Hope in Love Chapter 10
By Sorceress Fantasia
"Yes! Im finally out of that creepy place!" Yuffie cheered and frisked.
"Where are we?" Tifa looked around for any landmarks that might give a clue.
"Simple. Its the materia cave in Wutai. See? The Highwinds there." Elena concluded.
True enough, the Highwind was just a little ways to their right. "Lets talk inside the Highwind. It seems that its going to rain." Cid suggested, pointing to the dark storm clouds in the sky. So, everybody hurried to the Highwind.
Inside the operation room, Cloud took his usual place. Everyone else gathered around the table. Due to his height, Grim had to stand on the table. Yuffie had contacted her father, telling him the reason of her disappearance, but leaving all the details for it would take a whole day to tell, and that she will be joining the team for a new quest.
"Can you guys introduce yourselves to me? I dont really know any of you yet." Grim requested.
"Sure. Ill start the ball rolling. Im Cloud Strife, a mercenary." Cloud said as a matter-of-factly.
"Im Barret Wallace, former leader of the resistance group, Avalanche."
"And Im Tifa Lockheart, a bar hostess and member of Avalanche." She said light-heartedly.
"Cid Highwind, owner of the airship Highwind and the best pilot in the world!" He stated proudly and with satisfaction.
"Nanaki, but you can call me Red XIII, just as my friends do."
"Names Yuffie Kisaragi, a materia hunter-"
"-and a real pain in the ass!" Cid quipped.
"I beg your pardon?!" Yuffie pretended to be offended, but then she laughed, for she knew that it was true. The others laughed as well.
"Im Cait Sith, a mechanic fortune teller."
"Vincent Valentine, former Turk." He stated flatly.
"Im Lucretsia, a scientist."
"Im Reno. And this is Elena and Rude." He said, gesturing to Grim to look at his companions. "All three of us are the Turks."
Grim nodded, satisfied. "Ok, Ill try to remember all your names, but I cant guarantee that I might forget some." Everyone nodded thoughtfully.
"So, when are we going to Pacific?" Cait asked.
"As soon as possible." Cloud turned to Grim, "Grim, any idea on how to get there?"
"Ive never seen the location of it before, because the screen, for some reasons, could not show it. Ive only heard about it from my father. Well, all I know is that its under the sea, somewhere near the Round Island. But Im sure thats not the entrance. The entrance is somewhere in hmm err " He looked around, seemingly in deep thoughts. After a moment of silence, Grim smiled sheepishly, scratching his scalp in embarrassment, "Sorry guys, I guess I forgot."
"You f@%#^*&ing idiot! What sorta @$#*&^ brain do ya have?" Cid shouted.
Cloud held up a hand, telling him to shut up. "So now we know that Pacific is in the sea as Red had guessed, but right now, weve to find a solution on how to get there. Any suggestions?" Cloud spoke, with a hint of disappointment in his eyes.
Grim seemed to have detected that, and added, "Wait. My father once told me that the entrance looks like a blue whirlpool. It was somewhere near amongst some snowy mountains. I cant remember which one, but one thing for sure is that the entrance is at some snowy mountains. Its either near it, or it is inside the mountains itself." Cloud was the first person who had been rather kind to him, and he certainly didnt want him to be unhappy.
"Snow? Could it be the Gaea Cliffs?" Vincent suggested.
"Well, it could be " Red replied hesitantly, for he didnt want to disappoint anybody.
"Whatdya mean could be?! Its gotta be! Have ya forgotten that ta Gaea Cliffs are the only snowy mountains around?" Barret noted.
"Barrets right. The Gaea Cliffs is the only possibility." Cloud stated. "Lets go there and find out."
The air was crisp. Thick layers of white masses covered every inch of the ground. Blizzards struck frequently. Strong winds blew across the vast snowfields. The coldness of the atmosphere cut into the skins of every living creature there. With such an abysmal weather like this, most people would prefer to sit at home and sip a cup of hot beverage. Yet, there is one man crossing the seemingly endless white desert. He grabbed on tightly onto his coat, and his head bent downward so as to block out the wind. He trudged across the snow gingerly. Every step taken was arduous. The constant blizzards were draining away his energy. He was weary, yet he knew he couldnt stop. Just a bit more, hell tell himself. Its not far from here. Ill be there soon.
With sheer determination and will, he was at his destination. The Gaea Cliffs. He held up his right hand that was holding a dagger. Its handle and sheathe are lavishly decorated with jewels of different shapes and sizes. The blade was stained, thick with the fresh blood of the creatures that had dared to confront him. Blood still dripped from it, onto the white snow, leaving a trail of red. Lexon looked at the words inscribed on his dagger that had been in his family for generations. A few thousand years in fact. His ancestor had left the dagger behind with his orders carved onto it before he had died, his heart filled with hatred. However, the orders were soon forgotten, and it was only recently that Lexon found out about it by luck. He knelt down, and wiped the weapon across the snow. Once. Twice. The words were visible.
Destroy the royalties of the Pacific Kingdom and rule the land! Do whatever it takes to achieve it! Exterminate all those who stand in your path! Lexon flipped it over to the other side. Enter the Pacific Kingdom through an entrance located in the snowy mountains in the North, in a secret cave in the mountains. The first time he saw the words, he had failed to notice there were words also on this side. Thus, he had followed Cloud and his friends, hoping to find any clues or whatsoever. But after some time, seeing the words, he left for the Gaea Cliffs. Now, they were of no use to him. He would kill them all the next time they meet. At that thought, a smirk grew upon his face. Keeping the dagger back into its sheathe, he started to climb the cliffs.
The Highwind landed on the edge of the cliff, which was one of the few places where the airship could land. The party got off, in a single file. They quickly headed for Icicle Lodge, the only outpost of civilization near the Gaea Cliffs, and into the Ice Gate, after some of them purchased extra layers of thick clothing. The enemies inside were relatively weak, compared to the last time they were here. Thus, they were able to whizz pass the area in a snap. Then, Red picked up a scent. He followed it instinctively. The trail stopped at certain points, but it was continued just a bit further every time.
"Wait, look at this."
The others followed him, only to see a trail of blood on the ground, together with a set of footprints. Vincent came up to check. He picked up a pinch of snow with the blood and brought them to his eyes, carefully inspecting the red snow. "Judging from the color and the smell of it, the trail isnt left long before we arrived. It smells weird. It doesnt exactly smell like blood, but it is blood."
Red agreed, "Vincents right. This smell of blood is indeed strange."
"What could have caused it?" Yuffie asked, unable to suppress her curiosity finally. She hated being snapped at by Cid or Barret for being nosy, but she was desperate to know this time.
Lucretsia came forward and did the same things as Vincent. She took a whiff of it, and lowered her head in deep thoughts. "It may have been a wounded traveler who was also poisoned. On the other hand, it may be the blood of a monster. These may not necessary be the correct answer, but they are my best guess. " She concluded.
The party decided to follow it, for they wanted to know who or what had caused the line of blood. Enemy or not, they wasnt sure. But it could be some wounded travelers. If that was the case, then it was up to them to help him or her. Reno was against it at first, saying that it wasnt their business. But then, he gave in to the softhearted Elena and Rude, who didnt like the idea of leaving some possibly wounded person in the lurch.
Soon, they reached the small cabin of the old man who had saved them when they had fainted from exposure the time they were chasing after Sephiroth. The blood trail had led them here. What they saw horrified them. The old man was lying unconscious on the snow outside his cabin, in a pool of blood. Blood still poured from his chest. They ran over to him. Cloud helped the old man up and let him lean against him while Elena healed the deep wound with her cure materia. Cooling green mist surrounded the wounds. But it was useless. The blood still flowed out like an endless stream of water and the wound couldnt close. Seeing this, Yuffie also knelt down and helped cast another cure spell with her cure materia. It didnt help much. Although the materia had failed to save his life, it managed to bring him back to consciousness.
"Hey old man! Who the %#&* heck did this to you?" Barret asked.
He groaned, as he felt a sudden twinge of pain as he tried to move his body to a more comfortable position. After being prodded a few more times, he finally spoke, "I I tried to stop stop a man wearing a cloak who was trying to climb-" He coughed loudly, and vomited some blood onto his shirt. After a little while, he continued, "-the Gaea Cliffs. I dont know what happened He pulled out a dagger and and stabbed me " His breathing quickened with much difficulty. His body stopped moving and he wasnt breathing any longer.
"Sir!" Cloud exclaimed. He placed a hand on the old mans chest. His heart had stopped. Gently, he lay the body down to rest on the snow once more. "The dagger must have been cursed. Else how could the wound not close and the blood stop flowing with two cure spells?" Red stated. "We have to be very careful. Otherwise, the dagger could kill us as well, even though were all skilled."
Cursed dagger? Hmm Ive heard it before, but where? Grim tried hard to remember. Everyone took note of Reds words sadly. "Lets go." Clouds voice was harsh. Everyone knew, although Cloud did not say anything about it, he wanted to avenge the poor old man who had died a pitiful death. They followed the trail in silence.
But the blood trail stopped abruptly at the foot of the Gaea Cliffs, and so did the footprints. And a patch of white snow was dyed red, smudged by blood. It was as though someone had cleaned something with the snow.
"Looks like he climbed the mountain. He cant have disappeared." Cait stated.
"Lets just go up too. Then maybe well find him." Grim suggested. He was getting impatient, for he wanted to reach Pacific as soon as possible.
"Lets start scaling the Gaea Cliffs now." Cloud said.
He took the lead as usual. Everyone else followed him gingerly. Cloud tried to remember the route they had used the last time. Even so, they still do get into dead ends. It had been too long ago.
Lexon was in the caves inside the Gaea Cliffs. He scanned the area quietly. No sign of any monsters. Taking his weapon out again, he walked around to find what he needed. He searched every corner of the place, not sparing anything at all with his eyes. Yet, nothing could be found. None at all. Not a single clue as to where the entrance is. He tightened his grip on his dagger in anger. Just when he was about to head for another part of the cave, his dagger shook violently, causing Lexons hand to tremble with it. "What the?" Before he could utter another word, an invisible force pulled the dagger to a wall. He tried to let go but to no avail. His hand was stuck firmly to his weapon, as though there were glue. The force got stronger and stronger as it neared the stone wall. As the cold metal touched the wall, Lexon thought, Finally its stopping. However, it soon proved him wrong as the dagger drove its way into the wall. Although it was supposedly using a lot of force to cut into a stone wall so hard, the dagger merely slid in, as though the wall was nothing more than soft mud. No cracks were made. It was only then the dagger stopped moving. Lexon let go of his hand. What happened? He wondered in amazement, the dagger had almost been alive! He considered it for a moment, then it came to him. Yes, the dagger must be showing me the way. The entrance should be somewhere here.
His hands searched the stone wall, hoping to find some switch or whatsoever. Just then, he heard something. Footsteps, and soft but audible mumbles. Lexon reached for his dagger instinctively and ducked behind a huge rock. Lexon swore in his heart he would kill these people, for they had disrupted his job. The footsteps got louder, louder, louder Theyre here! He carefully took a peek to know who it was. A yellow spike of hair That was all he needed to know that it was Cloud and his bunch of friends. They filed in quickly.
"Ok guys, time to get to work. Well split up and search the area."
The others nodded and got down to work at once. Lexon held his weapon near him, prepared to attack anyone who got close. Everyone spread out, each to a different area, searching thoroughly. Most were feeling the walls with their hands, for they thought there might be a switch. Suddenly, Yuffie called out to the rest, "Hey guys! Look at this!" Everyone else gathered around her, curious at what she had discovered. All eyes followed her finger as it pointed to a hole in the wall. Reno ran his fingers through the hole; it was perfectly smooth on the edges. No cracks, no sharp edges, no nothing. Then he proceeded to tap the wall gently. "This doesnt seem to be natural. Its man-made, Im absolutely sure of it." He pondered for a while, before he continued, "But what could have made it? No weapon could make such a smooth looking hole without causing the sides to crack! Or even make such a hole in a wall so hard!" He knocked on the wall to prove his point. Everyone nodded thoughtfully. Just then, Vincent seemed to have detected something. He hurled a grenade towards the rock which Lexon was hiding behind.
"What the $%#&* ya doin?"
A flash of light could be seen in the air, around the grenade. Then, before they knew it, the grenade was split up into halves. When everyones jaws had dropped in bewilderment, a man stood up (Its actually Lexon, but the team doesnt know him yet). All eyes focused on the man who had just appeared. A mysterious aura surrounded him. He wore a dark colored shirt and a pair of long black pants, complete with a pair of black leather boots. His white trench coat hung loosely on his shoulders, fluttering whenever the cold winds blew. His black locks were tied carelessly together in a short ponytail, leaving a few strands here and there dangling about. His hazel brown eyes shone with a hint of evil, as he scanned the people before him.
Cloud stared at him, a feeling of foreboding engulfing him. He gives me the same feeling I had for Sephiroth but surely, he cant be as powerful as him. Cloud mused. Their line of vision met and locked. Finally, Lexon broke the spine-chilling silence.
"I am Lexon Asura, please to meet you all face to face for the first time." He said slowly, word by word, emphasizing the last few words.
Everyone wore a puzzled look. "What do you mean by face to face?" Elena decided that she would ask. Lexon turned to stare her in her eyes as a smirk grew upon his face. Elena shivered at his piercing stare, as she felt her breath leave her. It was as though he was seeing through her, into her mind. He answered, "Hmm Looks like you didnt notice."
"Notice? Notice what?"
"How pathetic " He said, a little amused. Everyone stared at him, more puzzled than before. "Dont you find Mount Nibel a little weird?" He grinned, "Did you honestly think that the dragons appeared from out of nowhere? And in a group?"
At that time, the dragons had appeared too suddenly, leaving no time for them to think about the encounter. And no one recalled the incident after that, for they had left immediately for Wutai for their materias. But now that Lexon mentions the encounter, everyone starts to get what he means. Most types of dragons are reclusive loners, and very seldom or never appear in groups. And if they do meet, they usually fought against each other for their share of territory. But 3 dragons had apparently ganged up and attacked them at one shot. Why?
"You you commanded them?"
"Well, yes and no. I merely lured them to you. Green dragons are slightly different from their cousins. They usually kill other types of creatures first before they fight among themselves. I only used that to my advantage." He paused for a moment, then continued as he crossed his hands, "I must say that you fight pretty well."
Barret was about to speak, when Red blurted, "Its that smell that smell of " He took another whiff of it, " blood You are the one who carries the smell of the blood we found in the Great Glacial?"
"Yes, I am the one."
"Are you the one who killed the man at the bottom of the Gaea Cliffs?" Cloud spat, disgusted. That man had saved lives by giving advice to trekkers and had given shelter to people who had fainted in the Ice Gate, yet he died such a horrible death because of his helpfulness. When he died in his hands, Cloud had sworn silently that he would take revenge for him. And now, the murderer was right in front of him.
"Yes." Lexon answered as he grinned, as though satisfied with the mans death. "He deserved it. Of all people, he had block *my* path."
"Why?! He was just trying to be helpful!"
"Helpful?" He chided, "I dont care so much."
"Who are you?" Vincent and Red asked in unison.
"All you have to know is my name, Lexon, and theres no reason and need for you to know anything else." Lexon answered coldly. " The only other thing you need to know is that I am your nemesis."
"I dont care who the f#$(%ing heck are you! Well rip your heart out and thats the end of the story!" Cloud jumped forward and slashed his gigantic sword at Lexon, who had expected him to attack. He jumped back effortlessly and held up his weapon, preparing his own attack.
"Careful! The weapons cursed! We could bleed to death if we get cut!" Red reminded.
Lexon gave a sinister grin, "Hmph! So you know," He snorted, "But you are only half-correct. This dagger *is* fatal, as any cuts given will never stop bleeding, no matter what you do. But its definitely not cursed. Its sacred! Its the holy dagger my ancestor left behind! The Kallista! The holy dagger Kallista!"
Grim took a step back in utter shock. "Ka Ka Kallista?" Grim stammered. Beads of cold sweat formed on his forehead.
"Yes! The Kallista!" Lexon repeated, as he attacked. He held his weapon firmly, and slashed the area in front.
" Ha ha! You missed! Pity your daggers so short " Yuffie teased. However, a gust of wind swept the area in front of Lexon before she could finish. The strong wind threw everyone, as though they were a couple of kites whose strings had been cut, onto the walls, onto extruding rocks everywhere.
"What do a cretin like you know?" Lexon raised an eyebrow. "Its shortness is an advantage." He repeated the same attack a few more times, hurting everyone a little seriously. The wind really didnt hurt, it just cut them a bit; but when they landed, thats where the pain comes from. They were crushing here and there, on sharp rocks that jutted out, the damp hard ground Soon, Lexon slashed the open area once more, this time in the shape of a huge cross. A shiny red cross materialized, "Crucifix!" The cross was hurled into Cloud, who had just got onto his feet from the previous attack. He dived for the sides once he saw the attack coming for him. Unfortunately, he was still a little late. The cross cut into his left arm, leaving a deep scar that started to bleed profusely. Cloud fell to the ground again, holding his wound with his other hand as he grimaced in pain. Lexon, seeing his opportunity, charged forward, attempting to stab Cloud. Tifa, who was a few meters away from Cloud, immediately jumped to her feet and ran between the two. She spread her arms wide open and shut her eyes tightly, afraid. Although frightened, she stayed put. Even if she dies, it doesnt matter, as long as Clouds okay.
"TIFA!" The others screamed, as they saw what Tifa was doing. It scared them immensely, for they were afraid of losing another friend. All of them tried to get up and pull both Cloud and Tifa away, however their bodies were aching over and none had the energy to do so. Barret pulled out a bolt materia and concentrated his energy on it, pinning all his hopes on it to save his friends. "Bolt 3 " He uttered forcefully. Bolts of energy blasted at Lexon, its force causing fragments of rocks to be thrown around. However, the bolt was reflected back at Barret, who let out a painful cry.
Seconds passed like hours. The distance between the dagger and Tifa got closer and closer, as her heart pounded faster and faster. Soon, the Kallista was right in front of Tifas chest. Tifa screamed in her mind, Im done for! Cloud! Pushing himself up, Cloud bit his lips as he felt a twinge on his arm. Using his good arm, he reached for Tifa. He grabbed her hand tightly and pulled her to his side. The sudden jerk caused Tifas pendant, the one Cloud had given her, to slip out of her blouse. As the Kallista and the pendant contacted, a surge of energy passed through the two objects. A flash of blinding light shot out of the hole in the wall that was made by the Kallista earlier on. The beam fell on a jewel on the Kallistas handle and it bounced onto one of the pendants jewels.
The light grew more intense with every moment passed. In a split second, the beam of light filled the room and everyone was gone. A flash of blue light could be seen from the hole
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