THE CRAVE GAMING CHANNEL
V'lanna
 

Final Fantasy: Birth of the Terrors
The Sequel to Final Fantasy: Legacy Of The Cetra

By Brian Maday
sabin_marcus777@yahoo.com

*Special thanks to the writers, composers, and designers at SQUARE for inspiring this composition.




Jenova GENESIS fell back under the rain of arrows from Edgarās Auto-crossbow. She was weakening, that was clear. In retaliation for the attack, Jenova GENESIS fired a stream of red energy at one of Figaro Castleās towers, blasting its top and engulfing it in flames.

Sabin flexed his arms as an orange swirl of energy circled his body. "Bum Rush!" he shouted as he literally ran circles around Jenova GENESIS, pounding into her countless times before rejoining the rest of the defenders.

Cyan stood still for a moment, eyeing Jenova GENESIS. Finally, after several endless seconds of preparation, Cyan launched into a four-part attack against the beast, beating her down with his Sky Render.

Terraās eyes met Jenova GENESISās. Tiring of this battle, Terra called "Ultima!" Jenova GENESIS was caught in an expanding bubble of destructive energies that tore through her very being. Jenova GENESISās form collapsed in a flash of red light as she disappeared from the scene.

Edgar sighed from exhaustion. "Someone put those fires out!" he cried, finally noticing the blaze Jenova had left now that the battle was over. Edgar turned to Sabin. "You said it was getting boring with Kefka gone. Satisfied?"

The martial arts master was still panting from the Bum Rush, but he managed to nod in response. A moment later, he added, "I didnāt expect to fight this Jenova thing once a week, though!"

Terra decide to join the conversation. "Makes you wish Cloud and his friends were still here. Theyād know how to handle this problem." It had been six months since, by means of a freak accident, Cloud Strife and a number of his companions had been transported ten thousand years into their past, meeting up with these, the nobility of Kingdom Figaro.

"Edgar, my liege," Cyan started, finally catching his own breath, "we cannot keep this up. Our top troops are almost as fatigued as we are. We canāt keep battling Jenova on such a regular basis!"

Edgar seemed to ponder this for a moment. "Youāre right, Cyan, we canāt. Terra, is there any word from the Espers? Are they going to help us clean up this mess and get rid of Jenova?"

Terra sighed and lowered her head, trying to hide the look of disappointment on her face. "The diplomats we sent havenāt returned yet." She lifted her face to look at Edgar, and the worry in her eyes was quite apparent. "Sir, theyāre four weeks overdue! Something must have gone wrong!"

"We should check it out," Sabin said. "If nothing else, that way weāll know whatās going on with the Espers."

Cyan shook his head. "What if Jenova comes back while weāre away? Sheās been known to strike as often as twice in one day! We canāt leave the castle undefended!"

Locke came racing to the gate from the castle keep. "Edgar, weāve got to get reinforcements from the Espers. At this rate, weāre going to lose all of our standing troops in a matter of weeks!"

Edgar nodded. "Thatās the topic of our discussion right now, and I think Sabinās right; we do need to check out the situation for ourselves. Locke, pack your things, youāre coming with Sabin and I to the Sealed Gate. Tell Setzer to have the Falcon ready to go within the hour."

"Right!" Locke agreed with an enthusiastic nod.

"Edgar!" Cyan exclaimed in dismay. "You cannot simply leave! What if Jenova happens to intercept you en route? Youāll be left defenseless! And what if she strikes here while youāre gone? Youāre taking some of our best troops!"

Edgar shook his head and waved a scolding index finger at Cyan. "Please, General Garramonde, I can take care of myself! As for Jenova attacking here in my absence, Iām putting you in charge of the garrison here."

"But, sir..." Cyan began.

Edgar wave his finger again. "No buts, weāre going. Besides, with the Falcon, this should be a short trip."

Cyan sighed in defeat. "As you wish, Your Majesty."

"Glad you see it my way," Edgar said with a smile. "Weāll be back soon enough."

The scene inside the Sealed Gate was one of horror. Espers littered the landscape, all decaying corpses with occasional putrefied human body dotting the fields of death. Many had almost completely decomposed, and all bore battle scars.

"No!" Terra cried, surveying the massacre. She ran over to one of the cadavers and wailed as she identified it. "Bahamut! Who couldāve killed Bahamut?" The others began to identify the rest of the remains.

"Alexander," Edgar said with a note of dismay. "He was one of their best warriors."

"Raiden!" Setzer exclaimed in shock. "They got Raiden!"

Locke made an odd sound of disgust and walked over to Terra, subtly guiding her away from the corpse he just examined. "I think we should leave."

Terraās frightened and broken eyes met Lockeās. "Why? What did you find?" Terra broke free from Lockeās grasp and sprinted over to inspect what Locked had seen. Her shriek of sorrow echoed throughout the dismal landscape.

"Maduin," Locke answered in a whisper. "Listen, Terra, letās get out of here. Thereās nothing left to do here. Theyāre all dead."

Terra spun around, her eyes blazing with fury. "Who did this?" she demanded, her bloodlust left unhidden.

"Terra," Edgar started, his tone a comforting one, "if I tell you, promise you wonāt go on some suicidal quest for vengeance."

Terra stared threateningly into Edgarās eyes. "I make no such promise!"

Actually fearing what Terra may do to him out of sorrow, Edgar said, "It looks like Jenova did this. The scaring is similar to whatās been found on some of our troops that engaged Jenova."

There was a brilliant flash of light as Terra took on the form of an Esper. "Donāt wait for me. Go back to Figaro and prepare your defenses. Iām going after Jenova."

"Wait! Terra, wait!" Locke called to Terra, stopping her just before she made it out of the Gate. "You canāt kill Jenova on your own! I donāt think the thirteen of us could kill Jenova! You canāt do this!" Locke argued, throwing his arm over Terraās shoulder in an arresting manner.

Terra swung her arm, sending Locke flying a few feet. "I must try! She canāt be allowed to get away with this!"

"Terra, stand down at once!" Edgar ordered harshly, overcoming his fear. "I will not allow you to commit suicide over a matter of vengeance."

Terraās eyes darted between the people present. "Frankly, Your Highness, I donāt see how you could stop me!" With those parting words, Terra flew through the gate, disappearing over the horizon within seconds.

"Should I get the Falcon ready for a pursuit, sir?" Setzer asked the king as Terraās shape blinked out into the skyline.

Edgar shook a distraught head. "No, Setzer. Weād never catch up to her. Sheāll come back when sheās done, Iām sure. For now, letās head back to Figaro Castle. We need to discuss our defense strategies with the parliament."

"The Espers have been eradicated!" Cyan echoed excitedly, though it was an unpleasant excitement. Cyan sat back in his seat at the conference table and pondered possible strategies. "This cannot be. Even if we were to conscript every able-bodied person in Figaro over the age of 14, we wouldnāt pull enough troops to hold Jenova at bay for long. Your Highness, I suggest we evacuate every major city, town, and military position immediately. If we act quickly, we can spare our troops at those locations from Jenovaās attacks. If we can form a large enough army at a secondary location, perhaps Thamasa, we can make a last stand against her. Hopefully, with enough troops, we can destroy that vile witch!"

Locke shook his head in disagreement. "If Jenova didnāt time her attacks exactly to our schedule, weād loose thousands of troops in the transfer processes. Besides, even if we get every citizen of Figaro jammed into Thamasa, how much of the rest of the kingdom, materially speaking, would be razed before Jenova decided to attack Thamasa?"

"We shouldnāt forget the fact that we have no way of knowing whether of not Jenova is destroyed," Sabin added. "She appears to die after every battle, but she always returns, sometimes within mere hours!"

Strago Magus leaned back in his chair. "I think I know something that might be useful," the blue mage started, "but itās risky. Really risky."

Edgarās gaze met Stragoās wily, smug eyes. "Your age-old insights are always welcome, Strago."

The old man cleared this throat. "We know for a fact that, using only our man-power, we will fall to Jenova."

"Yes," Cyan prodded.

"So what if we were to create defenses that didnāt risk our man-power?"

"You mean automated defense systems?" Edgar asked.

Strago nodded. "It gives us time to think of a way out of this mess, and it just might finish off Jenova for us!"

This time, Celes shook her head. "If we canāt kill Jenova using magic, what makes us think that pure physical abuse will even harm it?"

Relm piped in. "We havenāt be able to kill it with magic, either, have we? What makes us think that this wonāt be able to kill it outright?"

Strago shook his head. "No, no, no! I donāt mean some machine. Something living, and with more magical power than even Kefka wielded."

"Now youāre exaggerating!" Cyan chided.

"Perhaps so, but Iām certain that it would be able to handle Jenova."

"Well, what is it? Get to the point!" Edgar said, accidentally shouting in his impatience.

"Legend speaks of five mystical gems that imprison the minds of five people that took it upon themselves to combat anything that stands to harm the planet. The legend says that they were trapped by an evil wizard bent on destroying the world, and that if their mind gems were exposed to enough sheer magical energy, the warriors would be reborn massively more powerful than they once were. I know where the gems are."

Edgar laughed. "All we have to do is grab these gems and *poof*, instant defenders? I like the sound of that. Whatās the Īreally riskyā part?"

Strago sighed. "Well, thereās more than one. First, each of the gems is hidden away and well guarded against those who might misuse their power."

"Go on," Sabin encouraged Strago after the mage had been silent for a moment.

"Second, these warriors were fanatically loyal to the planet and particularly brutal to those whom they thought even posed a minute threat. If they see Figaro as a threat after theyāve been reborn, they could be more trouble than Jenova!"

"We donāt have a choice!" Locke exclaimed. "Without these Īwarriors,ā weāll never be able to finish off Jenova. I say we go for it!"

"Absolutely," Edgar agreed. Scanning the room, Edgar picked out the search party. "Sabin, you coming with me. Strago, you too. Youāre the only one who knows where the gems are. General Chere, your magical skills will no doubt be invaluable to this mission. Setzer, you, Locke, Gogo and Relm will stay aboard the Falcon and provide air assistance if needed. General Garramonde, I know Iām not leaving you with much, but I trust you will coordinate our defenses and protect Figaro with the same valor you displayed at Doma. You all have your assignments, letās make this short."

"So where did you say we could find these magical gems of yours?" Setzer asked from the helm of the Falcon.

"Well," Strago started, pausing briefly before continuing, "there are two possibilities. One, all of the gems are in the same location, in which case it would be easy to have our defenders up in no time. The other possibility is that theyāre scattered around the world. I hate to admit it, but I only know of the one location."

"Just great," Setzer said, annoyed with this revelation. "Well, where is the one location youāre certain of?"

"Buried on the Veldt is a diamond of incredible power. We should look for the gems there, if only to find one of them."

"You want us to search the entire Veldt! Not only that, but to dig up the entire thing! That could take months!"

Edgar appeared from the ladder to the passenger cabin. "We donāt have months! Strago, surely you can be more specific than that!"

"It may be in the cave on the Veldt, but I thought weād thoroughly searched it already."

"We have to try it!" Edgar said. "We need to have our warriors ready to save us within a matter of weeks if we are going to beat Jenova."

"Right, Your Highness. Iāll set her down just outside the cave," Setzer reported.

Edgar and Strago descended the ladder and met up with Sabin and Celes. Locke was also standing by the departure door.

"Be careful," Locke told Celes.

"I will," the former Magitek Knight responded. "Make sure the skies are clear when we get back."

"Will do," the treasure hunter said with a smile.

"Cāmon," Edgar prompted his team. "Weāve got to find those gems."

The party stepped down onto the fertile Veldt soil and marched into the cave. The humidity was almost unbearable as it caused everything to be damp and slippery to the touch. What few life forms still inhabited the cave actually kept their distance from the adventures, favoring peace over death at the hands of the battle-hardened warriors. The terrain inside the cave was a treacherous as ever, forcing the party to carefully take each step and delay even longer their discovery of the precious diamond.

"This is taking forever," Strago complained, searching the umpteenth crevice heād inspected that day. "Itās not in here."

Sabin flexed his arms and pounded into a rock rapidly and with uncanny vigor, using his Pommel blitz to grind the stone into a fine dust. "Itās here, I think. It wouldnāt take so long if the rest of you could speed things up a bit, though."

Suddenly, Celes fell to her knees, releasing a tiny cry of discomfort. "I... I... I feel... something. Itās in great pain. Itās suffering, and it screams of hearing the planetās own cries of pain."

"That sounds like the diamond weāre after," Strago commented.

"Celes?" Edgar started. "Celes, can you tell us where it is?"

The general stood up. "I think so. Follow me." Celes led them to the main chamber of the Veldt cave, and even deeper through a hidden crevice in the wall. After several minutes of following the narrow passage, the party came across a large empty chamber. Empty, that is, except for a large treasure chest that occupied the dead center of the room.

"The Diamond!" Strago gasped before even seeing the contents of the chest. Hurriedly, the blue mage ran over the chest and threw open the lid.

"Wait, no!" Celes managed to squeeze out, but microseconds too late. The room filled with a light gray mist as an eerie presence began to occupy everyoneās consciousness. A threatening form took shape. It had a humanoid body, but its skin was white and as tough as steel. In one hand it wielded a great sword, while the other held a shield bearing a crest that depicted the planet.

"Who dares to disturb my rest?" its angry voice demanded. "Dare you to assail this planet in such a manner? Draw steel, heathen!"

"Wait!" Celes pleaded. "We mean you no harm! We wish to revive you in a more powerful form so that you may once again defend the planet!"

The phantom was taken aback by this statement. "Finally, the hour of my rebirth is upon me! However, I cannot allow you to take my power without an adequate demonstration of your own ability. En Garde!"

Wasting no time in beginning the battle, Sabin quickly executed a Bum Rush on the Diamond Phantom.

Edgar grabbed his Chain saw from his cloak and revved it up. Leaping at the Diamond Phantom, Edgar landed several solid blows before returning to his former position.

Wielding the might of the Gem Box, Celes said a few words under her breath before unleashing a pair of Ultima blasts in the Diamond Phantomās vicinity. The undead was shaken by the twin-pronged attack, but remained in place.

Strago stood for a moment, saying a slew of magic words under his breath. Having said the Lore for Lv. ? Pearl, the blue mage was fortunate enough to hit the Diamond Phantom, phasing the specter for a few seconds.

Having tired of being slammed about, the Diamond Phantom raised his shield before himself, pelting the party with energy darts. Though the attack hit all four of them, it did surprisingly little to stop them.

Never tiring while actually in combat, Sabin vigorously performed another Bum Rush on the Diamond Phantom. The deadly image sparked a few times and slowly lost its corporeality.

Its voice filled the room. "Well met, heroes. Take my Mind Gem, the Diamond, and see to it that I rise again in defense of this planet. Go now, to South Figaro. One of my fellow warriors awaits you there."

Edgar lifted the Diamond, which was surprisingly light weight, and stowed it in his bag. "Good work, team. Letās get back to the Falcon."

South Figaro was as serene as it ever was when the Falcon flew over it. Actually, it was more peaceful with Kefka out of the way. The town was a bustle, despite the hour, which was growing later faster than one might have expected. Setzer landed the airship a few yards outside of town.

"Hmm..." Edgar wondered aloud. "Celes, Strago, stay aboard the Falcon. Gogo, Locke, your with me."

"But, Edgar!" Celes protested. "I am quite capable of continuing."

Edgar shook his head. "Better not to risk it."

Celes eyed the King disrespectfully. "Why is Sabin still in your party, then?"

Edgar looked at his muscle-bound brother, and then back at Celes. With a laugh, he said, "I care about you two a lot more than I do this muscle-bound bozo!" Sabin barely refrained from braining Edgar for the remark and managed to take the joke in stride.

Celes opened her mouth to argue, but realized that Edgar had made up his mind. She knew that when Edgar Roni Figaro made up his mind, nothing was going to change it. "All right, then. Weāll be waiting here. Donāt take too long."

The new formation debarked from the Falcon, heading directly into the South Figaro cafe. The party sat at the only unoccupied table for four.

"Do we have any idea where to find the next Gem?" Locke asked as the heroes took their seats.

"We know itās in South Figaro," Sabin offered.

"No," Edgar corrected, "we know itās in or around South Figaro. We donāt even know what kind of gem to look for."

A man in cheap, dirty garments and an eye patch walked over to the table. "Did you say yer lookinā fer a gem?"

Edgar eyed the man suspiciously. "We are, but weāre not treasure hunters." Edgar waved an admonishing hand at Locke before the adventurer could correct him. "Have you noticed an insanely powerful monster roaming these parts?"

The filthy man nodded. "Oh yeah! Īhanks tā it, mā crewās gone. Iām a treasure hunter witā no mates to hunt treasure witā!" The stranger pulled up a chair from a neighboring table and sat on it with its back to the heroesā table. "Ifāins yous aināt treasure hunters, whatcha want witā a gem?"

"We hope to implement the gem as a catalyst in an elaborate and risky plot to exterminate the beast," Gogo said mildly.

"Say whaā?" the man asked, confused greatly by Gogoās higher vocabulary. "Yous wanna kill thaā thar monsāer usinā thaā gem. I like it. Whatcha fellas need?"

Sabin laughed grimly at the answer. "We need to know where it is."

"ās Īat all? Aww, chucks! I know where yous kinā find a gem, aā Emerald. A big Īun, too! Kinda hard tā git to, though."

Doubting very much that this would lead anywhere, Edgar asked anyway. "Where?"

"Itās under thā water! I got an olā underwater boat we kin use, ifāins youāll take me."

"You have a submarine?" Locke questioned. He thought the last one had been destroyed when Kefka brought about the World of Ruin.

"Ifāins Īatās whatcha call it! I got no crew, though..."

"We can do it!" Sabin offered enthusiastically.

"Okay! Come tā thā harbor at..." the gruff man checked the clock on the wall, "...in two hours. Mā boatāll be ready then." The treasure hunter extended his hand to Edgar, who paused briefly before taking it and shaking it once briskly.

"Weāll be there," the king said.

Cyan held his hand level over his eyes, blocking out the sun so he could watch the horizon. It had been disturbingly quite as of late. The chatter of wildlife and the buzz of insects had stopped, as it would before impending doom would strike them. It had been that silent for almost and hour. "Watchman, report," he shouted to the far tower of Figaro Castle.

"All quiet over here, General. You sure sheās coming?"

"Sheāll be here," Cyan said too quietly to be heard. He shouted again to the watchman, "Keep your eyes open. I can sense trouble coming."

"Okay, sir, but..." the young man never had the chance to finish that sentence. A ray of red energy blasted the tower he stood atop, vaporizing the guard and setting the turret ablaze.

"Jenova," Cyan whispered. Shimmying down the side of tower (itās quicker that way), Cyan called, "Sir Mog, Sir Gau, Sir Umaro, quickly! To the Main Gate!" Standing at the gate was Jenova GENESIS, again taking her original form and assailing Figaro Castle. She stared down at Cyan, readying to face the General for the hundredth time. "You cannot be allowed victory here, witch!" Cyan spat defiantly at the monster as Mog, Gau, and Umaro took up positions next to Cyan.

"Mister Thou, what that?" Gau asked, indicating Jenova.

"Your enemy," Cyan responded. Cyan stood, unmoving, for a minute before unleashing a Quadra Slice on Jenova GENESIS.

"That ĪYour enemy?ā Funny name," Gau said with a childās innocence. Gau engaged his MagiTek Rage, firing a Tek Laser at Jenova GENESIS.

As always, the thick skulled, small brained Umaro attacked his opponent with a vicious swipe. Jenova GENESIS recoiled from the blow.

Mog stared a Jenova GENESIS for minute before deciding on his opening move. Doing what he does best, Mog started dancing the Love Sonata. A blast of Elf Fire hit Jenova GENESIS, causing to beast to step back for a split second.

Jenova GENESIS eyed the defenders with a hint of bloodlust in her eyes. Raising a scythed arm, Jenova GENESIS struck Mog squarely in the head. The Moogle stepped about dizzily for a moment and fell to the ground.

"Guards! Attack Jenova and get some medics out here!" Cyan ordered. Deciding it best to ensure his health, Cyan cast Life on Mog. The Moogle sprang to life, blessed with renewed stamina. A rain of arrows pierced Jenova GENESIS on all sides as all of the garrisonās archers fired their longbows at her. A squad of armored knights charged out the front gate and took positions around Cyanās party.

Continuing his Rage, Gau fired a stream of Tek Missiles at Jenova GENESIS, blasting the monster a number of times with small rockets.

Again, Umaro slammed into Jenova GENESIS with all of his sasquatch might.

Mog, deciding it best not to dance again (for such an unappreciative audience, anyway) cast Drain on Jenova GENESIS, recovering a fraction of the energy he lost from Jenova GENESISās attack.

The squad of knights surrounded Jenova GENESIS, striking her on all sides, trying desperately to bring her down. Her response was an unwelcome one as she slashed again with one of her scythes, cutting down four of the knights.

Cyan readied his Sky Render in his hands as he aimed the blade at the heart of Jenova GENESIS. The knight Dispatched Jenova GENESIS with all of his strength, piercing Jenova GENESISās black heart with his sword. The monster glowed a bright red as she lost her physical form once more. "Victory is ours," Cyan panted. "Guards! Begin repairing the Castle at once!"

"Impressive," Edgar said as he looked the sub over a couple of times. "Kind of small, though."

"Heh heh heh," the treasure hunter laughed. "Mine... Ītwas a small crew. Sheās big Īnough fer the five oā us."

"Iām curious," Edgar started, "how can we breath underwater with this thing?"

The sailor laughed heartily. "Magic!"

"How far is it to the Emerald?" Sabin inquired, ignoring the unexpected answer to Edgarās inquiry.

The sailor let out another belly laugh. "My, aināt we impatient. Not far, lad. Climb in, anā Iāll take yaā tā it!" The five of them climbed into the little submarine and the craft sank beneath the waves. There was only one window through which to view the surrounding ocean, and it was big enough only for the person piloting the craft, which of course the sailor himself was taking care of.

Sabin eyed the interior of the sub in search of another work station of some sort. Finding none, he asked, "What do you need a crew for?"

The sailor laughed again. "Fer when we find guarded treasure, of course! I can noā fight a big beastie by mā self. Git ready, lads, weāre cominā up on thā cave witā thā Emerald." Edgar managed to squeeze in next to the sailor and gaze out into the ocean before him. There was a tiny cave with a sheer wall before it.

"I take it weāll be resurfacing," Edgar said upon observing the grotto.

"Yer a quick one, aināt yaā?" the sailor said sardonically. "Oā course weāre surfacinā!" The treasure hunter maneuvered the tiny sub into the cavity and surfaced it. Departing from the floating tin can, the heroes came upon a chamber not dissimilar to the one they found in the Veldt Cave, complete with a large chest occupying the very center.

"Stay on your toes," Edgar warned. "This chest is probably trapped with an alarm of some sort. Be very careful." As it turned out, Edgar was the one who finally opened the lid just a tiny crack.

"So youāve come seeking the power of the Mind Emerald," the sailor said in a voice that didnāt match the one he used earlier. The heroes spun to face him. No longer was he a poorly dressed sailor and adventurer, but a noble looking knight clad in green armor that almost glowed in the odd light of the Mind Emerald. He brandished a long emerald blade, and wore a shield like the one worn by the Diamond Phantom.

"I take it you are the restless soul of the warrior that resides in the Mind Emerald," Edgar guessed.

"My, you have a talent for stating the obvious!" the Emerald Phantom retorted, readying his verdant brand. "Ready yourself, Your Highness. My friend, the Diamond, is nothing compared to myself!" With that threat, the Emerald Phantom struck at the king with his emerald long sword, but Edgar deftly avoided the stroke.

"Your overhand strike needs work," Edgar rebuked, revving up his chain saw and slashing it into the Emerald Phantom. The ancient warrior didnāt even flinch under the rotary blade.

Sabin flexed his arms, summoning a circle of orange energy about him. After the preparation, the martial artist let loose his Bum Rush attack, pounding the Emerald Phantom dozens of times before stopping.

Locke, always on the look out for new loot, Captured from the Emerald Phantom. Although he landed a solid blow, he managed to steal nothing.

Gogo, never one to be original, copied Sabinās attack.

The Emerald Phantom drew back from the assault, but readied his blade once again. "Impressive, but entirely insufficient," the ghost mocked as he landed a slash on Lockeās shoulder. The thief fell to the ground with a cry of agony.

Edgar decided it best to go full force on the ghoul. "Ultima!" he cried as he set off the most powerful magical attack he could. The Emerald Phantom shriek in pain as it was caught in the dome of destructive magic.

As Locke stood again, Sabin decided to do what he could to heal him. Sabin executed his Mantra blitz to revitalize not only the thief but the entire party.

Locke also thought some defense would be a good idea and cast Wall on the band.

Gogo, on the other hand, felt a powerful offensive was in order. Gogo re-executed Sabinās Bum Rush, pounding the Emerald Phantom into tiny bits of undead kibble. The ghost tried to counter the attack, but failed as his solidity became much less a reality and much more a memory.

The voice of the Emerald Phantom filled the room. "Well met, heroes. Take my Mind Gem, the Emerald, and see to it that I rise again in defense of this planet. Go now, to the Coliseum. One of my fellow warriors awaits you there." After saying his parting words, the Emerald Phantom.

Locke stepped into the Coliseum alone. Inhaling the smoke-laden air and remembering the somewhat unfriendly atmosphere of greed, Locke wondered why he hadnāt let Sabin volunteer. Locke was also sadly familiar with the one-on-one battle style of the Coliseum. Stepping up to the registration counter, Locke said, "Iām looking for a large gem. Do you know where I can get one around here?"

"Iāve got one here! A beauty of a Ruby. Itās a prize, of course, and worth more than Iām willing to bet youāve got. Itās even being held by some new fighter here, a real toughie!"

"Iām willing to wager an Air Anchor."

"Ha! Youāll have to do better than that!"

"An Offering, then."

The man behind the counter chortled at the offerās inadequacy. "Youāll need better still."

Locke gave the man a cross look and sighed in defeat. "All right, fine. Iāll wager my Economizer."

The man shook his head. "This gemās worth far more than that, my friend!"

Locke stared angrily at the man, and then turned to leave, defeated. The sun glinted off of the Falconās metallic upper hull, and Locke got an idea. Turning back to the counter, he asked, "You said this new fighter of yours is tough, right?"

"Tougher than even Chupon, or the mighty Guardian!"

"Okay, so youād say to battle him would be futile, right?"

"It would practically be suicide!"

"Iāve got an offer, then. If I lose, you can take that airship outside. Itās the only one left in the world."

The man looked past Locke and marveled at the Falcon. Turning back to Locke, the man suspiciously asked, "What if you win?"

Lockeās face was all business. "If I win, I get to keep the airship and take the Ruby."

The man behind the counter considered this for a moment. "Deal! Iāll even fly you home after you lose, just to show you that Iām a nice guy!"

Locke was quickly ushered into the battle arena. On the other side was a man wearing bright red armor that blazed with glory. His sword was the color of the sun, and glowed with nearly equal intensity. Squinting, Locke said, "You must be the Ruby Phantom."

"Who else would guard my Mind Ruby?" the fiery gladiator replied.

"Just go easy on me, okay?" Locke said, just short of begging.

"Weāll see. I let you go first, just to be a good sport."

"Your mistake," Locke said nonchalantly as he spoke the magic words of Quick.

"Was it?" The Ruby Phantom thrust his blade into the ground, forming a pair of energy tendrils behind Locke. "I take it we can get on to the actual fighting, now?"

"If you insist," Locke responded coolly. Locke, with lightning speed, said the words of Vanish, forcing the Ruby Phantom to exchange his magical defense for invisibility. Before the Ruby Phantom couldāve hoped to retaliate, Locke also cast Doom. With his magical defense no longer in place, the Ruby Phantom fell victim to instant defeat.

The energy tendrils disappeared as the Ruby Phantomās fading voice said, "Well met, hero. Take my Mind Gem, the Ruby, and see to it that I rise again in defense of this planet. Go now, to Zozo. One of my fellow warriors awaits you there."

"Youāll back in one piece in no time," Locke assured the beaten ghost.

"Zozo!" Edgar gasped as Locke reported the location of the fourth stone.

"Thatās what the Ruby Phantom said."

"Thatās all fine and good," Setzer interrupted, "but you wagered the Falcon?!"

"Zozo, eh?" Edgar said, already formulating his plans for retrieving the fourth stone. "Locke, youāve seen enough action. Take a break."

Locke seemed a bit disappointed, but didnāt argue. "Yes, sir."

"Setzer, youāre coming with me. I always thought Zozo was kind of your sort of town, anyway."

"Iāve been itching to roll the dice again, sir," Setzer responded happily.

Edgar turned to Relm. "Youāre still just a kid..." Edgar thought aloud, sounding uncertain about taking the minor.

"I broke into Kefkaās Tower, didnāt I?" the girl argued.

"Hmm..." he pondered nosily.

Strago spoke up. "Iāll keep an eye on her, Edgar. We can make quite a team, Relm and I."

Edgar looked at Strago with uncertainty. "Youāre sure?"

Strago looked at Relm and winked, and then looked back at Edgar. "Absolutely. She wonāt get in the way. I swear it."

Edgar still didnāt appear to like the idea, and looked down at Relm. "All right. She can come," Edgar looked back at Strago, "but she better not get in the way!"

Relm hugged Edgarās leg. "I wonāt be a problem, Your Highness!"

Edgar rolled his eyes and looked at Strago doubtfully as the rest of the heroes on the deck laughed.

It was still raining in Zozo. The streets were still covered in a thin layer of muck and the inhabitants were as shady looking as ever. No one even knew where to start.

"Anyone have any idea where to look?" Edgar asked the party following him.

"We could ask directions at the Inn, I suppose," Strago offered.

"Or we could hand the innkeeper our coin purses at sword-point," Setzer said, pointing out Zozoās extraordinary crime rate.

"Itās our best shot, still," Edgar argued. "Letās go."

"Hold it right there!" a rough voice barked from the shadows. A man in prison garb walked to the party with a knife in hand.

Edgar drew his Auto-crossbow. "I donāt want trouble," the king said.

The thief, undaunted, slashed the weapon out of Edgarās hands and swiftly held the blade to the kingās throat. "Give me your cash or I kill the king!"

"Thatās not nice!" Relm said with a childās natural defiance.

Strago, reaching for his gold pouch, said, "Now is not the time, Relm."

"Iām gonna do it, Grandpa!" the little girl said, producing a pad and paintbrush from her dress.

"You gonna scare me with a nasty picture, little lady?" the thief gibed.

"Oooo! Now youāre gonna get it!" Relm said, maddening by the minute. Sketching faster than ever before, Relm produced a very life-like semblance of the robber. The portrait magically leapt from the page and pointed a knife at the real crook.

"Give me your cash or your done for!" the active artwork demanded of the thief.

The thiefās blade slipped away from Edgarās throat and was directed at the drawing. "What the...?"

Edgar took the opportunity to slip away and pick up his firearm. "Letās leave these two alone," he suggested. The rest of the party nodded and they left the two to brawl on the street.

The inn was filled with unsavory looking characters, but the innkeeper seemed honest enough. "What can I do for you nice folks?"

Edgar stepped up to the front desk. "Iām looking for a very valuable stone. One that possesses mystical powers. Do you know where I can find it?"

"Funny you should mention that. Thereās this really old guy upstairs. I say heās lost it, but he insists that this weird rock he carries around is telling him what to do. Heās a strange one, he is, but he may be able to help you find this Īvaluable stoneā of yours."

"Thank you much," Edgar said. The party left up the stairway and into the first open room. Sitting on the bed was a man wearing armor the color of ebony, with a sword made of jet to match it. His skin, what showed of it, was terribly wrinkled. His hair was pure white, and itās length was such that it touched the floor and then some. His beard was as white and long as his hair, and his eyes were vacant, empty looking. Under his right hand, he clutched a large chunk of Onyx. He turned his head to the heroes, and suddenly his eyes sparkled with life.

"Youāve come," his ancient voice rasped. "For thousands of years, Iāve lived and guarded this Onyx, which holds within itself the very essence of its being. If youāve found me, you must have the other three."

"Yes," Edgar said. "We know your story, old man, but we know of five gems, not four."

The old man wheezed a chuckle. "There are five Mind Gems, yes. The fifth stone, though, was given to the Esper Ragnarok, whom I believe ingested it, making it part of himself. Heās dead, if my senses havenāt failed me. It cannot be reclaimed unless his life force were to be restored."

"Or his Mako energy located," Edgar said distantly, remembering well the outrageous but apparently true story Red XIII had told six months ago. "We want to give you a new body, old man. Youāve lived in this one long enough. Letās get you back in fighting shape."

The aged lips smiled. "Yes. Slay me now, noble king. Take my Onyx to the mountain north of the house that belongs to the one named Duncan. There lays a node of magical energies. Place the four Mind Gems in the magic, and we will be reborn onto the world. The time of our ascension has come."

Edgar drew the Atma Weapon. "Iāve never simply killed a man before," the king said. "I canāt bring myself to slay that which cannot defend itself."

The old man stood, raising his jet sword. "Then you must face me in mortal combat!" The aged knight sloppily swung his carbon brand at the king, who parried, shattering the black blade. As part of one fluid motion, the king spun around, backhanding the knight with the edge of the Atma Weapon. The blade passed cleanly through the antique armor and the age-old warrior. The body disappeared before it could hit the floor, and the voice of the recently deceased filled the room. "Go, now, heroes. Give new life to the defenders of this planet!"

Mako energy spouted from a beautiful fountain of the glowing life-energy. The party, all eight of them, stood inside a hidden cave north of Duncanās House. The sight was magnificent and awe-inspiring.

"Such splendor," Celes said with slightly whimsical voice. "Beauty and power all flowing in the same place. Some of the Espers are even here now, I think. Those that have already returned to Red XIIIās so-called ĪLifestream.ā But I also feel such sorrow. It is as though the planet itself is crying. Fear... pain... pity."

"Letās do it," Sabin said, looking at Edgar. "Weāve come this far, letās finish the job!"

"Right!" Edgar agreed heartily. The king carefully placed each stone into the geyser of Mako energy. Each stone was held in place by the raw energy as it began to encircle the gems, taking large humanoid forms. A fifth form also began to appear, behind the others...

"Ragnarok!" Celes gasped. "You said Ragnarok held the fifth stone, right?"

"Yes," Setzer said, still staring intently at the display before them. Their child-like wonderment was interrupted by a terrible cry of pain from outside the cave, followed by a shriek of anger nearby. The shape of Jenova GENESIS suddenly filled the mouth of the cave, carried by what appeared to be an Esper.

"Terra!" Locke gasped in shock. Terra didnāt respond. She held Jenova GENESIS in a death grip, forcing magical energy into the beast in a vain attempt to kill it. As for Jenova herself, she flailed her limbs at Terra, trying desperately to break free. Terra, frantically searching for a way to slay Jenova, flung her into the Mako fountain. The beast was atomized, but her evil energies were infused into the Mako.

"No!" Celes cried as Terra returned to her human form. There was a terrible screeching sound, audible to anyone within a mile, as the Mako began to change colors. "Get out of here!" There was no need to say it; the party made a mad dash for the Falcon as the noise grew ever louder.

The airship took off as Mako energy surged out of the mountain itself. There was a great blast of Mako energy as the mountain, once a mighty mound of rock, was blasted into a deep crater. The Falcon vibrated violently as the shock wave passed. Five large, somewhat humanoid monsters stood in the pit. One was without significant coloration, one was a deep red, another a lush green, yet another with a glossy white skin, and the fifth a dark purple shade. Each roared and turned their attention to the Falcon.

"What are those?" Setzer asked worriedly as he began to fly away from the monsters.

Strago hung and shook his head. "Perhaps once theyād have been willing defenders of the Figaro, but defiled by Jenova, they are simple monsters."

"Maybe the Jenova energy didnāt affect them," Sabin hoped aloud. "Maybe they can still defend Figaro." This was seen to be but a mere fantasy as the white one opened fire with a salvo of energy projectiles aimed at the Falcon. Setzer managed to evade the attack, but they persisted.

An unearthly, shrill voice shrieked from the North Crater. "You jab your picks into my skin and rob me of my flesh. You drain me of my very being and replace it with your worthless wastes. For this, I must be avenged. Feel the wrath of my Weapons!" Though it was terribly unlikely, everyone knew it to be the Planetās voice. Already, the Weapons began to march, the Diamond Weapon crushing Duncanās House under foot like a tiny house of cards. The Ultima Weapon took to the skies and began to fly directly at the Falcon.

"Setzer, get us out of here!" Edgar panicked as the mighty beast headed towards the airship.

"What do you think Iām doing?" Setzer asked in a nervous outburst. "That thingās faster than it looks."

"Get us back to Figaro," Sabin ordered. "We need to gather our wits and prepare our defenses. Having said that Sabin fired an Aura Bolt at Ultima Weapon to dissuade it from further pursuit. Edgar joined in with his Auto-crossbow, pelting the monster with comparatively minuscule arrows. The Weapon shrugged off the minor injuries and continued after the Falcon.

"Setzer," Edgar shouted over the din of a roaring pentad of monsters, "if you know a way to speed us up, now is the time to do it!"

"Hang on!" Setzer shouted, diving low to the ground. He never could understand why, but flying always seemed a lot faster the closer one is to the ground. Ultima Weapon peeled off of its attack vector, but the Emerald Weapon was already marching after the airship. "Grab something tight, this is going to get bumpy!" the gambler warned as he began a series of sharp turns as evasive maneuvers. Throwing a switch next to the helm, Setzer sent the Falcon speeding many times faster than normal cruise speeds. "This oughta shake them!"

Within seconds, all the heroes could see of the Weapons were five colored dots on the horizon, snuffing out lives at every step.

"We have a serious problem," Edgar stated grimly. "Our only hope against Jenova has turned out to be an even bigger threat. In the short time since our return, casualty reports from Narshe and Thamasa indicate total losses, and our forces in South Figaro have engaged Jenova. While South Figaro should be able to repel Jenovaās assault, the garrison will not be able to stop any of the five Weapons, should they attack. I can only hope that, in spite of these dire circumstances, we can find a way to pull humanity through. I now open the floor for any suggestions."

Strago stood. "I realize that it is my knowledge of ancient legend that brought the Weapons against us, but we must understand that the legend was right. We did bring about the rebirth of the defenders of the planet. I know of another legend that speaks of how to bring these defenders to their knees. It is, however, going to be far riskier than resurrecting the Weapons was."

"We have to try it!" Locke urged the parliament. "We couldnāt stand up to Jenova without help, thereās simply no way we can hope to battle Jenova and the Weapons simultaneously!"

"I agree with Locke," Celes added. "We have to stop the Weapons, and hopefully Jenova with them!"

Edgar nodded his head in agreement. "Whatās the plan, Strago?"

Strago cleared his throat. "Legend says that, while the planet gives life to these ĪWeapons,ā it also possesses the means by which to entrap them. The legend is very unclear as to what we can do to trap the Weapons, but I believe that creative use of the magic and technology at our disposal will provide us with a way to stop the Weapons."

"Just great!" Relm exclaimed in despair. "We know we can stop the Weapons; we just donāt have any idea how."

A badly wounded soldier barged into the parliament chamber. "Your Highness, we have received word from Albrook. The Diamond Weapon is approaching via ocean. They request immediate assistance."

Edgar stood. "All of you, come with me. Weāre going to intercept the Diamond Weapon at once!"

Diamond Weapon raced along the ocean, apparently not even really touching the water, but rather speeding just above the waves. Finally, it set its feet down on shallow ground and began its thunderous march on Albrook. It was readying itself to wipe out another selfish human colony when it was interrupted by a rain of tiny arrows and an ever-so-slightly damaging energy bolt. Looking to the sky behind it, the Diamond Weapon saw the Falcon passing overhead, the Figaro brothers firing another fusillade at it from the deck of the airship. The beast turned to engage the pest.

"Well, youāve got its attention. Now what?" Setzer asked as he brought the Falcon about to face the monster.

"Weāve got to find some way of trapping it away from Albrook!" Edgar shouted over the Falconās engine and the roar of Diamond Weapon. Edgar and Sabin loosed another shower of projectiles at Diamond Weapon, this time aided by Gogo mimicking Sabinās Aura Bolt. "Maybe we can get it caught underwater. That oughta hold it!"

"Yeah, but how?" Celes asked, raising Excalibur to perform Runic. The MagiTek knight absorbed Diamond Weaponās return energy salvo and converted it into her own magical energy. "We can barely even get its attention, let alone seal it!"

Sabin fired off another Aura Bolt as he considered the possibilities. "Can we freeze the water around its legs? That added weight should at least slow it down. If we can lure it out farther, we might be able to freeze the entire Weapon!" Sabin was thrown off of his feet, along with everyone but Setzer, as the Falcon performed a last-second evasive maneuver to evade another burst of energy from Diamond Weapon. "Whatever we try, we better do it fast," Sabin said, standing up. "The other Weapons are still out there, attacking anything they see!"

"It beats doing nothing!" Edgar concurred. The king looked to Celes and nodded once briskly. The general nodded in agreement and edged over to the railing closest to the Diamond Weapon. She bowed her head and quickly spoke a few words while safely hidden behind the low deck wall. Suddenly, she stood and unleashed a stream of freezing air at Diamond Weaponās legs. The water rapidly turned from a dark blue body of water to a pure white sheet of ice. The Weapon still plodded through the wintry substance in pursuit of the Falcon.

Celes shook her head. "I canāt freeze it fast enough. I need more power!" Gogo, wordlessly, took a position next to Celes and began casting Ice 3. The former MagiTek knight began her own casting, and soon the duo converged their icy blasts on Diamond Weaponās legs. Sure enough, a thick layer of frozen water formed around the mighty beatās ankles. Celes laughed victoriously. "Itās working."

The Falcon banked hard to port, away from the Diamond Weapon, as the monster fired another round of energy discharge. The Weapon trekked after the elusive airship, now traveling unbelievably slow. Celes and Gogo released another pair of Ice 3 beams. Now, the Diamond Weapon was in ice up to its knees. Agonizing minutes later, the Diamond Weapon was up it its mid-torso in ice, but there was a minor setback accompanying the victory.

"Itās stopped moving!" Celes exclaimed when she realized that the Diamond Weapon had stopped chasing the Falcon. Setzer did a flyby of the monster to confirm it. "How are we supposed to get it in deeper?" It would be impossible to freeze the Diamond Weapon if it wasnāt sufficiently wet.

Edgar sat with his back resting on the railing. "I canāt think of a way that doesnāt really risk breaking the ice. Anyone have any suggestions?"

There was an ear piercing screech that echo several times throughout the sky. It was the call of Weapon, but it was most certainly not Diamond Weapon. Ultima Weapon had found the Falcon, and it wanted revenge.

The king peered over the railing to check the source of the racket. "That thingās a modern day Doom Gaze!" Edgar said, feeling that his life-long lucky streak may have just come to an end.

Setzer, on the other hand, seemed to think his was still going strong. The gambler laughed, an odd cross between triumph and insanity. "You wanted suggestions, right?" Setzer started. "Iāve got one!"

Sabinās eyes developed a twinkle of fear as he figured out what Setzer had in mind. "Youāre mad! Captain Gabbiani, as Duke of the Court of Figaro, I order you to stand down!"

Celes looked at Sabin questioningly. "Whatās he doing?" It was then that the Falcon narrowly dodged an Ultima Beam, fired by the Ultima Weapon no more than ten yards away. "Setzer! No! Bad pilot! Get us away from the apocalyptic monster thingy, not closer!"

Setzer laughed again as the Falcon rolled out of the path of another Ultima Beam. "Whereās your sense of adventure? Besides, the king wanted suggestions. Hereās mine!" The Ultima Weapon roared in frustration as the Falcon side-slipped another attack.

"Fine!" Edgar shouted. "But why are you leading it towards Albrook?" The Falcon zoomed over the town with Ultima Weapon closing rapidly.

"General! You and Gogo get ready to Ice the Ultima Weapon on my mark!" Setzer ordered.

"What? Your Highness, should I...?"

Edgar threw his arms up in exasperation. "Do what the crazy man says!"

The Falcon made a wide turn as it passed Albrook, heading back towards the immobile, half-frozen Diamond Weapon. "Youāre going to have to hit it pretty hard and fast, General," Setzer shouted over the din of the Ultima Weapon. "Might want to get Terra up here!" Celes called for the demi-Esper and explained, very briefly, Setzerās plan. Suddenly, the Falcon sped up considerably, the Ultima Weapon still matching its speed.

"Captain!" Edgar cried in terror. "Weāre going to hit the Diamond Weapon! Disengage at once!"

Setzer chuckled. "Weāre not the ones that are going to hit Diamond Weapon." The Falcon closed to within mere inches of the Diamond Weapon and banked with unimaginable agility to the side. Behind the airship, a great crash was heard as both the Ultima Weapon and Diamond Weapon screamed in surprise and horror. "Now!" Setzer ordered.

The trio fired a triad of ice streams at the two Weapons, now slammed together and tumbling into the water. They continued the ice flow, freezing both monsters as they rolled in a shocked death grip into the ocean. Terrifying seconds later, both were encased in a block of ice and sinking safely to the ocean floor.

"Setzer!" Edgar barked, sounding extremely angry at him.

"Yes, sir?" the pilot responded nervously.

"I donāt know whether to have you executed for treason," the king paused and appeared to calm greatly, suddenly looking with welcoming eyes on the gambler, "or give you half of my kingdom! Nice job! Letās go find those other Weapons."

Emerald Weapon roared in anger at the nuisance that interrupted its assault on Kohlingen. The tiny ship, a mere insect to the gargantuan beast, was really starting to annoy Emerald Weapon, and drawing it out to sea was going to be its last mistake. Emerald Weapon actually preferred naval combat over terrestrial skirmishes. Now that it was in its element, Emerald Weapon was going to squash the fly and get back to doing the Planetās bidding. It was just waiting for that little bug to hold still long enough.

The Falcon banked aside as another blast from the Emerald Weapon barely missed its target. Setzer stared down at the beast, and then turned to face Edgar. "Itās in the water. Nowās your chance, though you may want to wait until we can get more of it in ice. Thereāll be no Ultima Weapon to save us this time."

Edgar nodded to the pilot and turned to the Freezing Crew. "Wait and see if we can get it up to its head in ice. We want it as close to totally immobile as it can be." The king looked down on the mammoth monster. It still kicked up surf while trudging after the Falcon. To Edgarās surprise, it suddenly dove under the water, disappearing from sight. "Itās gone!"

"Gone?" Celes asked. "What do you mean Īitās gone?ā It canāt just vanish... can it?"

"No, underwater!" Edgar informed. "Itās underwater. We canāt track it." A Weaponās roar filled the dusk sky as the Emerald Weapon resurfaced, slashing angrily with its claws to the Falcon. The Weapon didnāt Ījumpā nearly high enough, and it did little more than splash about a great deal of water.

"How are we supposed to freeze it?" Terra asked over the crash of the waves.

"Iām not sure," Edgar admitted as the Emerald Weapon made another futile attempt to bring the Falcon down. "But it looks like we and Albrook are safe for the time being."

Locke shook his head. "There are still two other Weapons out there. We have to stop them before they simply finish the job without Emerald Weapon." The Emerald Weapon jumped again, still failing to bring the airship down.

"Youāll have to time it right," Setzer began, "but it is possible to catch Emerald Weapon while itās airborne. With all of the water it brings up with it, it should be partially frozen if you ice it. Then, while itās falling back, you should be able to completely freeze it over." The Falcon rocked as the Emerald Weaponās claws scratched along the sides of the gondola. "Better be quick though. That fish is really learning how to jump!"

The freezers nodded at Setzer, and then to each other. There was a loud noise as the Emerald Weapon began its ascension. The trio started to freeze it on its way up, but it managed to catch the Falcon by the Īblimpā section.

"No!" Edgar cried. "Setzer!"

The gambler jammed the controls with all of his might. Again and again he tried to start up an engine boost. The crashing of the waves grew louder below as the three ice-slingers finished freezing the beast. Pulling up and away from the Emerald Weapon, the Falcon tore free of the ice cube just before itself plunging into the sea. The splash erupted upward, slamming into the Falcon and sending it careening out of control.

"Setzer!" Edgar screamed as the airship slid along the top of the waves. "Get us back up there!"

"Iām trying, sir!" Setzer shouted in response, tugging with great strength at the wheel. "There!" he said as the Falcon slowly returned to its place among the clouds. "Letās go get those other two Weapons. I wanna get back to fighting good olā Jenova."

Weapon stood in the North Crater alone, most of his companions now littering the floor of the oceans. He had already wiped out so much, and now he had returned here to recharge himself. Defending the planet from most of its own population was tiring work, and the Weapon was finally taking a well deserved brake.

"Target sighted," a voice said in the distance. Weapon stood and readied his own armaments for battle. "Weāre almost in range, but I donāt see how we can trap him now." So that was their game. Bring the deceased back to life so they can be imprisoned! How rude! Well, no one was going to take out Weapon without a fight! The beast waded into the pool of Mako energy collecting at the bottom of the crater as he spotted a tiny speck of gleaming metal closing in fast just over the horizon. Weapon raised one of his massive arms, directing a stream of Mako energy from the pool at the incoming threat. The speck, a ship of sorts, quickly moved aside, allowing the stream to pass harmlessly next to it.

"Aggressive, isnāt it?" Setzer commented as he realigned the Falcon for an attack run on Weapon. "How are we going to go about freezing this Weapon?"

Sabin shrugged his shoulders. "We may simply have to beat it into submission."

Edgar shook his head. "Thatās going to be a lot harder than trapping it."

"We have to do something!" Celes interrupted. The Falcon sharply yawed to avoid another round of fire from Weapon. "We wonāt last much longer if we donāt!"

Gogo eyed the walls of the crater tenaciously. "I believe I have discovered a possible method for entrapping our beastie friend."

Edgar was thrown to the deck as the Falcon dodged yet more Weapon fire. "Do tell."

"If I am not mistaken, the crystalline substance on the walls here is Mako energy, or rather, materia. If you watch, it appears to crystallize rather rapidly, especially when exposed to great heat. The heat given off by the Falconās engines has already caused some deal of the Mako fluid to solidify." The Falcon rocked, interrupting Gogo. "Perhaps concentrated heat, accompanied by a sufficient Mako flow, could encase Weapon in his own materia chunk."

"Wait!" Edgar said, shaking his head. "That doesnāt make any sense. According to physics, matter exposed to heat expands and evaporates, becoming gas. If we fill this crater with heat..."

"Shut up!" Sabin interjected. "Itās worth a shot!" Sabin immediately executed his Fire Dance blitz. The crater swirled with flames, but little of the Mako actually hardened. Sabin sighed from the exertion. "I canāt heat it enough." Gogo tapped the duke on the shoulder and indicated the Weapon, again doing so without words. "You wanna help me? All right." Sabin performed another Fire Dance, this time with Gogo mimicking the move. The crater was set ablaze, miraculously failing to harm the Falcon, but the effect on the Mako was only slightly better. "It isnāt going to work."

Setzer, his back still turned to the party as he piloted the airship, nodded. "It doesnāt matter. Heās not in enough Mako to make it worth while." The Falcon suddenly jerked aside, Setzer leaning into the motion, as a barrage of energy blasts flew up at them from the irate Weapon. Setzer had reacted just in time to save the ship. "We need to find a way to drench it in liquid Mako."

Edgar took a position next to Sabin and scanned the pit. "The man in black said that this place was a node of magical energy. Maybe we can open up some more fountains. That oughta give us the Mako we need."

"How are we supposed to open the fountains, though?" Sabin asked, now searching the crater walls for cracks or fractures that may be tell-tale marks of a lack of structural integrity. "I see plenty of possible spots to hit, but how do we hit them hard enough?"

"Aura Bolt," Edgar suggested. "Maybe some lightning Bolts from the rest of us. That should be able to crack a few rocks." There was a loud whine as rock-hard claws tore into metal plating.

"Heās got us in-hand!" Setzer reported, even now trying desperately to break free of the second Weapon to take hold of the Falcon that day. "We canāt risk trapping the Falcon too!"

Edgar stood and motioned to Sabin and Gogo. "Letās give him some support fire." Edgar leveled his Auto-Crossbow at the unsuspecting face of Weapon, while Sabin and Gogo stood ready to fire off Aura Bolts. A hail of firepower was unleashed from these three, pelting the Weapon hundreds of times before it finally let go to shield its face. "That gotāem off! Perhaps if we were to hit those weak points that hard, we could get a nice Mako flow going in here!"

Sabin nodded. "It beats getting clawed by Weapon again!" Sabin focused on the nearest such spot and loosed another Aura Bolt. Gogo joined in the attack, and the fracture burst open, spilling gallons of Mako energy into the hole. They fired on another spot, and another, and soon Weapon was up to its waist in Mako.

"Keep it up!" Edgar encouraged. "A few more and itāll be completely submerged!" The firing continued, and the next flood of Mako knocked Weapon off its feet. "Excellent! Now we just need to generate immense heat and we can get outta here."

"Uh... Brother, how are we going to heat this place up?" Sabin asked, clearly remembering the utter failure of the Fire Dances.

"I know a way," Celes said distantly. "I donāt like it, but I know a way."

"Go ahead," Edgar said.

"Merton," Celes responded. "Nothingās going to heat up this hole-in-ground like Merton."

"Yeah, but even if the rest of us take cover, whoever casts it will be..."

"Fried? Iām aware of the risks, Your Highness, and Iām willing to accept them. I want this thing outta my life for good, and this will ensure that!"

"Youāre certain, General Chere?"

"Absolutely!"

"All right. The rest of you, come with me. Weāre going to take cover in the hold. Celes, be careful."

Celes simply nodded. "Iāll have it locked in materia in no time!" The rest of the deck crew scurried down the ladder, leaving only the former MagiTek knight to face the drowning Weapon. Celes immediately began casting Merton, putting all of her fears and angers aside as she prepared to save the world. The power of the mighty Crusader filled the North Cave as a column of piercing fire filled it. Celes screamed in agony as the flames passed through her, and was still screaming when the Mako below turned to solid materia. Agonizing seconds after it had began, the maelstrom of fire ended, leaving Celes to collapse on the Falconās deck.

The crew reemerged. "Celes!" Locke cried as he saw her slumped over, not breathing. He began casting Life 2 at once, and soon Celes was revived. "Donāt ever scare me like that again!" he ordered, his voice both trembling with the passing fear yet still giving off a sense of happiness at seeing Celesā recovery. All the scorched general could do was weakly chuckle at the thief.

"Letās go find Ruby Weapon," Edgar said. "I want my kingdom back!"

Setzer stared past the horizon with the aid of a telescope. "Edgar, we have a slight problem."

"What is it?"

"Iāve spotted Ruby Weapon. Itās marching on Figaro Castle!"

Edgar turned pale. "Intercept and engage at once!"

"Edgar..."

"What, Setzer?"

"A few miles behind it is Jenova, closing in fast. Their both headed towards Figaro Castle."

"Move it, then! I wonāt lose my castle to the likes of them!"

"If you have any suggestions as to how to stop both Ruby Weapon and Jenova, Iād like to hear them," Edgar announced as the Falcon approached the tower monstrosity that was the Ruby Weapon.

"We have to take them both out at once," Sabin said, staring down from his vantage point on both of the assailants. "If we only take out one, the other will certainly make an attack on Figaro."

"Wait! I donāt think Jenova and Ruby Weapon are working together. I think itās a coincidence, and that Ruby Weapon will annihilate Jenova when the witch catches up to it!" Strago argued.

"I have an idea," Setzer said, counting the dozens of yards between the two monsters, and noting how quickly that number was shrinking. "Hydrogen Bomb."

"What?" Edgar asked, remembering only vaguely Setzerās Slots combo that unleashed a small fusion detonation on the target area.

"If I hit the Slots right, I can drop an H-bomb on Ruby Weapon. If itās timed right, it oughta fry Jenova too!"

"But will that be enough to kill Ruby Weapon?" Locke asked.

"No, but it could destabilize the ground under it," Edgar said. "We could bury it under tons of sand."

"Right!" Setzer exclaimed. "Iāll get rolling immediately." Setzer, from nowhere, produced a small slot machine and began pulling the lever fervently. "Airship, Airship, Chocobo..." A small child in a bunny hood, a lagomorph, appeared and healed the partyās minor wounds.

"Setzer..." Edgar began, sounding very nervous.

"Hang on. Iāve almost got it..." Setzer gave the lever a few more tugs. "There! Triple Airship!" A whole lot of nothing happened.

"Setzer, whatās going on? Whereās my fusion explosion?"

"Hang on..." Setzer said, quickly climbing down the crew ladder. A few seconds later, he reappeared from the hole with a grim expression on his face, which was completely white with worry. "The bomb is stuck. The claw wonāt let go. Someone needs to force it off..."

"Then go give it a push!" Locke said, quickly beginning to fear that this was going to be the beginning of the end.

"Whoever pushes it goes down with it. Itās a kamikaze mission," Setzer slowly informed, starting to feel very sick to his stomach. An awkward silence fell over the party. They couldnāt let the Ruby Weapon and Jenova just keep on marching, but who would sacrifice their life for this one small victory?

"You say if the bomb hits, itāll destroy Jenova?" Terra asked the gambler.

"Without a doubt. At least for the time being, Jenova would be toast" he responded.

Terra turned to Edgar. "Any you say that Jenova killed all those Espers?"

"Most certainly," Edgar replied.

Terra took the form of an Esper once more. "Iāll do it. Save your breaths, friends. Iām not dying. Thereās no way Iām going out while Jenova still lives. Get back to Figaro. Iāve got a Weapon to bury." The Esper disappeared down the hatch. Moments later, there was an inhuman shriek of defiance as Terra guided the warhead to the feet of the Ruby Weapon. The rest of the party looked away, but the entire sky was filled with a brilliant flash of white light as the bomb hit. Jenova screamed for less than a second before being completely vaporized, and the Ruby Weapon let out its own scream as it began to sink into the loosened sand beneath it. The party looked over the railing to see the Ruby Weapon squirm violently as it finally sank into the dunes.

"Terra..." Edgar whispered, tears beginning to stream from his eyes. As though on cue, an Esper let out a cry of triumph and dart in front of the Falcon. "Terra! Youāre alive!"

Terra landed and reverted to human form. "I can fly faster than any atomic blast!"

The Planet itself pondered at the meaning of these events. These humans had already done so much harm to her, and now they had bested even her mighty Weapons. How was she to live? The vile Jenova was already ripping free from its place in the Lifestream, restructuring her life energy with those of others to become stronger still. Were these humans meant to face Jenova? Were they meant to live on? Were they destined to slowly but surely destroy their mother Earth? Or were they fated to change the ways people lived? Were they here to see to it that she lived on, and to prove that her Weapons had become pointless? Could humans really do that? She doubted it very much. Perhaps these unfortunate thirteen, the ones to face Jenova, were capable of such good, but what her Weapons did not destroy would surely be turned against her again, given time.

The Ruby Weapon grumbled to the Planet, voicing his desire for revenge. This was met with similar comments from the other four imprisoned Weapons.

"Hush, my children," the Planet soothed. "For now, I am not requiring your services. Rest easy now, children. You may have a long wait, but soon enough you will be unleashed on the selfish humans once more. I am certain of it."

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