Appointment With Destiny Chapter 37
A burst of anger, caused by pain, made Hojo snatch at Sephiroth . . . and catch him, three feet above the ground. A second later, The flash of bloody sunlight on the blade in Sephiroth's hand was an instant reminder of why he'd dropped him in the first place. Hojo released him just in time. The masamune missed one of his surviving tentacles by less than half an inch.
Sephiroth landed on his feet and put distance between himself and the floating apparition.
Hojo's inspected his stumps.
"You're going to pay for this," he promised.
"Whatever." Sephiroth kept his masamune in the ready position. "I'm not going to let you take my wife."
Hojo raised the last pair of his tentacles over his head. "Die!"
A wave of comets fell out of the sky.
Sephiroth raised his hand. A barrier formed above him.
The first of the comets smashed into it with more force than he had anticipated. It collapsed as the last comet struck. Sephiroth went down. Hojo slapped him aside. The sound of mad laughter filled the air as he slammed into the ground. The masamune skittered away.
"The Cetra is getting a better man than you. What more proof do you need?" asked the madman.
Sephiroth cast a healing spell on himself. He stood up. He stretched out his arm The masamune flew into his hand.
"You're still alive?" Hojo raised his tentacles again. "Well if it hurt once, it ought to hurt again"
Another wave of comets cascaded toward the ground.
Sephiroth cast Regen on himself and added more power to his barrier spell.
It was a wise move. Hojo was expecting him to do that, but Regen was unexpected. Every comet that sapped Sephiroth's strength, added to it as well.
"Damn it!" Hojo looked up at Meteor and gnashed his teeth. "You're wasting my time boy! Why don't you just die and get this over with?"
Sephiroth raised his sword. "Am I so hard to kill?"
Hojo muttered under his breath.
Sephiroth cast his strongest Ultima spell. Too late, he realized what Hojo had done. The Ultima spell struck Hojo, bounced back and mowed down Sephiroth before he could counteract it. His vision turned violet, his body went numb. world turned violet, his body went numb. Violet lights burned into his eye. His body went numb. Darkness rushed to meet him.
Opening his eyes was an effort. Sephiroth body felt as a million needles were jammed into his skin. There wasn't anyplace that didn't hurt. He tried to turn his head but his neck felt lose and disjointed. The taste of blood in his mouth was nauseating. Staring upward helplessly, he noticed the sky was redder than before. A distant roar made his ears ring. Meteor hung frighteningly low in the sky.
Sephiroth faded out of consciousness, then surfaced again. A shadow passed above. It was Hojo. His body blocked Meteor from Sephiroth's vision. There was something in his tentacles. Sephiroth closed his eyes. A shudder ran through his body.
"Open your eyes!" snapped Hojo. "I brought you back, just to show you this."
Sephiroth opened his eyes.
Aeris' limp form lay cradled in Hojo's tentacles.
"I saw her peeking out the inn," he said. "I had to tear the roof off to get to her. Don't let her appearance worry you. She's fine. I put her to sleep."
"I figured it wouldn't be sporting of me not to let you have one last look at her."
Sephiroth tried to speak. Blood bubbled over his lips.
Hojo frowned, then his face lit up. "You're wondering how I'm going to carry her? Her hibernation chamber was destroyed in the mansion, but I've come up with something better."
The tip of a tentacle curled around to stroke Aeris' hair.
"I can keep her in a coma, until we find a new place to live. Watch this."
Hojo unwrapped a tentacle and waved it over Aeris. A gold mist spread over her body, encasing her in a sack of energy.
"As long as I keep the Cetra asleep, she won't need much air," he said. "I can store air in my plates. When Aeris needs it, I can feed it to her through the shield. Isn't that clever? Not bad for an idea I had to come up with on the spur of the moment! Necessity is the mother of invention, they say. In this case, that proved true. Just think, If her container hadn't been destroyed in the fire, I would have had lug it through space. I shouldn't have too much trouble finding a new supply of fresh air. If Jenova made it as far as this planet, there must be others nearby with an atmosphere just like ours."
He looked at Sephiroth speculatively.
"I used a weak life spell to revive you. The question is, whether I should kill you again, or let Meteor do it for me."
Sephiroth tried to speak again.
"You're wondering how I beat you?"
"I was merely toying with you before," Hojo grinned. "In THIS form, you can't beat me as you are. My spells are magnified tenfold. All I had to do was add a little of my own power to your Ultima spell and watch you kill yourself. You're strong my boy, but not strong enough!"
He glanced at the sky.
Hojo ran his tentacle across Aeris swollen stomach. "Your baby is still alive Sephiroth. I'm sure I'll find some use for it."
Hojo laughed as he wrapped his tentacles Aeris again.
"I've wasted enough time on this miserable world," he said. "Farewell Sephiroth."
"I'll name our first child after you." he called back.
Keeping his eyes on the shape far above, Sephiroth moved his lips, forming at last, the words he'd been trying to say all along.
A powerful tornado of energy dropped out of the sky sweeping the silver haired man up in it's vortex. Power and strength coursed through his body. His injuries healed. When the whirling winds died, Sephiroth was standing on his feet. The masamune rose from the ground and floated to him. He let it hover, looking up at his father.
Hojo stopped to watch. He growled deep in his throat.
Sephiroth reached out, plucking his sword from the air. He held it high above his head.
"Thanks for the advice, father," he said looking up. " If I can't beat you as a man, I'll beat you on your own terms."
His Mako eyes burned incandescent green. A bolt of lightening streaked down from the angry red sky, striking the tip of the masamune. It exploded. Sephiroth was surrounded by a fiery cone of brightly colored sparks.
Hojo raised an eyebrow. "Since when could he do THAT?"
Silver hair fanned out as the intensity of the sparks increased. The black cape spread away from his body like wings. That illusion was heightened as Sephiroth rose into the air with the force of a skyrocket.
Hojo was so startled, he almost dropped his hostage. Sephiroth stopped directly across from him.
"How . . . what . . . " Hojo tripped over his words in his astonishment.
A ring of light appeared in the center of Sephiroth's chest and began to expand. A second ring formed inside the first. Like the ring before, it grew. The ripple effect continued with the third and fourth rings.
"Ultimate Death!" Sephiroth's whisper sent an involuntary shiver down Hojo's spine.
The ball of light that appeared in the center of the fifth ring, was far too bright for Hojo's eyes. He was forced to look away. The radiance faded slowly. Hojo gasped in shock.
Sephiroth had changed. Shirtless, from the waist down, his body was broad, knobby and covered with pure white downy white feathers. His left hand, holding the masamune high, was outlined by a double ringed halo growing out of his back. His right arm was nothing more than a long black wing. In place of legs, three white pairs of long graceful wings beat gently in the quickening breeze.
"It seems I was wrong about those Jenova injections." There was pride in Hojo's voice. "You've accomplished transformation without receiving mutated injections. Look at you! You are truly my son!"
"Put my wife down and fight," said Sephiroth. "It's time for us to end this once and for all."
Hojo glanced at the sky. The roaring sound was much louder now. The tension in the air was so thick he could taste it.
"We don't have time for this!" he growled. "Meteor is too close. If you're able to change your form, you can probably travel through space like me. Let's find another place to settle our dispute."
Sephiroth shook his head. "Here and now."
"But it's not too late for us to come to some kind of agreement!" shouted Hojo. "Come with me Sephiroth. Once you've seen the wonders of another world, you'll understand what I'm trying to tell you. You'll change your mind about raising a family with this creature and see the advantages of being a god. You, me and your son!"
"I won't let you take her." Sephiroth's double halo shimmered cast a soft golden glow. "Only one of us walks away from this father. Here and now."
Hojo looked at the sky. His face darkened.
"Damn you Sephiroth! You're interfering with my plans with my plans again." Hojo looked up at Meteor. "I'm tempted make a run for it with the girl, but she'll just get hurt in the struggle. All right son. If you're spoiling for a fight, you've got it."
"Put her down."
Hojo gave his son a murderous look as he lowered himself to the ground. He laid Aeris on the grass. Her body was still glowing.
Sephiroth accompanied him part of the way.
"I'm leaving her protection on," He looked up at Sephiroth. "After I kill you, I'm going to have to get out of here as fast as I can. I'll be lucky to escape being crushed when the Planet breaks up!"
Sephiroth lowered his blade. "The Planet is the least of your problems."
Hojo rose to Sephiroth's altitude. "I should have killed you after I shot you with that dart. If I had known then what I know now, I would have."
They circled each other rising higher.
Hojo cast Capsule. Two misshapen creatures appeared on either side of him.
"This should make the fight more interesting," he said. "Think you can handle three of us?"
"Let's find out." Sephiroth cast Haste on himself.
The creature on the right cast Comet. The creature on the left cast Bolt 3. Hojo cast Haste on himself.
The Comets and Bolt spell stung a little, but Hojo's companions lacked the punch their master had. The greenish glow their attack left behind caught Hojo's eye.
"Still using Regen Sephiroth?" Hojo dissolved it with Dispel and cast Ice 3. He crowed in triumph as jagged clumps of ice formed on Sephiroth's lower wings.
Dragged down by the weight of the ice, Sephiroth's muscles screamed in protest as he struggled to keep his wings moving. He cast fire on himself.
Hojo glowered as the ice melted and dropped away.
Sephiroth cast Deathblow. Hojo wanted to kick himself for giving his son information that could hurt him. He roared a string of curses under the effects of Slash all. His companions exploded in a burst of light.
Baring his teeth, Hojo cast Sleepel. Sephiroth swept it aside with Reflect. The spell ricocheted back onto Hojo.
"No!" Hojo's eyelids turned into lead. Consciousness dimmed. Feeling himself slipping away, he raised a tentacle and slapped his own face as hard as he could. The tentacle left an angry red welt on his flesh, but his drowsiness faded away.
"I won't lose!" he screamed. "Not to you. Not to anyone!"
The companions reappeared.
Hojo looked victorious. "See?"
He launched a Combo attack on Sephiroth using Comet 2, Flare, Break and Tornado. Using his Counter Attack materia with another Wall and Reflect, Sephiroth weathered each attack as fast Hojo threw them, but the situation was getting desperate. Meteor's roar was louder now. It was much too close for comfort. If they didn't end this battle soon, everyone would die. Calling on the power of Pandora's Box, Sephiroth hurled it at Hojo.
The spell ripped over and through Hojo's nervous system like the touch of molten lava. The mutant scientist opened his mouth in a silent scream of pain. It felt as if a giant hand was crushing his plates together. Unable to control his tentacles, they flailed about like snakes gone mad. He jaw alternately opened or snapped shut. Tears filled Hojo's eyes as he caught the flesh of his inner cheek between his teeth. A rush of purple blood spilled over his lips as the spell released him from its grasp.
Spitting blood and wiping his mouth, Hojo glowered at his son with hate. His transformation into Jenova's form was useless if he couldn't overcome Sephiroth's expertise with materia. The only way he was going to win this fight was through stealth and underhanded tactics. Hojo smiled bitterly. Underhanded tactics and manipulating people was something he excelled in. It was time to call on that talent again.
"Damn you!" Hojo threw himself at Sephiroth.
As he hoped, Sephiroth slapped him away, with his wing arm. Hojo seized the appendage before Sephiroth could move it away. Wrapping one of his tentacles around it, Hojo pulled himself closer to his son. He clawed at Sephiroth's eyes.
Sephiroth turned his face away to protect his eyes. The bony tentacle fingers raked the right side of his face. Raising the masamune above his head, Sephiroth was just about to bring it down on Hojo when the scientist let go. He lurched back out of reach and rocketed straight up into the air. Sephiroth went after him.
Hojo looked back and smiled. The fool was following him. He smiled to himself and flew higher. Sephiroth followed close behind. He stopped abruptly.
Sephiroth stopped nearby. "Running won't save you Hojo!"
"In that case, I'd better fight!" Hojo hurled himself at his son.
Sephiroth raised his sword.
At the last instant, Hojo dived beneath him. Before the young general could recover from his surprise, Hojo reached up to wrap his tentacle around Sephiroth's lower wings. Just as quick he twisted in midair, shoving Sephiroth beneath him.
"Let's see you get out of this!" he shouted.
Laughing wildly, he rushed toward the ground intending to crush Sephiroth beneath him.
Aeris opened her eyes. The world was ruby red. She sat up. The first thing she saw was Meteor, still on its path of destruction. The next thing she saw was Hojo and something she couldn't make out, high in the sky. She cringed as she remembered how she'd screamed at the sight of his appearance when he approached the inn. Hiding under inn's counter top was the only way she could shield herself from the destruction that rained down as Hojo ripped the roof apart.
The innkeeper ran out of his office screaming. A heavy beam crushed him before he could reach the door. Hojo stuck his head under the counter and grinned at her. The last thing Aeris remembered was a tentacle touching her face . . .
Hojo was shoving something before him. Aeris squinted. She wasn't sure just what Hojo had, but there was something vaguely familiar about the light colored streamer flowing from whatever he had in his grasp. She still couldn't make out what it was, but she could see he was coming down fast. Very fast. Her mind clicked.
Hojo increased his speed. Sephiroth's attempts to reach him with the masamune while trying not to damage his own wings were unsuccessful.
Aeris scrambled to her feet. This wasn't the Sephiroth she knew, but his change in appearance didn't change the way she felt for him. She didn't know what she was going to do when she raised her hands to the sky, but the need to save him was strong. Power leaped from her fingertips toward the falling duo.
It struck both of them. The concussion tore them apart. Hojo bit his tongue. He coughed up a spray of blood. Sephiroth tumbled over twice, before he stabilized his hover. Both men noticed Aeris at the same time.
"What are YOU doing awake?" Hojo's eyes changed, becoming red and multifaceted. Bloody drool slipped from the sides of his mouth. "Oh no my dear, you're not going to escape me now!"
He just about to go after her, when a fist split his lips. He was blinking the stars out of his eyes when Sephiroth's next blow crushed what was left of his nose. The third one loosened his teeth.
Hojo retreated, gasping and snorting as he tried to draw a breath that wasn't tainted with blood. He looked across at Sephiroth.
"You hit me."
"Several times." Sephiroth gave him a satisfied smile. "I've wanted to do that for years."
Hojo came at him whipping his tentacles before him. Sephiroth backed away, readying the masamune.
"I'll kill you!" he shouted.
"Come and get me." Sephiroth turned and raced away.
"You won't get away from me!" Hojo followed.
Sephiroth looked back. Hojo was closing in fast. He let his father get a little closer, then he stopped short and turned. Caught off guard, Hojo tried to stop, throwing up his tentacles to protect himself. They slammed into each other. Hojo's body was a lot harder than Sephiroth expected. Pain went through his body, but he had to move fast or he'd loose his chance. He slashed, severing one of Hojo's tentacles. It dropped out of the sky.
Hojo backed off to survey the damage. Only one tentacle remained. Screaming in rage he attacked. One hand grappled with Sephiroth sword arm, the other grabbed the winged arm. He wrapped the tentacle around Sephiroth's neck.
"Die!" hissed Hojo, splashing blood in Sephiroth's face. "Die!"
Instead of struggling, Sephiroth held the sword high and closed his eyes.
Hojo squeezed tighter. "Yes, die!"
Lightening ripped out the clouds and struck the tip masamune. The bolt radiated down the blade and enclosing Hojo and Sephiroth in electrical display.
The pain was incredible. Hojo loosened his coil and tried to pull away. Sephiroth held on to him. The generals silver hair stood out like a sunburst.
"What's the matter father?" he growled. "Am I a little more than you expected?"
Hojo went for his eyes.
Sephiroth ducked his head away. Hojo grabbed a handful of the silver hair and yanked his head back up. His tentacle wrapped around Sephiroth's arm to keep the blade away. The black wing beat at Hojo, but the madman ignored it.
Before the glow of Sephiroth's attack faded. Hojo launched an attack of his own. The giant plates turned fluorescent red. Energy surged through Hojo's grasp.
"Two can play that game my son!"
Hojo's attack was interfering with Sephiroth's ability to keep his wings moving. They dropped a few feet. Sephiroth struggled to overcome the effects of the interference. His double halos hummed with golden potency Power coursed through Sephiroth's body into Hojo. Racked with pain, both refused to let go.
Aeris cried out in alarm. They were going to kill each other.
"Help me!" she prayed out loud. "Give me the power to save my husband!"
Clenching her fist, she swung it toward the sky. A blue bolt rocketed toward the combatants.
"Die!" Hojo shouted. "Why don't you die?"
"Why don't you?" answered Sephiroth.
Both increased power. Sephiroth felt his heartbeat becoming irregular. Hojo held back unconsciousness. The blue bolt hit them with a sub-zero blast. It was enough. They released each other shivering.
Hojo snapped his last tentacle in frustration. The roar above intensified. He looked up.
"It's too late," he said. "Thanks to you and your interfering bitch, none of us are going to make it out of here now. I won't get what I wanted, but at least I can die knowing you didn't get what you wanted either! Your dreams of a happy little family are going to die here, Sephiroth, and I get to see it happen!"
"No you won't." Sephiroth cast Super Nova.
"So what are you doing now?" asked Hojo.
Sephiroth looked up at the sky and smiled. "You're going to find out very shortly."
Hojo looked up at Meteor. Rapture filled his face. "It's beautiful isn't it?"
Sephiroth saw the distance sparkle of his summon approaching. "I'm glad you think so. It's the last thing you'll ever see."
Hojo frowned, a question on his face.
"Where the hell are you going?" asked Hojo. "Running away won't save you. Didn't you hear me? It's too late!"
Sephiroth swooped down above Aeris as low as his wings would permit.
"We have to go!" he shouted.
She held up her arms. "I can't reach you."
He spread out his black wing. "Don't worry about it."
Aeris gasped as she rose from the ground. Her arms and leg flailed wildly.
"Don't!" Sephiroth's voice startled her into being still.
She rose until she was as high as his torso. Sephiroth gathered her into his wing and pulled up on his strange body. Holding the sword carefully, he wrapped his arm around her.
"We have to get away from here," he said as he raced for the open sky. His powerful wings beat the air with hard steady strokes. In moments he had widened the distance between himself and his father.
"What the hell?" Hojo stared after them open mouthed. His anger returned. "No! No! I'm going to watch you die! Both of you!"
He threw back his head and let out a roar, that died on his lips. There was something straight above him. Something very shiny and moving very fast. He blinked. What was that? He looked after Sephiroth, then looked up again. It was closer. What was that thing up there? He looked after Sephiroth and comprehension dawned.
"No!" he cried. "No!"
Even as he moved forward, a whistling sound filled his ears that all but drowned out Meteors roar. Sephiroth's summon fell out of the sky striking the mutated madman right on top of his boney plates. Hojo didn't have time to make a sound. Suddenly, he was nothing more than a ball of blazing light.
"What's happening to him?" Aeris tried to over Sephiroth's shoulder.
"Cover your eyes," he warned. "Don't look!"
Aeris did so just in time. Hojo exploded in a blast that turned the red sky pink. Sephiroth curled his black wing around their heads to further shield them from the brightness. The sky rumbled ominously.
The sound died away. Sephiroth turned around. There was nothing left to see but a pinkish haze, drifting toward the ground.
"It's over," said Aeris.
"No it isn't." Sephiroth looked up at the sky. The roar of Meteor was discernible again. The wind was getting stronger. "You called Meteor Aeris. You're the only one who can stop it."
Aeris turned pale. "I tried. My prayer didn't work."
"You have to try again."
"Didn't you hear me?" She had to raise her voice to be heard above the din. "I can't stop it!"
Sephiroth dropped as close to the ground as he could.
"I'm going to put you down so you can try again." Holding one of his lower wings out like a ramp, he pushed Aeris toward it.
"Get on," he said.
Aeris looked at him strangely. "And do what?"
"Get on," he ordered.
She did. Sephiroth lowered the wing gradually, allowing her to slide to the ground.
She looked up at him. "I love you with all my heart Sephiroth, but you don't know how close I am to screaming and running away. You don't look anything like the man I married. What happened to you?"
"Later." Sephiroth pointed at the sky. "Stop Meteor."
Aeris dropped her head and shivered. "I don't know if I can. I never meant for any of this to happen. I just wanted to scare Hojo. I never would have called it, if I knew things would turn out like this."
Gentle arms slid around her body. Expecting to Hojo, Aeris squealed in fright, then turned around. She looked at Sephiroth in surprise. "You're normal again! What happened to your wings?"
Sephiroth took her face in his hands.
"Even if I could take you and flee this world, I wouldn't. A lot of people are going to die today if you don't do something soon. That includes our baby too. Is that what you want?"
"No! No! Of course not!" Aeris shook her head. "I don't want to kill anyone!"
He shook his head. "You can do it."
Aeris hesitated, then knelt where she was. Sephiroth knelt down beside her.
Aeris eyes were frightened. "What if I fail?"
"You won't," he said. "Not if you really believe you won't. You stopped Hojo twice to save my life."
Aeris looked into his confident eyes and shook herself. "I'm going to do it."
"That's my girl."
Aeris closed her eyes. Her lips moved in silent prayer.
Sephiroth put his arm around her, glancing up at the fiery orb.
"I love you Aeris."
She heard. His faith in her abilities, strengthened her desire to succeed. Gone was the fear she'd allowed to take over. Gone was her doubt in herself.
Sephiroth moved around behind her, so he could put both arms around her waist. "I'll always love you."
Aeris felt a new lightness in her heart. A joyous feeling crept over her. She raised her face to the sky. High above, Meteor hesitated.
The baby moved.
"Did you feel that Aeris?" Sephiroth smiled as the baby moved again. "Our baby believes in you too."
Aeris opened her eyes. She pointed at the thing in the sky.
"Go away. Leave this planet in peace."
Meteor hung in place.
"Help me Planet please!" Aeris raised her hands. "Help me save your children."
Something changed. Suddenly Meteor didn't seem so loud. Sephiroth turned his head to see wispy plumes of greenish mist rising from the ground. Tendrils curled around each other in playful spirals as they rose into the sky. It came from every plant and stone. It rose from hillsides and the tops of trees. It seemed to be coming from everywhere.
"Something's happening Aeris," he whispered. "Keep praying."
Aeris bowed her head, clasping her hands at her breast.
More and more plumes of mist appeared, rising through the sky toward Meteor.
Sephiroth gave her a hug. "I think it's working Aeris!"
Aeris went on praying.
"What is it?" he asked softly.
She stopped praying for a moment.
"The Lifestream," she answered. "The Planet sent the Lifestream to help us."
She bowed her head again.
The Lifestream placed itself between Meteor and the Planet. Forming a spinning barrier, it pushed at the alien visitor. Meteor backed away. The Lifestream pushed again. Meteor backed off a little more.
"It's moving Aeris," Sephiroth whispered. "The Lifestream is pushing Meteor away."
His words encouraged her. Aeris put more effort in her prayer.
Thick pillars of mist all but blocked the sky. Sephiroth could barely see Meteor through them. The sound of Meteor was fading even more. The sky went from red to pink.
"You're doing it sweetheart!" Sephiroth hugged her again. "You're sending it away."
The wind became a sluggish breeze. The pinkish haze was almost gone. Then everything was blocked by the drifting mist.
Sephiroth couldn't make out anything. The mist smothered every sound. Aeris raised her head.
"Meteor is gone."
Sephiroth looked up, wondering. "Are you sure?"
"I'm sure." Aeris leaned against him tiredly. "Meteor went back into space. It will never come here again. The weapons are gone now too."
She wiped her forehead tiredly.
"I should never have called Meteor in the first place. I'm so ashamed."
Sephiroth helped her to her feet. He took her face in his hands.
"You made a mistake," he said. "When you learn to use your powers better, there will be less chances of causing events that get out of control."
Aeris hugged him. "And to think I didn't want to marry you at first."
Sephiroth looked amused. "But you think I'm irresistible now, right?"
Aeris raised an eyebrow. "Yes, and extremely modest."
He laughed and hugged her.
A sudden gust of wind, blew the mist away. It spiraled away to non existence.
Aeris looked up at the sky. "See? It's over."
Sephiroth helped her stand. "I guess that means, we've only got two problems left to deal with."
"Why did you run away without talking to me about the journal you found?"
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