For some things there is no rational explanation. There is no way out. There is no happy ending to this story. Welcome to the unknown. Welcome to eternal darkness. Welcome... to oblivion.
"Get up," snapped Perigee, and kicked the Author sharply in the ribs. He was not a strong man, but his intimate knowledge of levers and moments meant he knew how to use both knee and ankle to deliver the maximum force. The blow lifted the Author off the ground and sent him rolling a good few metres.
"Ouch," he mumbled darkly. "What sort of place is this anyway? Bean soup, see here!"
Perigee strode over and kicked him again.
"What?" the Author shouted, sitting up sharply. "Who? Where? When? Why? In that order."
"You," said Perigee, glaring down at him, "are a complete and utter moron."
"Well, I'm pleased to see you too," the Author replied sleepily, clambering wearily to his feet. "Why the rude awakening? Have I missed breakfast?"
"You let her run away?" Perigee asked in disbelief.
"Eh? Oh." Memories came flooding back, destroying whatever moment of peace the Author might have been hoping for. "Well, if it makes you feel any better, it was hardly what I'd have liked to happen, either."
"And after everything I told you last night, as well!" the scientist exclaimed. "I never realised you were that stupid."
"Remind me what you told me last night."
"I told you that the reason Aeris dies is because she runs away from the party and goes to the City on her own!"
The Author paused. "But didn't you say the City is on the northern continent?"
"Aren't we on an island in the south ocean? How is she meant to get all the way over there?"
"Well, she... she obviously..." Perigee hesitated. "She hitches... flies... er, steals... Does it matter how she gets there? The point is that you've let her run away!"
"Sausage?" enquired Croft, wandering up. "I'm afraid the fried eggs aren't ready yet, only Barret dropped the first batch, so we had to go find some more, and those ostrich thingies can run very fast..."
Perigee waved him away, but the Author managed to grab a fork from him and impale a sausage on it before he left.
"Look," he explained to the scientist between mouthfuls, "feel free to head off to this City place without me. I'll hang around here, search the island for her, and hopefully we'll be able to patch things up by the time you lot have finished beating Sephiroth up. Then you can come back for us."
"It doesn't matter!" Perigee exclaimed. "In the game -"
"I don't care what happens in the game!" The Author glared at him. "Look around you! Does this look like a game? 'Cause it feels pretty damn real to me! There are no extra lives here! If I stick a sword through you, you die!"
Perigee took a couple of steps back. It was strange to see the Author this irritable, although he supposed it was understandable.
"Then if you don't want that to happen to Aeris, I suggest you calm down and listen to me," he said softly. "Maybe this is a reality of a sort, but we are governed by game logic. Aeris has run off, and the next you'll see her will be at the City. Just trust me on this one, okay?"
"Er... I don't like to say this," added Mr. Big, somewhat sheepishly, "but he's got a point. I had a go at following her scent earlier, and, well... it just fades away. If she is still on the island, I'm not going to be able to find her. And that Turk guy's disappeared, too. Not that I'm implying anything, mind you."
There was a pause, the silence broken only by Kasuto's distant voice enquiring, "Um, Mr. Croft, are you sure this egg should be moving on its own like this?"
"Very well," the Author acquiesced. "But if you're wrong..."
"Don't worry, I won't be."
Mr. Big gave the Author a knowing look.
"Hey, man, you really should calm down," he observed. "You look like you're about to do one of those limit break things."
The Author turned a cold stare towards him. "How about I calm down when I feel like it?"
"Yeah, you could do that too."
From the direction of the rest of the group came a sudden crack, followed by assorted cries of amusement or surprise, and amid these a startled squawk.
"Ah, there you are," Ess called as the trio hurried up, or at least two of them hurried up and the third hitched a lift on one's shoulder. "You've missed all the exciting stuff, I'm afraid. First Cloud was explaining about this weird dream he had last night, and now breakfast's making a bid for freedom."
"Tell me," said Perigee slowly, "did this dream, by any chance, involve Aeris running off towards a City in the north surrounded by an icefield?"
"Er, yeah," Ess replied, deciding not to enquire how he knew that. Perigee glanced back and gave the Author a smug look. "And then that happened."
She gestured towards Kasuto, and the gazes of those present followed her hand. Atop her head was a small fluffy yellow bird, apparently believing this to be the safest place in the area. Its eyes were even wider than was usual for such chicks.
"It's a baby chocobo!" the girl exclaimed. "Isn't it cuuuuute?"
Upon hearing this the chocobo obviously decided that, just perhaps, there might be an alternative place of refuge, and fluttered hurriedly away from this terrifying squeaky girl. Unfortunately, it was not built for flight, and it was only Cloud's quick reflexes that saved it from an undesirably hasty landing. He cradled it in his hands, and it chirped happily at him, presumably assuming him to be its mother.
"Wow," he said, suddenly the authority on these matters. "This is... a wonderful chocobo!"
"Could someone explain...?" asked the Author, sounding rather beleaguered.
"You're not seriously eating chocobo eggs, are you?" added Perigee. "Those things are huge!"
Croft nodded towards Barret, who was frying four eggs in a pan the size of a dustbin lid. The yolks were nigh on a foot across.
"They taste wonderful, though!" he remarked. "Only thing is, one of them didn't want to be fried, because it jumped out of the pan when we tried to put it in."
"Well, at least that's dinner sorted, then," Mr. Big commented, somewhat annoyed at having his position of cute mascot usurped. "I'm sure I can whip up some kind of marinade..."
"We're not going to eat her!" Kasuto shouted. "She's coming with us!"
"Yo, how come it's a she alluva sudden?" Barret enquired.
"Well, duh! Look how cute she is! No guy could be that cute!"
Mr. Big cleared his throat pointedly, and immediately regretted it.
"Oh, I'm sorry!" Kasuto cried, sounding truly apologetic. "You're really cute too, you know!"
The rabbit's eyes darted back and forth as she approached, doing his best to find an escape route. When none impressed themselves immediately on his senses, he went for the simplest option. He leaped.
Leaving a trail of faint blue sparks behind him and bearing an expression that was halfway between, "What the hell am I doing?" and, "Goodbye, cruel world," he soared gracefully over to Barret's frying pan and landed neatly in it. His feet touched the metal, and for a brief moment he seemed to freeze before rocketing skywards on a four foot jet of blue flame. A column of dense black smoke and a steadily fading cry of, "Yaaaaaaaaah..." marked his ascent.
"Well," said Perigee flatly, "I think we've just discovered one of his techs."
"So which way're we headed?" Cid enquired as the Highwind rose slowly above the recently formed Southern Crater. "I'm guessin' we want to get to this City place as soon as possible, right?"
"Well, it's on the Northern Continent," Cloud remarked caustically. "Which way do you think we're going?"
"South," said Perigee.
This precipitated a brief pause.
"South...?" Cloud repeated, not quite following.
"Yeah." Perigee looked around him. "Anyone got a map?"
One of Cid's subordinates, whose badge proclaimed him to be, 'Vyse Esprit, Lvl 6 Pilot,' stuck a hand in the air. "There's one over here."
He brought it over and laid it flat on the nearest horizontal surface, which happened to be the control panel for the air conditioning. Perigee pointed to it.
"Okay, we're here," he said, tapping an island near the southeast. Behind them, a large fan started up and blew Tifa's hair into Roch's face. "And we want to get here." He pointed to another island in the north. It appeared this island had not yet been charted adequately, because only the vague outline was drawn and the words, 'Heyre bee dragynns,' covered most of the continent.
"So we go this way," Cloud suggested, tracing a straight line from one to the other with his finger. Perigee shook his head.
"No, we go this way," he pointed out, indicating a route that went off the bottom of the map and came back on again at the top.
"How does that work?" enquired the Author.
"Well, you have to think of it in three dimensions, obviously. The world wraps around from north to south."
"Ah." The Author nodded, understanding. "So the poles are at the east and west ends of the map, then."
"No, it wraps from east to west as well. The world is square."
"Well," Cloud announced, while the Author picked up the map and started trying to fold it so the north edge connected to the south and the east to the west, "then that is our route. Captain, plot a course south-west-ish."
"I do have a name, you know," the Captain replied gruffly. "'kay, Vyse, you heard him."
Vyse saluted smartly. "Yessir!"
Kasuto followed him closely as he hurried back to his desk.
"Heeey," she said in that annoying voice all children can manage that says, 'I'm going to pester you until you give me what I want.' "Can I have a go at flying this?"
Vyse gave her a slightly worried smile. "I don't think you should," he replied slowly.
"Oh, come on! I'll be really good with it!"
"Don't give in to her, son," called the other pilot in a voice that caused Barret to freeze.
"Yo, waitasecond..." he muttered. "Dyne?"
"Huh?" Dyne Esprit, Lvl 14 Pilot looked back over his shoulder. "Well, I'll be damned... Barret, old man. What're you doing here?"
"We're savin' da world," Barret explained at length. "An' you?"
Dyne shrugged. "Well, after the whole Corel incident I decided to get away and start again. I'm a pilot now."
"Yeah, I see that." Barret happened to notice that both pilots had a small blue emblem on their uniforms. He peered closer. The thing looked almost like a skull and crossbones.
"Yo, what's da logo?"
"Oh, this?" Dyne glanced down. "It's the symbol of the Blue Rogues. We're the best Air Pilots out there."
At the other end of the room, the Author proudly held his map up for all to see. He'd finally managed to get the edges to line up properly.
"Here we are," he observed. "The world appears to be donut-shaped."
"That's a torus," said Perigee helpfully.
Well into the flight, the Author was standing up on deck, letting the arctic breeze turn his hair into something resembling a sea urchin. It was quite a refreshing feeling, insofar as anything could be refreshing right now. He shook his head sadly. He'd never felt this tense before, not even during those common occasions when he was called upon to duel an adversary far more powerful than he, or when the character relationships were breaking down around him and he had only a couple of chapters to remedy the situation before the epilogue.
He was also aware that the whole Aeris affair had brought him dangerously close to becoming the main character in this book, which wasn't good at all. He made a mental note to fade out of the limelight as soon as he'd brought this little subplot to a close.
He glanced back at the sound of a trapdoor opening, wondering who had come to share this scene with him. Tifa, probably. Maybe Croft or Mr. Big. Possibly even Ess. He had the feeling that girl's anger towards the world in general was beginning to fade, and that perhaps, underneath it all, she was actually quite a nice person.
"Cloud?" he said out loud, surprised.
"Just thought I'd come make sure you were okay," Cloud said, ambling up. "After all, it's not... Hey, what's with the shocked face?"
"Oh, nothing, sorry." The Author did his best to put on a worried and gloomy expression for Cloud's benefit, which turned out to be easier than he'd have liked. "It's just that you never really struck me as the sympathetic type."
Cloud shrugged and leaned on the rail next to him, staring out across the icy expanse beneath them. "I know how you feel, though."
"Yeah." Cloud hesitated briefly. "There's this girl I like, too. I'd do anything I could to protect her. I don't know how I'd manage if she ran off into almost certain death."
"Ah," the Author mused, desperately trying to ignore the comment about almost certain death. "Tifa."
Cloud gave him a bemused look. "No, Ess. Why'd you think I was talking about Tifa?"
"Well, I... that is, she... you..." The Author cleared his throat. "You've got to admit, she's definitely rather fond of you."
"Isn't it obvious?"
Cloud stared back out at the ice. "I hadn't noticed," he admitted. "But it's a bit late now, right?"
The Author nodded sagely. Hmm... He hadn't foreseen Cloud actually liking Ess like that. She certainly didn't seem overly keen on him, and he would have been prepared to bet that Perigee would not exactly be thrilled about the whole thing. But wasn't there a saying? 'You always love the thing you hate.' Or perhaps it was, 'You always hurt the thing you love.' Or, 'You always become the thing you hate.' Well, whatever it was, there was a saying something along those lines that was probably appropriate right now.
"Have you told her?" he enquired, relegating the proverb problem to the back of his mind until he could contemplate it further at a more appropriate time.
Cloud shook his head. "I don't think I can... not until I've worked out what happened to me five years ago. She thinks I just abandoned her. There's no way I would have done... but I don't know what I did do."
"I wish I could help you out there," the Author told him truthfully.
Cloud shrugged again. "Maybe after we've defeated Sephiroth, I can try and find... Is that a house down there?"
The Author mentally readjusted for Cloud's limited attention span and stared directly downwards. True enough, there was a small hut below them, completely surrounded by mountains and isolated from... well, everything. It seemed a rather daft place to live, unless the inhabitant wanted to meditate undisturbed by society or something along those lines.
"Another time, perhaps," he suggested. "We've got other things to deal with right now, remember?"
"Oh, yeah. Sorry."
About half an hour later, the Highwind began its descent into the great canyon that scarred the continent. Everything was going quite well until the starboard engine caught on a rock outcrop, and subsequently things went from bad to worse as the ship ricocheted from wall to wall, stalled repeatedly and eventually ended up resting on the ground at an angle of about twenty degrees.
After a while the main hatch creaked open and Cid let down a rope ladder. It almost reached the canyon floor, and one by one the group clambered down it and hopped off at the bottom.
"There it is," observed Perigee unnecessarily, pointing at the indistinct shapes a few hundred yards from them. "The City of the Ancients. It's lain there undisturbed for hundreds of years."
"Looks like it," Roch remarked coldly.
Perigee glanced at him. Even though he was, by profession, a chemist and not a biologist or a psychologist or something, he was pretty certain that five year olds shouldn't make comments like that.
"Yo, we gonna go rescue da girl or what?" Barret put in.
"Good point, Barret," Cloud agreed. He pointed towards the City. "Onwards!"
As they walked, the sunlight seemed to dim, as if clouds suddenly obscured the sun. Noises sounded muffled. Even the very air felt thicker. Perigee probably knew a word to describe what was going on, but right now he literally couldn't break the silence by saying it.
Buildings were scattered around the city like the discarded shells of some long-extinct mammoth insect, giving the place an almost organic feel. The roads that connected these husks were nothing more than worn dirt tracks, but somehow looked like tendrils of a sort. Everything seemed... to put it bluntly, it seemed dead. The atmosphere was simply oppressive. This was the sort of place that merits a serious description, even in a silly book such as this.
The group stared around them, their feelings ranging from awe through unease to worry, with a few outliers such as boredom and bemusement. The path split into three here, each branch snaking off towards one of the three largest shells in the city.
Perigee was probably the most concerned right now. If his memory of the game was correct, as he knew it was, then Aeris would be found in that building with the small lake around it. But... there didn't appear to be a lake here. The layout was different, for some unknown reason. Surely their integration couldn't have affected the construction of this city? There was no way they could change events so long before they integrated, was there?
"It might be wise if we were to split up," Nanaki suggested. "Locating the girl as soon as possible would seem sensible."
"Yeah..." Perigee agreed. "Okay, everyone form three groups."
Everyone did so, except the Major who had misunderstood the order to mean every single person form three groups each, and needed some talking to before he spotted where he was going wrong.
"Right." Perigee pointed at the group consisting of the Author, Mr. Big, Cloud, and Kasuto, then at the smaller of the three buildings. "You guys go search that one." He indicated the Major and his troops, Croft, Barret, and Tifa, and directed them to the larger one. "Okay, everyone else, come with me. We'll meet back here if we don't find anything, okay?"
"Move out!" said Cid decisively.
"Yo, how come..." Barret complained breathlessly. "How come we... we gotta go... alla da way up... up here?"
"Aeris might be at... at the top," Croft replied from a few steps above him. "We've got to check everywhere."
This building certainly seemed a lot taller inside than it had been outside. A seemingly endless spiral staircase ran up the walls, and a huge white pillar took up the rest of the space. To Barret and Tifa, it was disturbingly reminiscent of that damn fire escape they'd had to climb to get into the Shinra HQ, however long ago that had been.
"Hurry up, old chaps," the Major called back. "Got to keep moving, what? The girl could be in trouble, you know. The old CO would have serious words with us if we let her get shot, eh? Keep up!"
Being about as wide as he was tall, if not more so, the Major should really have collapsed, out of breath, some time ago. This made it even more infuriating that he was happily marching some distance ahead of the others and showing no signs of flagging, while they were hauling themselves up using the walls and each other as supports.
"How does... how does he keep going?" Tifa wondered out loud.
"Why does he keep goin'?" Barret added.
"I think we must be... near the top," Croft pointed out reassuringly. "Look, the walls are getting closer together."
Barret stared at the walls in question. "Yo' sure that's not -" he began before he walked into the back of the Major, who had stopped abruptly and was crouched down, alert and on guard.
"There's a room just ahead, old beans," he informed them in a whisper. "Those blighters could be holding the girl in there, you know. We'll have to charge all at once, eh?" He nodded at Tifa. "You rescue her, old girl. We'll cover you, so don't worry, what?"
This plan met with general if somewhat unenthusiastic approval.
"Right ho. For the old country!"
In an attack worthy of a fully trained SOLDIER assault team, the four of them sprinted into the room at the top of the building, fanning out perfectly so as not to block each other's line of fire. The plan was going perfectly right up to the point when they realised that they were missing anyone to attack or, for that matter, anyone to rescue. In fact, the only thing in this chamber was a small yellow chest, sitting smugly in the centre and defiantly challenging them to either kill it or save it.
Croft approached it cautiously. "Well, at least there should be something good in here, if we had to come all the way up here to get it," he observed, hauling the lid open. "Now, let's... What the..." He reached in and held up the contents for all to see. "A cheesegrater?"
In that time during which Barret and co. had been experiencing the joys of high altitude, Cloud had been leading his group steadily downwards. They'd found a very tight spiral staircase that led down what seemed to be a thin vertical shaft down into the ground, illuminated by one of those infuriatingly common unseen but ubiquitous sources.
"You know, we've really gone down quite some way," Mr. Big remarked, his eyes darting nervously around. "While I haven't been doing the walking and so I can't tell precisely how far, I'd say the others couldn't hear us if we shouted. Sharpened stakes could suddenly spring out of the walls and no one would hear us scream."
"Thank you for that thought," muttered the Author absently. So far, his best guess for the elusive proverb had been, "You always hate to hurt the thing you'd love to become," but he was currently stuck on, "You always eat the thing you love," for some reason.
"Are you afraid, little rabbit?" enquired Kasuto concernedly.
"Afraid?" Mr. Big gave a short, rather unconvincing laugh. "Don't be ridiculous." A rather nasty thought struck him. "After all, I'm quite a small target. You're far more likely to get impaled than me."
Shocked, Kasuto kept her mouth closed after that.
As they proceeded ever deeper, the light seemed to change. It didn't dim, and remained brighter than the subdued daylight at the surface had been. But its hue gradually shifted, and what had started as a boring white glow became a deep aquamarine, lending the stairs a truly relaxing atmosphere.
And then they emerged.
The shaft ended abruptly, spitting them out into a phenomenal cavern. The walls were not even visible through the cool mist that filled the air, and the hypnotising blue lake beneath them barely so. It was the sort of cavern that just had to be contrived, such was its perfection. Suddenly the rough stone steps were replaced by practically invisible crystal, winding their way down towards the water like, to use the obvious metaphor, the discarded skin of a huge serpent with very expensive tastes in scales.
The Author followed the stairway with his eyes, as they walked. It ended just before it descended beneath the water's surface, and from there a series of five small pillars led up to a larger one, on which...
"There she is," he murmured, his relief palpable. "Thank -"
Then a flicker of movement above caught his notice, and he glanced up curiously. His smile vanished.
"Oh God," he said, and broke into a sprint.
He hurtled uncontrollably down the steps, roughly elbowing Cloud out of the way and almost knocking him off. As he passed, Mr. Big, who was very good at identifying Bad Places To Be and had decided that right now the Author's shoulder was one of them, hurriedly changed host before it was too late.
In the corner of his vision the Author saw the ominous black shape begin to descend, deceptively slowly, and behind him he could hear Cloud and Kasuto running after him. But neither of these registered in his mind. He only knew that he had to reach Aeris.
He bounded up the pillars two at a time, stumbled on the last, and launched himself desperately forwards. His flailing arms caught Aeris around the waist as she knelt, seemingly unaware of her situation, and sent her skidding across the polished surface. He landed gracelessly on his chest and screeched to a halt, knocking the wind out of him and burning the skin off his face and hands, but his smile remained despite the pain. For he knew he -
The Masamune speared straight through his body as Sephiroth landed on the platform over him, his footfalls masked by the sound of tearing flesh. The Author shuddered once.
Sephiroth stared down dispassionately at the body at his feet.
"Oops," he said eventually.
He withdrew the blade, wincing as he saw the scratches carved on its otherwise perfect surface as it had cut deep into the pillar. Then he turned to Aeris. Her meditative reverie had been shattered, and her expression was now one of terror rather than the tranquillity of a few moments before. Sephiroth turned to her and smiled pleasantly.
"Don't worry, I haven't forgotten about you," he reassured her, raising the Masamune once more. She tried to scramble away, and his boot shot out and found her stomach. Her arms and legs gave way and she collapsed, wheezing. "I will carry out my... huh?"
He was having some difficulty moving his sword, which, as he discovered when he glanced back, was due to the Author holding on to the blade with both hands. Blood flowed freely from his palms and ran in streams down his forearms.
"Leave... her... alone..." he managed.
Sephiroth sighed. With one swift tug he forced the sword from the Author's grip, then reached down and lifted him bodily off the platform by his neck.
"Don't you know when to give up?" he enquired, and stabbed the Masamune once more through his chest, burying it up to the hilt so the blade protruded a good five feet or so from his back. He twisted it violently, then calmly released his hold. The Author hit the platform once more, the Masamune still impaled through him, glistening blade in the air like a grotesque gravestone.
Cracking his knuckles, Sephiroth turned back to Aeris again, only to find Cloud standing in his way, sword drawn.
"Put your hands in the air and step away from the girl," he said through clenched teeth, which made him sound rather muffled but most definitely angry.
Sephiroth smiled. "And if I don't?"
"Then I kill you," said Cloud simply, and brought his sword dropping down on Sephiroth's head.
It stopped so abruptly, as Sephiroth's palms connected with either side of the blade and held the thing in an inexorable grip a few inches from his forehead, that the sword practically jerked itself out of Cloud's hands.
"You forget," remarked Sephiroth casually, while Cloud desperately tried to pull his sword free, "exactly what you are dealing with here. I alone hold more power than all of you puny humans put together. The only reason you got the better of me all those years ago was because at that time I was not used to controlling a body such as this. I've got the hang of it now."
He released his grip, and Cloud brought the sword up, a triumphant grin on his face. This lasted approximately half a second before Sephiroth buried his fist in Cloud's chest, following it up with a machine-gun combo of punches and finishing by neatly flipping the weapon out of his grip and catching it calmly.
"You see?" he said as Cloud staggered back, clutching his face with both hands. "Now you can die too."
Standing at the bottom of the staircase, Kasuto's eyes narrowed. She cracked her knuckles, and from the air around her faint blue sparks began a turbulent spiral around her body.
"Er... girl?" Mr. Big said nervously. He didn't mind the sudden tornado - he recognised that as the sign of an impending tech. What worried him were the sparks that were suddenly orbiting him. "What're you doing...?"
"I'm saving him," Kasuto explained curtly, and drew her arm back. In one fluid motion she grabbed Mr. Big by the ears, whirled him briefly, and then flung him at the combatants with a cry of, "Bigerang!"
Sephiroth had been perfectly prepared for Cloud's inexpert attempt at dodging his stab, and had adjusted his aim accordingly. He had not, however, been expecting a rabbit to suddenly fly past his head, crying, "AiaiAIAIaiai..." and raking its claws viciously across his face as it passed, and he definitely hadn't expected it to hurtle back a few seconds later and do the same thing again. He recoiled sharply, dropping the sword and holding one hand ineffectually to the rips in his face.
Kasuto caught Mr. Big with one hand and placed him gently back on her shoulder.
"I'm going to help," she said, and leaped for the first pillar.
"Whatever you say," Mr. Big replied absently, his eyes rolling.
Cloud recovered first and went for his sword, but Sephiroth had enough presence of mind to knock the thing away from him with one foot. It skimmed across the perfectly smooth platform and fell off, hitting the water a second or so later.
"Hey!" Cloud shouted. "That's my materia in there!"
Sephiroth removed his hand from his face. A complex network of crimson streaks crisscrossed his skin, and blood seeped from his right eye.
"Really," he muttered, and lunged.
In the brief clash that followed, Cloud should have had the advantage. After all, his clothes did not get in the way whenever he tried to kick, and his spiked shoulder pads gave him an added edge. But Sephiroth fought, if you'll excuse the cliché, like a demon. When his fists merely caught a glancing blow, the force of the impact sent Cloud staggering. His attacks came so fast they were invisible. When he hopped up briefly and performed a lightning-fast spinning kick worthy of even one of the legendary Hibiki Saikyou-Ryuu masters, the blood from his face flew so far it reached Kasuto.
It was obvious, as he slid smoothly over to Cloud's side after a particularly accurate elbow strike and took hold of his neck with both hands, that Cloud had lost.
The snap echoed around the chamber for seconds.
Kasuto froze, one foot on the fourth pillar.
Sephiroth let the limp body slip from his grip, then turned and flashed her a radiant smile. "I really had been hoping for more of a challenge," he remarked. "You should have ganged up on me." He shrugged. "Still, I'll... huh?"
The two battle cries came from Kasuto and Mr. Big respectively as, acting purely on instinct, the teen ninja hurled herself towards Sephiroth, still holding onto her rabbit by one ear only. She collided heavily with him, sending both staggering backwards. Kasuto recovered quickly, while Sephiroth... well, while Sephiroth took one step back, tripped on Cloud's leg, stumbled until he fell over the Author, and impaled himself on his own sword.
Fishook Grysley leaped up so fast his chair went skidding across the room into the wall behind him. "YOU DIED? How? How could you let this happen? You were so close to the girl! All you had to do was to save her, patch things up between the two of you, and then I could take her away from you and shatter your fragile heart! My revenge upon you would have been complete! But you died? You absolute incompetent!"
His gaze shifted back to the materia sphere. "And you fools... You let him die. You ruined my revenge upon the Author. But I'm not finished yet. I'll be revenged upon someone...
"I'll destroy you all!
"Fishook Form Change!"
Prologue: Writing of Wrongs
Part 1: For What We Are About to Receive
Chapter I: Editorial Changes
Chapter II: Insert Chapter Title Here
Chapter III: Biohazard
Part 2: Present Imperfect
Chapter IV: Ahead on our Way
Chapter V: On That Day, Five Years Ago...
Chapter VI: Feather in the Wind (reprise)
Part 3: World Travel
Chapter VII: Twelve Good Men on a Dead Man's Chest
Chapter VIII: Music of the Night
Chapter IX: Drawing Inexorably
Part 4: Crossroads
Chapter X: The Trousers of Time
Part 5: Calculus
Chapter XI: Differentiation & Integration
Chapter XII: The Sunrise and I
Chapter XIII: The Best Is Yet To Come
Part 6: Introduction to Destruction
Chapter XIV: Makes No Difference
Chapter XV: Second Impact
Chapter XVI: Judgment Day
Epilogue: Loose Ends
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