The Wolf who held off Death
Kunsel raced. The Peacekeeping Troops had been called in large number to deal with a serious threat, and he feared he knew why.
Only a SOLDIER would require the mobilization of the Troops in such large number. Last time he heard, about five hundred had been called away, five hundred for a single man. Except said man was the last true First Class SOLDIER, an army in and out of himself. ShinRa was leaving nothing to chance, which was why SOLDIER hadn't been called.
Who, among them, would dare to raise their hand on the man who was their mentor, their hero? Kunsel was fairly certain the answer was no one. He was also fairly certain ShinRa would have a new mass desertion on their hand if SOLDIER knew who the Troops were after. Well, as much as he wouldn't have minded having some backup, he wasn't about to kick the anthill by telling everyone and cause said desertion. The Genesis War had been bad enough.
So, riding his motorcycle, his trusty broadsword on his back, he raced to the wastes and prayed he wouldn't be too late.
§ § §
Zack glared at the three men. Only three, of the five hundred troopers sent to kill him. And he couldn't move. His arms refused him, his legs were as heavy as lead and pain was searing through his body. The Buster Sword was still in his hand but he couldn't raise it!
He glanced to a spot on the side. Cloud was there, still asleep. They would kill him next, or worse. Sorrow clenched his heart. In the end, he couldn't protect anyone. Not Nibelheim, not Sephiroth, not Cloud… The troopers came to him, guns raised, ready to shoot.
They never did. All of a sudden, Cloud started gasping and choking on the outcrop, as if he had a seizure. The sight distracted the troopers who, just like Zack, had no idea what was going on.
Green tendrils rose from the land, surrounding the blonde's body. A red light formed above his chest, taking the form of a sphere. The event lasted but a minute, at the end of which Cloud was lying on his back, a Red Materia on his chest. Zack looked at the sphere.
'So, this is how Summon Materias are made. Funny. A shame it's out of reach.'
One of the troopers came to check. He gave Cloud a soft kick before kneeling to examine the Red Materia…
The trooper jumped back as a majestic white wolf jumped from the Materia and went straight for his throat. The blow was strong enough to behead him. The wolf turned to the two troopers, who had turned their gun against him. They fired. It didn't scratch the summon, nor did it phase it. The wolf howled, its eyes glowing a bright silver light, and four ghostly wolves appeared that crashed in the second trooper. The light tore him apart. The third screamed and tried to run, only for the wolf to run after him, bite his shoulder and shake him like a chew toy before throwing him of the cliff, still screaming. The wolf howled one more time, victoriously, but didn't fade away. Instead, it returned to Cloud, who was trying to stand.
§ § §
Kunsel swerved sharply to dodge the flying trooper. The grunt landed harshly a few meters away, head at an odd angle. The fall had snapped his neck.
The stench of blood was being carried by the soft drizzle that had begun falling, strong enough it overpowered the smell of mako from his bike. The howl, though threatening, had been an added bonus. He knew where to go, and the flying trooper had confirmed his suspicion: he was close.
He raced and finally reached the top of the cliff, only to pull up sharp. Right before him, on a rocky outcrop, was a wolf unlike any he had ever seen. The beast was one head above him at the shoulder, its back emanating a soft white mist that ran all the way to its two tails, with hued fur going from pristine white on the back to silver at the flank and finally jet black at the feet. There were feathers at its shoulders and ears, hued like the fur, and as the beast turned to him, he could see the silver mask on its white head.
The creature was majestic. There was no other word. Behind him, a young blonde man was trying to heal Zack with a Cure Materia. Kunsel removed his helmet, freeing his short copper-red hair, and made a step forward. Before he could react, the wolf tackled him. His yelp caught Zack and the blonde's attention. He saw Zack blink.
"Is he a friend?" The blonde asked.
"Yeah. He's a friend."
The blonde nodded and whistled.
The wolf gave its master a look. Before Kunsel could react, it took his throat between its jaws, softly, and dug four marks in it. Kunsel was nearly pissing his pants at this point. The wolf was huge, and it looked powerful. As it returned, he saw the blonde smack the creature who whined apologetically.
"Zack said he was a friend. Leave him."
The wolf nodded, its ears low. Kunsel rose and took a moment to encompass the scene. Five hundred troopers against a single SOLDIER. There was no survivor, every single man scattered around the cliff in an entire field of corpses, the brownish land stained red by their blood. Zack had shown no mercy, and given his injuries, he had received none. The blonde panted. He tried to cast Cure again, but it was obvious his reserves were low.
"It's alright, Cloud. You did enough. I'm not gonna die now."
"You're still not fine. What if they return? You can't even move!"
Zack grabbed Cloud's arm.
"The church in Sector 5. In the slums. Aerith will help us."
Cloud nodded. Kunsel came to the two men, glancing warily at the giant wolf, Fenris. Then he noticed Cloud was also holding a Red Materia. Wait, the wolf was a summon!? Since when did summons behave like that? Zack looked at his old friend.
"Kunsel. Been awhile!"
"You tell me!" The redhead crossed his arms. "Where the hell have you been!?"
"Long story. I'll tell you later."
He had a mastered Cure Materia with him. A good burst made Zack feel better, but he wasn't out of it yet. He helped him get on his bike and watched as Cloud rode his summon instead. Whatever had happened to the blonde had left his shirt in shreds that left little to the imagination. They rode together, Fenris easily able to keep up with the bike. They snuck in the slums by a crack in the wall that now surrounded the city and let Zack guide them to the church.
There was no one here yet. Cloud and Kunsel lay their friend near a wall, Kunsel wishing he had a coat to use as a blanket. Instead, to his surprise, the giant wolf laid down and let the First Class use him as a pillow. Kunsel raised a brow.
"That is not typical summon behavior."
Cloud didn't really care. Having been in the Peacekeeping troops, his knowledge of Materia was rather limited.
"All I know is that, when I woke up, he was throwing a trooper off the cliff and there was this Materia on my chest. Apparently, it's his, but he doesn't seem to want to return so, for now, it's good to have a big bad wolf around since he listens to me."
Fenris whined happily. Cloud scratched the top of its head. Kunsel took his Cure Materia and used it several times on Zack, but it was obvious the brunette would need more than that.
"I came as soon as I heard the Peacekeeping Troops being mobilized. I was worried I wouldn't reach you in time. Looks like I was wrong."
"He saved me."
Cloud and Kunsel turned to Zack, who was looking away.
"Fenris. I had dealt with most of the army and only those three grunts were left, but that was the end for me. I couldn't move or cast a spell… Then it looked like Cloud was having a seizure and green energy came from the ground. Fenris's Materia appeared on his chest and, when one of the troopers went to check, big wolf here jumped and cut his head off. Snap. Then it blasted another with light and threw the third off the cliff. After that, Cloud came to me, I gave him my Cure Materia and he tried to heal me."
"They came close!"
"I thought I was done for…"
"But you're not."
All three men turned to the new, unfamiliar voice. Fenris raised its head and growled, but Zack petted it. Aerith walked the aisle, flower basket in hand, and came to the men. Zack smiled.
"I missed you."
"You have no room to talk." Aerith retorted. "Do you know how long it is to wait for four years!?"
"Yeah… Sorry, it's not like I wanted to. Being trapped in a lab and experimented on by a madman isn't very pleasant. Especially when your best friend is right next to you and you can only watch him being tortured…"
"I don't remember all of it. It's blurry, and most of it is feeling anyway, but there was pain. So much pain! Then a void and I woke up with a giant wolf in the middle of a field of corpses, with my best friend dying a little away."
Aerith raised a brow.
"A field of corpses?"
"ShinRa tried to have me killed. Obviously, they failed."
The girl sighed and put her basket away.
"I'll return with blankets and food. You must be starving."
"Not me." Kunsel shook his head. "I came too late. The party was already over."
Aerith nodded and left. Cloud turned to Zack.
"Yes…. If I can still call her that after disappearing for four years."
Cloud, to Zack's surprise, sneered. He sat next to him, against Fenris, while Kunsel put the Buster Sword against the wall and sat nearby. They waited for the flower maiden to return, Zack falling asleep in the process. Cloud kept a vigilant eye, making sure his friend was still breathing. If he stopped…
Aerith returned not just with the food and blanket, but with a first-aid kit in her basket. Cloud nudged Zack awake and stepped away, leaving the girl tend to her boyfriend. She turned to Kunsel.
"So, about you…"
"I'm out of ShinRa, if that's what you're about to ask. First, they lie to us about Zack dying in Nibelheim, then they try to have him killed. This after whatever chocobo crap happened a few months ago with that strange summon and the terrorist group that nearly blew up the city, and a no small amount of lies about General Sephiroth, Commander Hewley – yes, I know what really happened in Modeoheim – and Director Lazard suddenly leaving… Makes me wonder how many skeletons ShinRa has up its closets. Them targeting my best friend was just the final straw. I am done."
Zack looked sad. Cloud turned to him.
"Are you alright?"
"About my injuries? No. It's just… I'm sad."
Zack took his time to answer.
"…A million things."
Kunsel looked away.
"ShinRa isn't what it used to be. Back when I joined, it was a powerful, respectful organization. People looked up to us as the heralds of a brighter, happier future. They worshipped SOLDIERs, cheered when new technology was made, new advancements were found. It all fell apart after Wutai. First, Captain Rhapsodos went missing and took a lot of Second and Third Class with him, then Commander Hewley deserted as well. Then there were the events with the Turks and that organization, AVALANCHE, the Genesis War and Nibelheim… The more time went on, the more it became obvious ShinRa had many, many more dirty secrets than they let on. And people were starting to notice. I noticed. This, this… It's not what I signed for. It was never what I signed for."
Zack smiled sadly.
"You just about summed it up."
Aerith listened. She understood.
The trio slept in the church that night, and every other until Zack had fully recovered. It took only a few days thanks to his SOLDIER constitution. If the Turks or ShinRa knew his and Cloud's location, they didn't go after them. Yet, they and Aerith knew the stay was only temporary.
"So, what do we do now?"
Zack felt a bit embarrassed.
"I hadn't planned past returning to Midgar and seeing Aerith again."
"Is it safe to stay there with ShinRa after us?" Cloud asked. "Shouldn't we leave?"
Zack took his time to think.
"I defeated an army single-handedly, and this was before Fenris added itself to the chessboard. I'm pretty confident we could take on the Turks or anything they could throw at us… Alright, let's do it this way: if they go after us, we leave. If they corner us, we fight. In the meantime, I say we try to settle down and rebuild ourselves. I'm kinda fed up with being on the run and, besides, give me one place where ShinRa can't go and get us."
"You got a point." Kunsel noted.
"The best hiding place is right under your nose. Besides, I wonder how they could deploy an army in a place as narrow and stuffy as the slums."
"Yeah, field advantage. And there's three, no four of us this time. I wonder how much of the military we could take…"
Cloud shook his head.
"I'm not keen on finding out."
A FF7 plot bunny that has been running in my head for awhile. Let's see how far this goes...
Fenris's creation: Fenris is a Summon. In the story's headcannon, if regular Materias are condensated knowledge from the Lifestream, Summon Materias are more complex than that. There are personalities in the Lifestream that are particularly powerful (canon gives us Zack, Aerith, President ShinRa...) and resist disolving. Rather than being born in mako springs or artificially, Summon Materias are instead those powerful personalities coalesced into Materias via a "catalyst". The Lifestream reacts to a powerful event and channels itself through a person whom a part of his life energy adds itself to the personality and the additional flow of Lifestream to create a Summon Materia. The "creators" of Summon Materias have usually much more fine control over the Summons than any other user by virtue of there being a part of themselves in it.
This is what happened with Cloud. He was around a powerful event that made a lot of casualties (497 men killed by a single one who is near death), so the Lifestream reacted, a powerful personality rode the flow, channeled itself through Cloud and took along a part of the Lifestream and Cloud's life energy to become Fenris. This is why Fenris behaves the way he does: he is newly-created and Cloud, his creator, is his current wielder. Should Zack or Kunsel try to use him, he will behave just like any other Summon by virtue of missing the bond he shares with Cloud.
Also, Kunsel did say in canon he was going to look for Zack. In the story, he makes it.
Alright, see you soon !