the WEAPONS near it to Xagor,' it spoke. 'They have been recreated. Creator can create, that's why he was named that.'
It paused, spasms of coughing coming over it. 'My life-force, it may be purged, it may live. I do not know, now. I know it is unconscious, however.' It paused as another spasm of coughs caused its body to shatter. 'I take you there now go '
Lights began to appear around the whole group.
'And remember the Dark Star. Nanaki, Vincent, find its meaning. It has begun.'
Exor Ra opened his mouth to speak again, but instead crashed in a heap of tangled limbs, which almost immediately dissipated.
Seconds later, the lights completely enveloped the group, and they were transported away from Round Island.
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