Title: Mirage of the Past
Author: Jade Tatsu
Summary: 500 years after Avalanche the battle against Sephiroth is still raging. As a new group makes their run on the Crater, can the truth of 500 years of war be revealed...
Special Thanks: Sylv-chan! For pre-reading and suggesting a few changes. Enjoy!
Mirage of the Past
Beautiful; He is absolutely beautiful.
The man who has held the world in his thrall for the last five hundred years.
The one winged angel, Sephiroth.
I can understand why those who call him a god do so, for he is the image of one, an untouchable, vengeful god, but a god never the less.
I've seen pictures, images of him, and his seven Wings - those trusted generals who have acted in his stead - but nothing could have prepared me for the reality of him. We barely survived battle with his Wings so I don't know what arrogance has lead us here, to the crater to face him.
One of the Wings, through the blood pooling in her throat as she died, laughed at our plan.
I now know why.
The two clones that were guarding Him personally have fallen. He didn't even spare them a glance as he strode forward to meet us. Their bodies are now entombed in the maze of Materia that forms this place although it does seem that the cracks and pathways are leading from them to the spot he had been, but I think that is just supposition. I hope it's just supposition for I do not wish to think about the implications.
It's cold here, and that's not just the temperature. There is a feeling in the air, in this place that is both the beginning, and the end of everything, of power, cold, absolute, uncaring power. No...
Emerald eyes have narrowed and he is considering his movements, his one wing wrapped tightly around him in battle.
Uncaring... That's wrong. The power here is packed full with emotion. It is both everything and nothing. The emotion is too much but was not enough.
The shields have fallen. I'm trying to recast them but every ounce of power I raise is crushed. I'd move into a combative role if I thought I'd last an instant against him. I might have to yet but I am the healer, and the defender, I have a job to do. I am the Lore Keeper, so I am in the defensive lines, but I don't think I will survive to tell the tale of this battle. He, his ability, is unbelievable. It is so much more than we ever thought possible, so much more than should be possible.
We researched, we learnt, I swear we heeded the lessons of those who have gone before us. Sephiroth has held the world for five hundred years but it has been five hundred years of fighting. We learnt those lessons, we studied, we trained, we practiced and against the Wings, close though those battles were, it was sufficient but against him, it seems as if it is all for naught.
I am a scholar, the Mirage's Record Keeper, and the beginning of my quest is lost for me in the beginning of the entire quest. Five hundred years ago, it started. Five hundred years, the battle has waged. And for five hundred years all who would raise their hand against him have been destroyed. There hasn't been another meteor. The planet couldn't survive another. And while I know we, the Rebellion, might risk summoning it to destroy him, he keeps the Black materia as closely guarded as the White. Even now as I look upon him, I cannot see them.
I would have thought they'd be with him but I guess the rumours about a Materia Keeper are true. I wonder if the Keeper is one of his clones, all flowing silver hair and impossible emerald eyes, fanatically loyal but mindless, or one of his Wings, each unique, with fighting styles that have to be seen to be believed, fanatically loyal and more dangerous for their ability to think, to plan, to reason. But we have fought and defeated all seven Wings so I know they did not hold them.
There has never been a record of a clone becoming a Wing, but there is a record of a Wing becoming a clone, of her wings, the pure black feathered wings that mark them as his, receding, her hair lightening and her eyes changing as they became a mere extension of his body. It has only happened once, and we do not know why. It doesn't matter why. His ways are not known to mortals; his ways have never been known to mortals. His eight Wings were reduced to seven then and the number has not changed.
I don't know how the other group are doing. I hope they are doing better than us, although with the power he has shown...
There is no sign at the edge of the Crater. There should be. 'Welcome to the End' seems appropriate but if you place one there, you will need to place one in Nibelheim. For the last five hundred years it has finished in the Crater but it has always started in Nibelheim.
That town hasn't existed for the last two hundred years but it has always been the beginning, even for us, it is our beginning. I'd like to say He destroyed it but the records are clear. It was destroyed by a being with ten wings, not one. Who or what they were is still a matter of question. Some suspect it was Sephiroth in disguise but he has never hidden destruction before and rarely leaves the Crater. Some advocate that it was one of his Wings, but all his Wings were accounted for at the time, while others think it was the last Weapon created by the Planet, but that begs the question of destruction, why there, why then?
Two hundred years has passed since then and no so much as a blade of grass has grown there. Nothing can crack the melted glassy rock that is all that remains of that village. I've only seen pictures of Nibelheim. It didn't seem special, certainly not special enough to be the start of everything.
Five hundred years ago there was a man, a man named Cloud Strife who was present at the beginning of it all in Nibelheim. I'd like to blame him, as others do but that is pointless. Without him, there would be no battle, no fight. The records are clear. He fought, a long and difficult battle with his companions against Sephiroth. He was by all accounts a brilliant soldier, created to be Sephiroth's puppet but was instead unintentionally Sephiroth's equal. He could have won. They could have won, and it would have ended there.
It is not clear what happened when Cloud and his group reached the Crater. They'd suffered losses along the way. The last Ancient died in his arms but even so they had the strength to win. They had the desire. More than any of us, they had the desire.
I do not think they surrendered, as Sephiroth is occasionally known to mock.
I do not think they merely gave up, not after going so far.
And, as ironic as it sounds five hundred years from when they fought, I do not think they were defeated.
It might be a romantic notion, or a notion born from the belief that someone would always fight Him but it is a notion that fits the evidence, and the fits the power hungry natures of those involved. I think they were betrayed. That as they were fighting Sephiroth, ShinRa, a company that did not back them, a company they had no interest in, but the company that created Sephiroth, betrayed them. If ShinRa had of done nothing, it would have been fine, but I am sure they did something; something that affected Avalanche and allowed Sephiroth to win.
If ShinRa did it expecting Sephiroth to return to them, if they did it expecting mercy, or to gain a hold over the silver haired man, then I can only take grim satisfaction from the fact that it gained them nothing. The Meteor that Cloud and Avalanche fought to stop still fell, and while ShinRa survived the destruction it caused, they did not survive past Sephiroth striking out from the Crater.
Thousands had fallen with the Meteor. Those that remained were easy for Him and his Wings to conquer. Two continents fell within the space of days. It seems absurd that eight warriors and Him could do that alone, but they did.
Two Wings took out Midgar. They simply destroyed the ShinRa tower, let it fall on to the plates, and watched as the remaining plates fell. Then they remained, destroying the remaining survivors. It was red and white power that knew no mercy.
One Wing destroyed Kalm, a single shot of pink toned power. Some survivors made it to the caves but most were lost to the wolves and monsters that seemed to spring up from no-where. They are still in evidence today.
The Condor Fort Rebels were destroyed by olive power that flew by, intent on claiming Mideel. There were no survivors from the Fort, it was a precise shot to the reactor, and buried as that town was, there was no escape.
Sephiroth himself took out Junon, where the Sister Ray had been returned. He allowed them to fire at him, smiling slightly as the power dissipated around him. He was not concerned and with a flash of green, the corrupted power of the planet the city was reduced to rubble.
Brown energy attacked Costa-del-Sol but the main target was the Gold Saucer. It was returned to the desert. The few survivors fought over the remaining Chocobos and most then died, lost in a desert they had no hope to negotiate.
The fire at Cosmo Canyon was put out. That village was not touched otherwise. The death of the fire was the death of the village and they submitted to Sephiroth with no hint of rebellion in a wise move that would later cost them dearly.
Nibelheim was conquered with purple. Where once flames had devoured it, this time purple energy rained down upon them. It was calculated, the entrances to the caves in Mount Nibel were attacked first. There was no escape.
Rocket Town fell to yellow. The Rocket was vaporised as the opening move and before it was completely gone wind tore at the houses that remained. It was quick but that was the only mercy. Those that escaped saw everything destroyed.
It might have taken them a few days to conquer but it did take a few weeks to consolidate His hold. Refugees were streaming everywhere; shantytowns appeared and were destroyed. Those that tried to fight were cut to pieces, and if known their dismembered bodies returned to those who would recognise them as a warning. A rain of blood, bone and flesh is a warning to anyone though. Eventually His thirst for blood seemed sated.
With the continents under His control, though anarchy reigned, that left Wutai.
Brave, arrogant, independent Wutai.
They didn't stand a chance. Flanked from the north and south, with a frontal attack from the east, they were driven to the west and on the beaches of the Isle of Wutai with their backs to the water they died. The warriors of the Pagoda, those who hadn't stayed in the city to buy time to evacuate were destroyed first. The others, the civilians were slaughtered after. They saw the faces of the Wings, the faces of death. I'm told the sand is still stained red.
He just watched his three chosen Wings destroy the last of the resistance, as two more hovered in attendance. The other three held the continents, not that there was much to hold, but their presence kept any resistance from gaining momentum.
You'd think that after such destruction there would be no resistance, but Sephiroth was correct in his caution.
The first resistance came from a group called the Turks. They were attached to ShinRa but somehow they were still separate. After so long, it's hard to know the true nature of the relationship between the groups but I suspect they were ShinRa's enforcers or assassins. For whatever reason they were not in Midgar when it fell, they were in Cosmo Canyon and one suspects they are the reason for the seeming surrender.
It was a surrender than had not been taken at face value and Sephiroth had positioned one of his Wings there.
The Turks struck while He was occupied with Wutai. They attacked and killed the Wing guarding Cosmo Canyon first, which naturally brought His attention, but he could not retaliate immediately and left it to the other two Wing's who had been left to over see the continents.
The next Wing cost one of their own and the third Wing was killed by the remaining two. It is recorded in one of the few remaining documents from that time. It is the diary of one of the Turks, we are not sure who but it is a heart rending account of the turmoil. It is not complete, it has been damaged by time but it is complete enough.
'She was guarding Cosmo Canyon and we could not move with her there. I argued against it but there was no choice. We killed her...
I killed her.
I'd like to think that we set her free but with Jenova you can never be sure.
It was the hardest thing I have ever done, standing there, watching the life fade from her russet eyes. I wanted to hold her, to beg her to live, to say I was sorry but I did nothing, even as the blood dripped from my hand I did nothing but watch her die.
I'll kill him! I swear it. I'll kill the man who betrayed her, who betrayed them all. He betrayed everyone and now sits at the right hand of darkness. No one's seen him though. Maybe he's dead as she said he was but I don't know... There is something not right, something she wasn't saying, and even though she was dying I could see the fear in her eyes.
I don't know if we should be worried about that. The white haired bastard's done everything but no one has seen him. And no one's seen his mother. I hope she's had her fill of blood...
When this is over... if this is over...
Heh, morbid thoughts for one not yet dead. I might as well be though. I killed her and did nothing to ease her pain.
We have to move fast now. With her dead, they know we are still here. I don't know if the bastard will come. Probably not. The General never wanted to deal with insects. Still, if we take out another Wing, he will have to come. Then maybe we can end this.
I hope we can do it. It is the only mercy we can give them. It is a mercy for us too, I think. Hell, they were the world's last hope. We weren't. We're not qualified to be that, there's too much blood, too much darkness within us for that, but they were betrayed, and so we have to fight now. Funny how these things work.
I swear I'll kill him, whichever him that happens to be, because he made me kill her.
We're still fighting. I got the shields back up, but he's standing there, flicking spells at us, casual like. It seems he's amused by our efforts.
I'm not going to let the shield fail again.
There's a few days between the Turks entries before the final one.
'Everything's gone to hell. We got out of the Canyon okay. We were half a day away, heading up towards Nibelheim when we saw the flash. Knew what that meant. Didn't even have time to mourn.
It shouldn't be possible to fly that fast. Sephiroth was never one to care about things like that though and if he ordered them to intercept then they'd have had no choice to kill themselves intercepting us. Pity they didn't though.
At least I didn't know them this time. Well, I knew them. I knew all the Wings but I didn't care about these ones. Unlike her.
Fuck it's cold here. Bloody crater is freezing. I wish we didn't have to be here. There's no reason to be here. We can fight them just as well in Costa-del-Sol but he insisted. Said something about ending it, and that we had to be sure. Bit surprised that he spoke but I can't really blame him for wanting to end here. I wanted it to end at the Canyon, but while that was the end of things for me, it was not the end of everything.
He's not here. Not even his spiky haired body. Wonder if he's really dead like she said. I don't think so though. Not if they are all still alive, if you can call that alive. Sephiroth wouldn't just kill his favourite puppet.
Silver haired, green-eyed bastard's not here, but he's coming. I can feel it. Guess it takes some time to fly from Wutai. Probably had to finish up killing them all.
She's not here either. I wonder where Jenova is? Maybe she got what she wanted when Meteor fell, that's why she's letting her son run amuck. Don't know though. You'd think she'd want it all. Maybe she's dead. I doubt we're that lucky.
Dammit, my wounds open again.
Sanctimonious, chain-smoking bastard got me good. Didn't go down easy, that's for sure. Almost didn't think he'd go down at all. He was a tough bastard, same as the cat, but Elena paid to see the pussy die. If that hadn't happened, I think we'd both be dead, rather than sitting here, freezing our arses off, waiting for him to return. Should'a stayed in Midgar. Would have been quick. At least the fire would have been warm.
Huh... Rude found something...
At least that explains where the spiky haired git is. I wonder what happened to cause that, looks like Hojo's work, although I think it's got to be Jenova. No way the Planet would do that.
Something happened here, something we don't know. Blond git is frozen in materia. Looks like he's asleep. It's almost peaceful, 'cept his cut up something shocking, there's blood all around him and seven fucking wings sprouting from his back!
Wonder if he died, and Jenova or Sephiroth decided they still wanted to play? Could'a happened, wounds are bad enough and I doubt even God knows what Hojo's put him through, back before this all started. Well, before it started this time.
It's funny, thinking back, I'd put the bullet through Hojo's head first, never mind Sephiroth. It's Hojo I'd shoot first.
At least I know he's dead. Saw the splatter, had to piece together the bits for Rufus. When he got going blondie over there in the materia really knew how to slice and dice. I'd've liked to see how big a number he did on the silver haired freak before he was betrayed. Didn't take well to being controlled. Not that I can blame him.
He would have made a good Turk if the situation was different.
Ah... shit... He's here.
I'd have liked to know what really happened. In the end though, I guess it's not going to matter. It's time for the one winged angel to learn no-one messes with the Turks.
After that we know nothing. We know they didn't win, although they might have taken out another Wing, or two. I doubt they went down without a fight but in the end they didn't win. Can't blame them though. They did all that they could. And they did far better than most that've come after them. Their world had been torn asunder. What more could they do?
The Wings they killed though - purple, rust and yellow - were returned to life. I know, 'cause we've killed them again to get here. It hardly seems fair, that you pay with so much blood to kill them and Sephiroth can just bring them back. You have to kill him. I think everyone agrees that would be fair.
It is a tantalising look into what happened. It's obvious that the Turks were involved somehow, or at least knew who was there. Some of the questions he raised, we still don't know the answers to, some we do.
Who Hojo was, and why the Turk felt such hatred towards him is still questionable. It's Jenova's infection that has caused the damage, not some human Hojo. At least, we think he was human. That's about all we know. He's not important.
We know Jenova is dead. It's something we are thankful for every day. Sephiroth claims he killed her, but I think Cloud might have before he was betrayed, or what ever it was that caused his fall.
What happened between Cloud and Sephiroth in the Crater is still a mystery. We're fairly sure he's the man withseven wings - the spiky haired git - but where he is, and where he has been for the last five centuries is still unknown. I kinda hope he's dead. From the other records of that time, Sephiroth did not... would not have made it easy for him.
How stupid's that?
I'm hoping the one man who has possibly ever stood equal to Sephiroth has died. I should be more concerned about myself. What the wings might mean... no one, not even the Planet knows. And we've asked...
One thing we do know from the Turks attack though, is that while Sephiroth can bring his Wings back, it takes time. Records are sketchy from then but they are consistent in providing evidence that it took three to four years to bring back all his Wings.
One year, one resurrection.
Not that such information meant anything to anyone for the next two centuries.
With an attack coming so soon after what Sephiroth now calls his Ascension, it doesn't seem possible, but his remaining Wings attacked what remained even harder. Any gathering, any mercy, any shelter was considered a threat and destroyed. They were indiscriminate.
I think you can still hear the Planet's cry.
People learnt though. People adapted. Shelter was buried deep underground, as close to the Lifestream as we could get. Every shelter had multiple entries. Two continents have become rabbit warrens with miles of interlacing corridors. Five centuries gives you time to dig and of working out methods for food production.
The population is never going to be the same as it was before Sephiroth, not until he is gone, and even then, I think it's going to take us time to live above ground again. The wind... The wind is something I hope we can feel.
And the sun. I'd like to look at it without scanning the skies for his servants.
I've never seen stars before I came here.
I hope we can win.
It's gone. I wonder what the others did.
No, it's not gone, it's just... there!
I don't know what the others have done but the Masamune, that silver lightning blade that cuts anything is now lying behind us.
It is peculiar here in the Crater. We entered as two groups, but while I know the others are only metres from us, I cannot see them, I cannot help them. I hope at the very least they are alive and that wasn't their final strike. I hope together we can win against him. We're both fighting, both groups, but neither can tell how the other is doing.
The next major strike against him came two centuries after his rise. Absurd that. But the Wings had done such a thorough job of destroying things that it took that long for people to become accustomed to their new life, for them to gain strength.
They called themselves Cascade. Not that such really matters. They arose in Wutai, an eclectic mix of warriors, 100 strong, trained from birth for their battle, who lost half their number in the battle against the Wutai Wing. You'd almost think that that would regulate them to little more than a footnote in this battle but they won. Bleeding, broken, destroyed, they managed to pull her down. The survivors all took a feather as a trophy. It was not neat.
With the Wutain Wing destroyed, the Western Continent Wings were called upon to act. Sephiroth didn't bother to come himself. He just sent the orders.
Nibelheim's Purple, and Canyon's Rust were sent to avenge Olive Wutai. Their posts were covered by Air's Yellow. Heh... We know the names of the Wings, we do not speak them because they are not the people they were. There has been enough proof of that. You can see it in the way they all flinch when Sephiroth calls them by name. They hate him but they have no choice but to serve him. Over the years they have regained some of who they were. I think he does that to torture them. I don't know why so we simply refer to their colours, the colour of their power signature. Perhaps it is mercy, perhaps it is our cowardice but it is the only regard we can give them.
I said a prayer over their bodies when we killed them, hoping that they will not see this world again. Not until they are reborn from the life stream by Gaea.
Cascade was ready by then. They might have lost most of their number taking out Wutai Olive, but in retrospect that had obviously been a brutal training run for them. Those that remained were tough.
Nibelheim's Purple fell next. We think.
Heh... don't make the mistake of thinking she was weak in the fact that she fell near the beginning for both the Turks and Cascade. Nothing could be further from the truth. It is simply a matter of circumstance.
Rust held out until air's Yellow and Brown could reinforce him. We're not sure if Cascade killed the cat or if he died of his injuries. It doesn't matter too much from this point in time because he was not present at any of the further battles.
No... Di... No...
It appears He isn't above hand to hand.
The elegance of his skill with the Masamune is a mask to hide his true strength. I'd better cast a heal on Di. I don't think I've ever seen anyone punch that hard, not even Purple.
Cascade pushed out from Wutai, driving Yellow and Brown back on to the continent.
Brown and Yellow make a tough combination. Hell, any of the ground based Wings when partnered with the Air Wing is tough but those two share some characteristics. They are both hard talking and stubborn with a sense of self that doesn't allow them to lose. There are better combinations of His forces, but there are few that have the sheer raw power of those two.
Cascade reports that the air forces and the one armed man alternatively pounded them, picking off their numbers as they could. It wasn't until they split their forces that Cascade began to fight back, and it wasn't until they had done a lot of careful manoeuvring through the Nibelheim foot hills that they managed to catch the Wing's in their trap, and by that time they had been fighting for days.
I'm sure the impending arrival of the Pink and White Wings goaded them into action. Whatever they did though, they managed to trick Brown into firing one of his ultimate attacks at Yellow. It didn't kill the Air wing, but the resulting shock did allow for Cascade to incapacitate the Brown Wing.
Then they discovered that Yellow was twice as tough on the ground as he was in the air. Pink arrived by then, the Wing that has since become a Clone, but at the time, she was the gentlest of all the Wings. She healed Yellow as much as she could, and sent Browns body away. Cascade would have us believe that she merged it with the Lifestream, but while the Lifestream is diseased, and stressed by the continuing presence of Sephiroth, it has never bowed to him.
If it had, none of us would still be fighting.
I don't know what she did, although I do believe that the body was removed. Given her ability to heal, it's not surprising that Cascade then focused its efforts on her. When White arrived, they continued with their concentrated attacks on Pink.
It makes perfect tactical sense.
It was a bloodbath.
They'd lost a further ten percent of their remaining forces during the time they'd been moving Yellow and Brown into position for their trick. Cascade's single minded focus on removing the Pink Wing from any further battle cost them half their numbers. Yellow and White, while they no doubt knew what Cascade were planning couldn't prevent it, but they could and did make it costly.
Once Pink was dead, the remaining Cascade forces withdrew slightly and both sides healed their wounds as best they could before they continued.
By the Planet...
He's down. He's not out, but he's down. I wonder what the others did. I know we haven't attacked that strongly...
No... They wouldn't have? Maybe they would have, Tencin would have, but I hope not. Any of us would, we are the Mirage after all.
His shields are in place, and His eyes are burning. You think the green is unfathomable with his normal gaze, until you see rage. He's not out, not by a long shot and the power of his magic could still get us all.
Cascade had taken out over half His Wings but they had taken out more than half their number in return and one could say the more formidable Wings remained, and of course, He was still there. While they continued to fight with Yellow and White, Red waited on the North continent, patient, guarding the Crater. In all the years I have researched history, I have never heard of him leaving his position. Enemies come to him, even if they have by-passed the other Wings, and die.
That left Yellow and White to fight on their own. That sounds like they were weak without support. Nothing could be further from the truth.
White is unusual in that he comes in two parts, three if you include the human side, but the human side is weak, and tends to avoid battle. Of all the Wings, I'm not sure he's ever died. The combat pieces have been destroyed, of that I am positive, but his human side. It is difficult for me to determine if even we killed his human section along with the robotics he used to fight. We killed someone. I don't know if it was truly him though, although no other has stepped forward, and so difficult as it is for me to know if we killed him, it's impossible to know if Cascade killed him. It doesn't really matter now. For their fight White did not rise again although the explosion of his death took the four who'd held him in place.
Yellow was injured by then and had been fighting on and off for weeks. It is not surprising that those of Cascade who remained managed to finish him off quickly once White was destroyed. It is a warning though. Yellow might seem old, he might seem weak but he is as tough as they come. I'd wager he could have taken on Red easily. I don't know if he'd win but he'd put up a decent fight. All the Wings are powerful, some though are powerful in more ways than others.
Yellow and Red are the two toughest. Both fighters are powerful enough to hold an entire continent themselves. Rust is the smartest. His breadth of his knowledge is rarely seen but always respected. Olive is the fastest. Her skill and speed are legendary as is her acquisitive nature. Brown the strongest physically although he tends to defer to the others for guidance, he is stubborn once he is on his path. Purple is the most flexible. Strength, speed, skill all balanced and rounded. White is the most deceptive. He is the spy, the agent, the one whose antics you think you can trust before he rips you apart from within. Pink was the healer, skilled in her art but she was not the one who resurrected the Wings as Cascade hoped.
And Green, Him, surpasses them all. He is tougher than them all combined, stronger, faster, more skilled, flexible, sly and can raise the dead. A leader, a warrior, a thief and a healer.
If all his Wings fought against Him, He'd still win. We have the proof of that in our battle.
With White gone, Yellow retreated further to Rocket Town, his stronghold but he was defeated there. There is still a depression at the place where he died and a monument a feather with the words 'I will fly free'. We don't know who raised the monument, his descendants perhaps. It is a chilling tribute.
Once all the continent Wings had been destroyed, Cascade moved northwards, towards the crater. Their exact numbers at this point have not been recorded, but I would estimate about 20 of their 100 remained. It is a surprisingly good number and as the battle went on they had lost fewer. I guess the weakest of them were destroyed easily, leaving only the most suitable.
It was a trend that would not continue.
Red waited patiently. He let them exhaust themselves on the tundra's, fighting the weather and cold before they reached him. Then he struck, a lightning fast attack when they were at their weakest. He didn't close for combat, just sniped at them before vanishing again. He killed one and injured two. I suspect it was more but that is what Cascade would have us believe.
They made sure to hide themselves better from then and the next time they encountered Red it was for the last battle with him. He was cunning and waited at a spot where they could not attack him enmass, nor could they snipe. They had to come to him in small groups, where despite their power, they were at a disadvantage.
I don't have to imagine the type of battle it would have been. Red pulled the same ploy with us. It would have been harsh and mind blowingly violent. Red's weapon is a gun and he does not miss.
It's not a kill shot every time but it is proof of his skill.
Eventually two of Cascade's Members charged forward, intent on confining Red until the others could get in the killing blow. It was not to be. Red isn't the guard of the Crater for nothing.
He changed. The gun was discarded with his human form to reveal a monster even more dangerous than those Jenova creates. The two holding him were ripped apart with the change, the leading group didn't have a chance. The following groups barely survived. Not a good beginning to their campaign in the Crater. But they had come so far, they could not turn back.
They arrayed themselves carefully, packed into the narrow space. It was a dangerous ploy. If Red had reached them, that would have been the end. But with them all packed together, front rows kneeling, with the others behind them, every single one could fight.
They didn't kill him physically, they killed him with magic. So many destructive spells, so close together that not even the Monster he had become could defend against them. I think we passed the place on our way here. I can't think of anything else that would melt rock like that.
And then of course, once Red was gone, that left only Him.
He waited. Patient and confident, let them come to him.
15 of them attacked. I suppose they were arrayed in groups like ourselves. Not that it mattered.
I do not know how they fought. I do not know how close they came. It does not matter. They did not win. I am sure, that like the Turks they put up a good fight. Of the fifteen that went up against him, only one survived.
He let them survive.
He dropped the wounded body and the heads of those he had killed in Wutai. A warning obviously to those who had raised Cascade. A warning that he was invincible.
The survivor was scarred. For what remained of their life, they could do nothing more than stare and shiver. What ever He did it was brutal.
They whispered one thing, over and over, but it did not, does not, make any sense.
'Beware Blue... beware!'
It was the only thing he said. Until the day he died. The only thing I can say is that he did not live long passed the Crater. Not long enough to see the resurrection of the Wings and the punishment they inflicted upon the world.
It was as if nothing had changed. Although something had.
One hundred years after Cascades attempt to bring order back to this world, to bring peace to the Planet, the one thing none of us ever thought possible happened.
A Wing rebelled.
The details are not well known. He's made sure of that.
She didn't bother attacking the other Wings, or try to bring them to her side. She went straight for the Crater.
Red did not intercept. I guess he was under orders to let her come.
Let her come to die.
Whatever occurred in the Crater, this is the one time it did not finish in the Crater.
Bleeding, broken, she retreated. He followed. To Nibelheim. The place it started.
Green and Pink fought it out until he grew tired of play. There is a record of another being with him, but who is not recorded but it is known that they had ten wings. Rumour has it that it was blue and that the power that destroyed Nibelheim that final time was not Green but was Blue.
That it was blue is a rumour caused by the demented ramblings of an insane survivor. His companion destroyed Nibelheim but it was not blue. I suspect it was an experiment.
She did not die but she ceased to be.
She became a Clone. It should be impossible for a female to become a clone of a male, but with Him such things do not matter.
Her wings disappeared, her hair became silver and her already green eyes become impossibly green. Her power waned until it was nothing and she was merely an extension of Him, then her power signature became green.
His eyes are burning. He's gathering his magic... The power is...
My shields are going to fall again. I know it.
I hope we can survive this.
There is magic all around him, bright lines of power. The stars are dancing in the Crater. It's like Bahamut but this is not the Space Dragon, this is something more elemental. It's not Meteor. The power would be black.
Light... There is nothing but light.
It doesn't seem right for Him.
That's what he called it. I hope he can't summon another. We couldn't handle another. My shields are gone, my health is low and my magic is almost gone. I had a healing spell cast almost before the damage was done. That's the only thing that saved us, but we are still on our knees.
But He's not out.
I hope the others survived.
After Pink's failed rebellion... Rebellion... it's not really the right word. She never had a chance and I think she knew that. Perhaps she woke up enough of herself that she could end it all. If the Lifestream took her, I hope she is happy.
After she tried, with the destruction of Nibelheim again, what passes for peace with Him reigned for 250 years, until we came. We are Mirage, for we are the reflections of them.
One for each Wing, including the fallen. We are not so arrogant to reflect him though.
We trained, we studied, we learnt, we fought in Mideel, the living pool of Lifestream granted us a shield of sorts from their watching eyes, allowing us to prepare.
Cascade's battle was West then North, ours has been one steady battle north. Our goal the Crater. If it takes our lives we will take him.
He's down now, but he's not defenceless. It will be a waste to use our final strikes. When he can no longer defend, when he is waiting for us to strike, we will use them. It will cost our lives, those strikes, but even if He is defenceless it will take that much to kill him. This place will be our burial. I hope we are remembered.
This record is so we are remembered.
We struck fast, riding out from Mideel quickly. We found White first. We thought we'd get Brown. Doesn't really matter. Terra, Fiyue, Tai and I took him on. It was our baptism with blood. We did not lose anyone, but it was close. Fiyue got caught in the blast of his destruction. When he was defeated he destroyed himself. We killed only the human side. I think. If Sira had not followed us, we might have lost the Mirage of White, Tai and while we are reflections of them our plans have never been to die with the Wings.
We will die with Him if we must.
I prayed that the haunted shadow of a man that was White is forgiven for his deceptions.
Yellow was next. We did not let him retreat nor did we let him fight on the ground. He is strong in the air but Cascade had shown us how strong he would be on the ground. We learnt our lessons. We did not ground him. We let him stay Wing borne. Terra and Tencin fought the best. They have the best range of us all. Sira supported as did I, but we could not do much more than ensure the shields held. The crash was fatal. His spear is his monument with the wreck of the ship he loved so much.
I prayed that his soul will fly free of the pain it has known in life
We continued north. Brown came next. We were surprised. We thought He might move his Wings to fight us together, but he appeared content to let them fight alone. Di, Tencin and Terra fought him together. Our three strongest warriors. In the end it came down to Terra's will against his. The Mirage against the reality - one explosive shot, limit breaks against each other. I think he smiled when he died. I know he bore us no hate and he looked forward to the rest. They looked forward to anything but servitude.
I prayed that he could hold his daughter without seeing the blood on his hands.
Purple moved west to intercept us. She moved fast. Afi encountered her alone. We almost lost the mirage but Sira, Tai and I had thought this might happen and had followed Afi. Purple was strong... Despite learning I guess we thought she was weak. We were in for a surprise and it was only because Sira is our healer that we survived. Purple laughed at us, my short blade through her heart, she did not believe that we could win. I know why but He is down and I hope we can finish this now. She laughed but knew peace.
I prayed that her love, five hundred years unrequited, would be returned.
Olive followed her, leaving her post in Wutai to strike at us. Maybe he did order his Wings to fight us. Maybe she just got bored, with her, it's hard to tell. If we didn't have Fiyue we wouldn't have survived. The Wing was so fast that Tencin's distance attacks were useless. Fiyue eventually pegged her, so that Di and Afi could bring her down. We got a number of Materia from her. I was surprised since Materia is the Planets and it doesn't like them. With them we got a history scroll. I hope I can read it again. There are things in it that do not make sense.
I prayed that she should finally know the truth of the war that consumed her life.
Rust rounded the Nibelheim Mountains as we were preparing to cross to the Northern Continent. My Wing, the one I am a Mirage for. I concede defeat before him. At least with knowledge, but he had lived through many of the things I have only studied. In battle though... He was faster than we thought, his weapon was unusual and combined with the fire that seemed to be his element, he was very dangerous but we prevailed with a combination of magic and weapons. Di speared him in place while Tai, Afi and Tencin attacked. Brutal but effective.
I prayed that he would see his homeland free of the Gi he lead for Sephiroth.
Red just waited. We should not have been surprised but we had been hoping that he would come down to meet us. We didn't fare any better against the cold than Cascade although we were prepared for his ambush. I never want to be that on edge again. Holding the shield spell ready each day was not easy. Tencin, Di, Terra and Sira took him on; three to attack and one to heal. It was close but in the end the Mirage won although this proved that we are not as skilled. Red would have finished it with a single shot, Tencin had to take three.
I prayed that he would join the woman he loved in the Lifestream.
And so we have come to this place.
I prayed that He would know the suffering that the Planet has known.
He's wounded. His right shoulder. Looks like Fiyue's weapon. She must have been fast enough to get around his spells.
We can win this.
Tencin, Afi, Fiyue and Sira are the other group: strength, balance, speed and healing, the mirages for Red, Purple, Olive and Pink.
Di, Tai, Terra and myself, Ikana form this group: strength, deception, power and knowledge, the mirages for Yellow, White, Brown and Rust.
We hope the Mirage can defeat Green.
Di has got a wound on Him now.
Blood is beginning to pool on the ice.
And it's not ours.
I wish we could co-ordinate our attacks with the others. It would make this easier. I could work with Sira to bring down His shields.
He concentration is impressive. Wounded, beaten, he is still holding his defences. He caught Tai in a fist that could crush stone when he got too close. His eyes are still burning. He will not take defeat well.
He'll take us with him if he can.
No... no, no, no, no!
Afi it's too early...
It's too late though. She's struck. Despite the fact that I can't see them, I can tell the damage of her final strike.
He's wounded still. Looks like she got his right flank. There is more blood and His teeth are clenched. At least that caused him pain! We will cause him more before the end! I swear it.
Tai struck next. I saw him readying himself for the move but I did not, could not stop him. We all swore we would go this far. I was hoping against hope that we would not have to. But he is power beyond belief. The white flash would have blinded us, but for the shield. I knew it was coming I could prepare. Tai struck at the same place Afi had. The wound is deeper but it is still not enough.
Why is he smiling?
His power is growing. It's not a summon, he's already done that. The power is...
That's not possible.
The power is blue.
I can hear the Planet cry.
Around him the rock is cracking...
Wait... he's glowing...
Thank the Planet.
But the stone is still breaking. The Materia walls of the Crater are splintering.
Something is coming.
I can see the other group now, His power has waned that much, his deception is over.
Sira's shields are down as well. After that Summon, neither of us have the energy to raise them again.
The air is heavy. The emotion is once again too much. I think Tencin is crying. He loves... loved Afi. It has nothing to do with the Mirages we are of.
What is that..?
Tencin struck out at Sephiroth but the blow never landed. That's not possible.
With Afi and Tai's sacrifice I know his shields are down.
So why is he laughing, the blood splattering on his face, eyes glowing and something shielding him.
Fiyue tried a spell. We're all so weak about the only thing we can raise is a level one. The fire is stopped by Ice and now they're screaming. The spell was rebounded on them by nothing.
A freeze spell was cast on us all. We can watch but we cannot act.
We were wrong to think that there were only seven Wings.
There is another.
I still cannot see them. The Planet is quiet now and the green energy that has gathered around Sephiroth is healing his wounds.
It is an abomination. It is Lifestream. It is pure. It is not wielded by him.
He's standing again, his cat like eyes narrowed, smug.
He's smiling. He seems happy and for some reason I'm more frightened than I've ever been.
The Masamune is back in his hands. The blood is gone.
I can see them now, the one who has protected him, the one who has healed him.
Ten Wings. Blue eyes.
He is the last Wing, if he is a Wing at all.
His power is Blue but he is the one who calmed the Lifestream, the one who used the Planet to heal Him.
There is only one man he could be. He's wounded though. He's wounded worse than Sephiroth and he's still standing?
It's not possible.
He's looking at us as if confused. Those eyes are glowing. Where Sephiroth's glow green, his are blue. Pure blue, no other colour.
His wings are white, the bits that aren't splattered with blood and there are feathers everywhere. Sephiroth seems but a shadow against him, a smug, contented shadow.
I think we all shivered at the tone. Velvet ice. Sephiroth.
"I promised you." A higher tone of voice. Molten silk but pained. What could have wounded him so?
The green smiled, brushing black gloved finger tips over high cheek bones, enticing a shiver of delight, blue eyes clouding at the touch.
"I think you should stay awake for a while."
"If you want."
"Then let me deal with them."
A velvet laugh, a chuckle so deep it should not be possible. "What does the Planet say?"
Blue eyes shrug. "The same thing it's always said."
"And do I?"
"Very," silken desire melted in the tone as he shifted himself against the man who holds this Planet. The blood was disappearing though. "You're the only one who can."
The green is gathering again. It's not Sephiroth's power, it's his, it's always been his because he is the Planet's chosen.
It is a choice that cannot be undone. By him, nor by the Planet.
"No!" Sira is fighting still. She's trying to break his power with her Final Strike.
It's all the rest of us can do to breathe.
Sephiroth's moving. The Masamune is not made to wound.
Sira would not have felt a thing and her strike will never be. His wing, the single black wing that makes him the One Winged Angel is out. It looks odd against a being with ten and just at the moment I don't know who is the master.
I know who it should be.
But maybe we've been fighting the wrong man all along.
There's a materia on both of blue's wrists. Black and White - Meteor and Holy. He is the one who has kept them safe for Sephiroth. He is the one the Planet obeys. He is the one who is the key to victory. A victory he has given to Sephiroth.
A victory it appears he will always give to Sephiroth.
The man has moved between his wings and is standing behind him, silver hair tangling around them, whispering words into his ear as the green gathers in his hands. He's leaning into Sephiroth's touch, purring. Sephiroth's healing him and...
"Do I make you happy?" Ice velvet that is Sephiroth.
"Do you love me?"
We are Mirage.
We were made to be the reflections of them all - Red, Rust, Purple, Olive, Yellow, Brown, Pink and White. And with the combination of us all, we were made to bring down Green.
We cannot reflect Blue.
He's dressed still as they were in the one image I have seen. Jumper, guards, boots. Sephiroth is in his leather. In five hundred years it hasn't changed.
"I think that's enough."
"That's only half."
"I want you awake. Bring back the Gunner, the Pilot, the Cat and the Ninja."
We still can't move but we can see.
The power in his hands dividing into four. It's pouring into four wings of his ten. Sephiroth's holding him. I think he'd scream but he has not uttered a sound.
That's not possible.
Ten wings are now six. And four more stand before us.
Red, Yellow, Rust and Olive.
That's not possible.
"Deal with them," Ice velvet commands. "Leave... that one alive."
That one... Me...
"Perhaps this time, you humans will get the message."
There is scorn. There is contempt. There is hate. He hasn't moved though. He's still holding Blue. He's watching though, green eyes glowing with anticipation.
I don't know when but the two groups are now one. Fiyue and Tencin now flank us. Sira and Afi's bodies have stayed where they fell. No need to move the dead I guess.
The Wings are moving.
Olive's laughing. "You injured Sephiroth didn't you?"
We can't answer.
"Fools." It's Yellow who responds.
"You hurt Cloud?" There is no laughter in that tone.
"Unforgivable." I think it was Red who responded.
"The..." Tencin's gasping. I don't know how he can speak. He's trying though. I can see he's formed a fist. "The Planet... doesn't... want this."
"You don't know what the Planet wants."
I know that was Rust... But... Tencin...
They just touched him. He's dead.
How are we meant to fight that?
"The Planet wants Cloud."
"But Sephiroth..." That's Terra.
"You really don't understand do you?" That has to be Red. His voice is deeper even than Sephiroth's. He is strong. Terra never felt the gunshot that killed him.
"It was never Sephiroth."
Why are they explaining? I don't want to know. I don't want this. I don't want to survive.
"It was always Jenova."
"The Planet is crying... We can hear it... You said the Planet wants Cloud."
No, no, no... Fiyue... Be quiet. Don't draw their attention. The information isn't worth your life.
It is to the Wings.
I only hope Fiyue didn't suffer.
He's still watching. There is a smile on his lips though. He hasn't let go of Blue.
"The Planet has Cloud."
"The Planet has Sephiroth."
"Jenova is dead."
"But... your half lives?"
"It is the Planet's will."
I think Di heard that before he died.
"The Planet wants Cloud."
"The Planet has Cloud."
I don't want to know.
"Cloud wants Sephiroth."
You are stronger.
"Sephiroth has Cloud."
You will always be stronger.
They're looking at me. They are all watching me. I'm the last one.
"Because you said a prayer," molten silk responds.
"The Planet is content with Sephiroth's will."
Blue eyes, I can't escape blue eyes. They are like His, although He's not looking at me. He's too busy, nuzzling into blue.
"My Cloud, my love," ice velvet.
And they are gone.
It is only in the aftermath of disaster do you see how wrong you were.