Author's notes: Never thought I'd be doing something of this nature ever since the ever-so-popular AC was announced. Then again, people make stories of this all the time so I guess I shouldn't worry. I'm not exactly sure what spawned this idea, but I know it was an impulse (like every other story I make), but I guess this is what I get for watching more than ten episodes of Eva in one night. Anyway, this is…weird. Oh yeah, this won't have AC or DoC in the storyline, so there's no need to strain your brain.

XXXXX

Season One Toko Ame (Endless Rain)

Far beyond the Orient lies a country immersed in an endless squall. Walk as far as you can in it, you shall find not a sunny day or night with stars. The people were ignorant of a blue sky, only seeing iron-grey or pitch-black for an eternity. The drops fell to earth like tears from those above, though what kind they were was simple to guess.

The spires jutting through the town obviously conveyed that the style was not even remotely Wutainese. No one really knew where the place came from, saying that somehow it had always been there, like an ancient myth or folklore. Never matter, since that was not exactly the reason there was a huge airship headed towards it at the moment.

XXXXX

A sullen blonde sat by a window, his sapphire eyes' expression matching the atmosphere. He looked about mid-twenties, but the light in his eyes dictated that he might be older. His hair was a chaotic array of spikes, none of them conforming to any certain pattern.

His jacket was highly industrial, black leather with the sleeves ending a bit before his wrists. His pants were loose and of a blue fabric with zippers at the cuffs, loosened slightly to better fit the heavy boots he wore. Underneath his jacket he wore a dark blue shirt that fit his torso very tightly. His gloves were black leather with mythril plates on the backs and the fingers ending at the first digit. In his belt was s short sword about two feet in length, its blade jagged in a peculiar manner and widening at the tip. On its blade was a name: Hrunting.

The rain was like a deluge as high as he was and at sea, no less. His spikes quivered slightly due to the turbulence causing all kinds of shakes aboard the massive transport. Freezing rain stuck to the window, eventually being washed away by the next wave of water.

"Lord, what's with adults finding the rain fascinating?" said a dark-haired woman of about twenty-six standing right next to the blond.

The woman was of an athletic build, her curves minimal along with her bust, but she was quite beautiful. Her features dictated Oriental descent, but she was quite tall if she was so. Her eyes were black and shiny like oil. Her skin was highly pale, though a pinkish hue was still upon her cheeks.

Her dress was something one would associate with a cat burglar: all black. Her torso was covered by a turtleneck sweater without sleeves and her legs were clad with loose black pants that were hiked up due to a pair of waraji she wore. Her left arm was protected by some odd garment resembling armor. Of course, this was evident from the three large shuriken that were folded and attached to her belt.

The blond didn't turn; he merely moved his irises to his eyes' corners.

"Yuffie, you're an adult." a shadow of a smirk, lips tugging a millimeter, appeared on the blonde's face.

"Hell, I still don't get what the hell is up with it."

A man, androgynous in the face and slim in build, looked from his spot where he was playing a game of chess with himself. His hair was jet-black and of an unkempt nature and long, going to about his waist. His skin was frighteningly pale, white as a ghost and revealing quite a few veins and arteries. His left arm was also odd being that from the elbow onward it was a mechanical claw bronze in color. But those eyes, those burning- blood-red eyes were by far his most frightening features. They seemed to sear a hole into whoever they were looking at.

His attire was mostly black. His shirt was leather with buckles on the high collar that split open and revealed some of his chest. His pants were baggy and also leather with superfluous zippers. His boots were unique, pointed with copper at the tips. On his forehead was a blood-red bandanna to match a rather long scarf that trailed to his knee.

"Rain isn't necessarily depressing, Yuffie." the man argued.

"How the hell isn't it?"

"Rain refreshes the earth and cleans it." the man moved a rook with his bronze claw "In essence, it wipes the slate clean."

The man took the opposing king, seeing no other moves possible.

"The hell's the point in doing that?" asked the pilot, a dirty-blonde with a cigarette in his mouth.

"Playing against yourself is good; because…" the androgynous one tapped his head with his claw "your worst opponent is often yourself."

The dirty-blonde laughed; smoke spilling out from between his teeth. This man was by far the oldest-looking, his stubble and grizzled face indicating that he couldn't be any younger than mid-thirties. His blond hair was swept back with a pair of aviator goggles atop it. He wore a blue tank top greasy with oil and his pants were in a horrid state of disrepair. His gloves were made of thick, brown leather with the fingers cut off and his boots were chapped to hell.

"Shit, my only enemy is someone who I stick at the end of my spear." he guffawed.

The blonde at the window got up; his jacket's chains and buckles jangling as he did so.

"Something the matter, Cloud?" asked a deep voice coming from a quadruped animal resembling a skinny, crimson lion with a flaming tail and tattoos and missing an eye curled in a corner.

"I saw the coast so I better tell a couple of people we're arriving soon."

Cloud slammed on a button, taking a lift down to a level below. He leaned against the wall, the hum of the lift slowly taking him downward all over his surroundings. He contemplated this mission, this whole situation. It sounded normal, but that…feeling, that, cold, squirmy feeling, like a hundred eels in his gut, was there. He'd felt it a hundred times and not once did it fail.

The lift arrived, stopping at Cloud's destination. Sounds of something being beaten was emanating from a room down the hall, the noise loud and sharp. Cloud opened a door, seeing a bald man and a red-haired man, slightly younger than the former, inside. The bald man was beating on a punching bag with his taped hands while the red-head was holding it to keep it from swinging away. Cloud tapped on the doorjamb, getting their attention.

"Get your things ready, we'll be arriving in a few minutes." he said straightforwardly.

"Alright, Boss." the red-head began taking the tape off the bald man's fingers.

"I'm your superior, Reno, not your boss."

"Hey, I gotta listen t' ya."

"Whatever." Cloud sighed.

The bald man flexed his fingers, getting the stiffness out of them from having to keep them curled for so long.

"Should we go to the bridge?" he asked Cloud.

"No, just get cleaned up, get dressed, and get ready."

"Take this, then." the man threw Cloud his sword.

Cloud caught the sword with a deft hand, nodding his head to acknowledge the man. The bald man took a towel, wiping the sweat off his back and shoulders.

"Wassup wit' 'im?" Reno asked.

"He's been like that since Sephiroth."

"Yeah, but e's got dat look in 'is eyes."

"Look?"

"Yeah, like e's lookin' tru' a scope, like 'e's not really lookin' at anyone."

Rude put a shirt on after drying off. After doing so, he dabbed a bit of cologne on his jaw-line.

"Y'know, we're not in some fancy-shmancy thing 'ere." Reno said, taking a cigarette out of a pack he had.

"You have to be polite."

"Yeah, yeah."

Reno looked out a window, seeing the torrential downpour. He took his cigarette out of his mouth, taking it between his thumb and index finger, and then blew smoke on the window. He adjusted his sunglasses, setting them upon the spikes of his hair.

"Dis is friggin' depressin'."

XXXXX

Cloud heard a clicking noise as he strolled in the hall, though he knew what it was. He pushed a door open slightly, seeing its occupant. Slender fingers curled around dark metal and put a rather sizeable machine gun together piece by piece.

A girl, no older than fifteen, was on a chair, her hair kept out of her face by a black bandanna across her forehead. Some bangs showed, dangling in front of her face a bit.

"I can't believe you can use that thing, Marlene." Cloud shook his head.

"Hey, someone's gotta cover your backs."

"Hey, remember-."

"Stay in the middle and be a good girl, right?"

Marlene slammed the clip into the gun, completely assembling the large firearm.

"Hey, I can take care of myself, y'know?" she said.

"Hey, last thing I need is Barret handing me my ass on a silver platter."

Marlene smirked, slinging the gun on a strap over her shoulder and hitching up the pair of green cargo pants she had on. The young girl put a vest on due to the fact that her shirt was mostly white. She gripped the leather gloves she had on, as though practicing the act of pulling a trigger.

The ship gave a lurch, making Cloud grab the doorjamb to right his stance. Marlene wasn't as lucky as she fell flat on her ass onto the floor. Cloud gave that illusion of a smirk again and offered Marlene his hand, helping her up.

"Thanks, ow." Marlene squinted one eye and rubbed her hindquarters.

"Hit'cha ass?" asked Reno, grinning with his shock-rod in his hand.

"Jerk."

The lift was heard arriving and the sound of four pairs of feet came soon after. Cid's head poked around the corner, jerking his head soon after to indicate that they had arrived. Cloud left, Marlene soon after him and the rest of the group following.

The rain pelted the airship heavily as ever, the drops sounding more like gunfire than water. Cid backhanded a red button on the wall, dropping the loading ramp onto the ground that was wet from rain. Cloud stepped out first, his spikes being struck by the downpour already.

"Fuckin' hell." Cid swore, putting his cigarettes into his pocket to keep them from being soaked.

"This rain is unnatural." Nanaki commented.

"No shit, old-timer."

"I'm actually barely an adult by my kind's standards."

"The fuck ever."

Cloud led, his boots squishing the ground that felt like it was going to give in at any moment. What was the town, five miles away? Yeah, that sounded right. The cliffs wouldn't allow the Cid to park the airship that close to the town safely, so this would be a pleasant little stroll.

The cliffs were something else, which was for sure. They looked more like the rows of teeth from a Behemoth than of rock. Cid led through this due to his adeptness at heights. Despite the fact that he was over forty, he still had the spryness of someone half his age. Cid held his spear with his teeth and began climbing up a sheer face, finding handholds that no one else saw. A few minutes later, a rope came down to assist the others at the bottom.

This wasn't so bad at first, but after about the fifteenth time it got extremely old. The rain was making everyone miserable, and having to do such physical work just pissed them off. Reno tried to find some sort of shelter from the rain, but all that happened was his suit getting soaked through and his spiked hair drooping from the rain.

"Remind me why da hell we're here in da foist place." he whined.

"Because someone's been whining about monster attacks." Yuffie explained.

"Big whoop, like dere's anyone who don't."

"The details aren't known, though." Vincent said before climbing up a cliff.

It was true, monster attacks happened all the time and the story behind this particular assignment was unknown, but Cloud went with the gut feeling he had and accepted it. The country they were at was off the map, however. Even though it was close to Wutai, even Yuffie had never heard of the place. Just what kind of place was this? Marlene was the last up the cliff as Cid pulled her up.

Cloud looked through the rain, his vision obstructed slightly from his bangs sinking down in front of his eyes. Over the distance were numerous spires that speared into the sky, attempting to reach the clouds. By that site, they had to have reached the city. Cloud flicked his fingers, signaling for his colleagues to follow him.

The city was slightly uphill from Cloud's position, though that was the only way to explain how it couldn't have been flooded with this so-called "eternal rain". There was no way in hell that such an abnormal weather pattern could occur. Then again, this torrential downpour made it seem possible. The gates came into view, great black bars of some mysterious metal. The drops bounced off the gate, splashing onto even more drops in some sort of eternal cycle.

"What's up with this place?" Rude wondered.

Indeed, for there was not a person in the streets, as though the place was abandoned. The buildings seemed to be made of the same material as the gates were and the rain made them seem extremely shiny and impossible to touch without slipping. Cloud stepped through the gates, warily looking to and fro as the streets were just a bit too quiet for his liking.

Cloud treaded slowly through the street, taking his steps carefully as he did so. One hand was ready to draw his Buster Sword on his back, the other ready to take the short sword from his belt. Then, out of the corner of his eye, he saw something move. A flicker of some sort of fabric or cloth whipping around a corner caught Cloud's attention. Cloud went down the way he saw the object, signaling for everyone else to stay put.

Cloud bent his knees slightly, crouching to prepare to any sudden changes of any sort. He still slowly advanced, his eyes darting in a million directions every few seconds to assess his surroundings. He inched closer to the corner, his boots swishing the water everywhere. He reached the junction and looked in one direction, seeing nothing.

"Excuse me si-"

Cloud didn't even bother to think, he reacted. His hand was on his sword in a flash and he swung the blade in a wide arc, stopping the blade as its tip was almost touching a man's nose. The man stared down the weapon, looking at Cloud.

"Don't sneak up behind me again." Cloud warned "You're lucky that I didn't split you in two."

"Er, yes, of course." the man sweated nervously upon inspecting his umbrella, which now sported a huge gash in it.

Cloud placed his sword on his back once more. He looked down the street, then at the man. The man was old, about in his early-sixties by the look of him. His hair was gray and long, about shoulder length and his eyes were black. He was dressed in a simple black suit, making him look like a butler.

"You see someone?" Cloud asked.

"Pardon?"

"I thought I saw someone, that's why I drew my sword on you."

"Er, no sir."

Cloud looked down the street again. He had to have seen something, he knew he had. Then again, he was still prone to schizophrenia even after a decade.

"Might I ask what you need, sir?" asked the man.

"I'm on a job for the town leader."

"Oh, what a coincidence, I take it you're Mr. Strife?"

"Yeah, why?" Cloud raised an eyebrow.

"I was sent to find you, as you were late."

"Alright, I'll go get my pals."

Cloud walked down the street, this time at a steady pace towards the gates. He didn't want to waste time, so he just signaled with his hand to have them follow. The man had followed Cloud, looking at the group.

"Well, they all look rather seasoned." he commented.

"No shit, old-timer." Cid said.

"I would offer to use my umbrella, but there are far too many of you."

"Shit, it ain't no big deal. 'Sides, I'm soaked through anyway."

"Sir, um, er." Cloud stuttered.

"Ami." said the man.

"Ami, just guide us to your master."

"Yes, of course."

Ami led Cloud's group down the street, the rain soaking them through. Cid looked everywhere, still not seeing a single soul. What the fuck was up with this place? Was it abandoned or something?

"Hey, old man." Cid asked.

"Yes, Mr….?"

"Cid, where exactly did everyone vamoose to?"

"They're in their homes." Ami turned away from the main street, going to one filled with shops.

Vincent took note of the lack of people he saw through windows even. Fear, he smelled it in every home as clearly as the stench of a rotting corpse. This was a severe fear, like seeing a murder.

"Is there a high suicide rate here?" Vincent asked Ami.

"Yes, every one out of twenty-five people take their own life. I'm afraid it would be quite easy to get away with murder here."

"Thought so, rain always deteriorates happiness."

"Yes, I'm afraid so."

Cloud was listening, taking in information that Ami was divulging onto the others. However, Ami had to cut everyone short and say that his boss would explain more when things were necessary. Cloud just looked at the rain as it fell hypnotically onto the ground and created a dense, dull roar. Cloud smelled salt just then, recognizing it as the smell of the sea. He turned his head, viewing the iron-gray waters that bucked and reeled, though not splashing onto walkway that Ami was leading him up.

Cloud took notice of something out in the ocean, something dark and going into the sky like some monolith. It was an island no less than twenty miles long and it seemed to have quite a few buildings on it. Cloud squinted, trying to get a better view of the place but to no avail. Then he turned to Ami.

"Hey, what's that?" Cloud asked the older man.

Ami adjusted the round-framed glasses he had on, looking at what Cloud was pointing to.

"Um, I…that's not something I can tell you right now." Ami stuttered and moved up the walkway again.

Cloud raised an eyebrow, looking at the island before continuing walking.

The group stepped through the gates of a rather large mansion, so large that it looked like you could fit an entire town onto its grounds. Cloud examined the house, taking in the extravagance of it. Ami opened the door at the front, inviting everyone inside.

The main entrance hall was well lit from the luminescence coming from a huge chandelier hanging from the ceiling. The architecture was rather extravagant, abstract if you will. However, no one seemed to notice as they were pre-occupied because of the state of wetness they were. Cloud's hair was flattened to his head, its spikes limp now. Nanaki solved his problem in a second, shaking vigorously and spraying everyone with the discarded liquid.

"Ah!" Reno got his arms up reflexively "Do you gotta do dat?"

"It was the quickest way for me to get dry."

"Er, I'll have some robes brought down. However, Mr. Strife…"

"Hm?" Cloud raised an eyebrow.

"Follow me."

Cloud peeled off his jacket, throwing it to Vincent who caught it deftly before following Ami up a flight of stairs. Cloud inspected the hallway, seeing how it seemed to revel in old-world art, that of the era long before mako was heard of or robots were invented. Just who the hell was this guy anyway?

Cloud examined a couple paintings in the hall, seeing that they were of…avant-garde nature. They were of hangings and gruesome battles. Cloud didn't flinch, though he began to wonder what exactly his client did in his free time.

"Please wait here, sir." Ami said.

Cloud stood in the hall whilst Ami did whatever. One of the paintings caught his eye. This one was one of the few that weren't perverse. It was just a cathedral with strange markings all over it. However, those markings began to twist and contort, making some sort of literate message. The markings bounded at Cloud, conveying the message.

…and so when the City of Shade is ready, one shall go a separate path and show them that the truth always has…

The rest disappeared around a corner making it impossible to read any further. Cloud shook his head, rationalizing that there was no way he could have read that. Cloud reached into his pocket, taking out a jar and removing a couple of pills from it. He swallowed them dry and closed his eyes to get his bearings.

Those were pills for his schizophrenia. Even though a decade had passed, Cloud occasionally had violent episodes where he couldn't tell reality from fantasy. Tifa could snap him out of it, but she wasn't here due to her charge. Cloud leaned against the wall, his forehead resting on his arm and his breathing slow and heavy.

"Where sins are cleansed and souls are pure," said a baritone voice in a sing-song manner "the Shade is clear and Saints are seen."

Cloud looked in the direction of the voice, seeing someone sitting on a chair in the hall. In their hand was a rosary, their thumb pushing beads every so often, slowly and methodically. Pale fingers gripped the beads loosely, the rosary threatening to drop from them. Cloud looked closely at the figure, its thin build radiating elegance and power. Though Cloud couldn't see them, he felt eyes looking at him from beneath the hood it wore.

The cross on the rosary was of a strange design, an x replacing the usual horizontal arms and with spade-shaped ends on it. And the cross…was as red as blood and inverted as well. It twirled in the hall, the low light reflecting off of it and catching Cloud's eyes.

"You carry no sins, so why do you look for redemption?" asked the voice.

"Like you would understand."

"Wait…ah, yes, I see now." the eyes were on Cloud again "Tell me, my son, tell me the reason she ran."

Cloud caught a glimpse of something under the hood, something glowing. Cloud reeled back, grabbing his head upon feeling some kind of splitting sensation in his skull. He remembered something he didn't want to, something of white and of flowers.

"I love you."

Cloud looked again, seeing nothing. His expression turned to an annoyed frown and he popped another pill.

"I thought I was over this shit." he mumbled to himself.

CLICK

The door Ami entered earlier opened, the old man showing up.

"Master Bethuel will see you now." he said.

Cloud nodded, taking one last look down the hall before he vanished through the doorway. About damn time, he thought as he strolled through the hall, examining even more of the client's odd collection of paintings. The guy had weird taste that was for sure. Ami opened the door, showing a rather extravagant bedroom. At the other side was a man in a chair on a veranda, looking over the horizon.

"I take it you're Strife?" the man asked without looking, his voice a tenor.

"Yes, I'm Cloud Strife."

"Have a seat next to me." the man motioned to the chair next to him.

Cloud took his sword off his back, setting it down gently on the floor as not to damage anything. His heavy boots made the wooden floorboards groan as he walked over them, eventually taking a seat next to his client and examining him.

Bethuel was a man a bit older than Cloud, about mid-thirties, with a neatly trimmed goatee coming to almost a point with a mustache. His eyes were dark gray, almost black, and his hair was short and dirty blonde. He was of thin build and slightly taller than Cloud, about two inches. His clothes consisted of a freshly pressed, black suit and a blue silk tie. He radiated an aura of aristocracy, of elegance.

Bethuel looked at Cloud, examining him.

"I thought you'd be…taller." he said almost humorously.

"I get that a lot, though most people don't know about me."

"Yes, to save the world and not be known, what a crime."

"Hey, at least I don't have all those annoying social problems."

"True."

Bethuel then noticed a golden band around Cloud's finger.

"You're married?" Bethuel asked.

"Yes, for five years now."

"Well, she must be very special."

"…She is."

Bethuel stood, grabbing a pair of binoculars he had.

"I think I should get to my reason for hiring you."

"That would be appreciated."

Bethuel approached the guard rail which was above the ocean some hundred feet. Bethuel handed Cloud the binoculars.

"Look at that island."

Cloud did so, looking at the location through the binoculars. He was looking at the city he viewed earlier from the walkway, though he got a closer look this time. The city was of a black material like the place he was in now, except this stuff seemed to suck in all the light like a black hole. Then there was the gigantic structure in the middle standing like a giant spike. The entire place gave him the chills.

"Lea Monde." Bethuel said "That is the name of the city."

"Lea Monde?"

"Yes, we don't know where it came from or what lies within it, but it's something evil. We call it the Dark."

Cloud leaned against the guard rail, looking at Bethuel.

"Just what exactly is in there?" Cloud demanded.

"Lea Monde is a city that few know about, but whoever has heard of it has attempted quite a few things."

"I suppose it has quite a few treasures?"

"Indeed, the thieves eventually add to the hordes in its halls and alleys."

"Wait, undead are in there?"

"Yes, from what I've heard from the police."

Cloud messed with his hair, the spikes stiffening and standing erect on their own.

"This sounds messed up, though I guess whatever they do, you don't want me to do." he said.

"No, something is going on inside Lea Monde. It began about three months ago."

"Must be a pretty big "something"."

"It is."

Bethuel went into the house again, holding his hands behind his back. He stroked his chin with his hand after a moment.

"The suicide rate has gotten higher." he explained "People are afraid to leave their homes and I think it has something to do with the ancient power coming from the ruins."

"I'll look into it."

XXXXX

"…and that's the whole thing." Cloud ended his speech to everyone after dinner.

Reno lit a cig, breathing in and then blowing out a ring.

"Whatta crock o' shit." he said "Sound like da guy had a few too many."

"I'm with the kid, it's fuckin' fishy if ya ask me." Cid agreed.

"Look, I know it sounds fishy," Cloud paced around the room "but that thing in my gut happened."

"The bad one or the good one?" Rude asked.

"The bad one, the where it feels like someone dropped a hundred eels into my gut."

Vincent got up from where he was sitting, his bandanna off as well as his scarf.

"What are the figures?" he asked Cloud.

"Bethuel said about five-million apiece."

"Okay, my opinion just changed." Reno quipped.

"Weakling." Vincent commented before turning his gaze to Cloud "I'm going along since I know you're going no matter what. After all, I have to watch your ass for Tifa."

Cloud looked at everyone else, looking for their opinion. Yuffie was on the couch having dozed off several minutes ago. Nanaki was sitting down, his eye closed and contemplating the situation.

"There's something here that disturbs me, so I'm going along." he said.

"I'll go, too." Rude flexed his knuckles.

"Shit, might as fucking well." Cid also agreed.

Marlene was in the same situation as Yuffie: passed out and asleep on a chair in a rather interesting posture. Cloud just sighed, still mystified by the workings of young people's minds. He walked towards the door, turning the knob and exiting.

"We leave at nine, be punctual."

XXXXX

The rain seemed even heavier at night, the muteness of the dark making the drops seem louder. However, the noise was muffled from being underground as the earth destroyed such noise. Lea Monde was a city that was abandoned…but by no means was it uninhabited. The force that Bethuel called the Dark was the force that somehow kept the city strong and powerful.

Many people had tried to get into the labyrinthine chambers only to meet their doom and become part of the population that was amongst the damned. Most people couldn't get much farther than the only entrance which was a mine shaft due to the pathway by sea being a lethal gauntlet of whirlpools. Even seasoned warriors didn't stand much of a chance in the hellish place.

However, one person went through the place as though it were a village square. Black robes swished on the dirt, sending stones flicking every which way. Bodies creaked and moaned, sockets with their eyes eaten out looked as a hooded figure pushed beads on a rosary.

The figure was silent, not even its footsteps could be heard. Creatures of various sorts examined it, though not a one dared to make a move towards it. The figure approached a collapsed tunnel, but that was soon solved as a gigantic boulder was suddenly frozen, a slash going downward in a diagonal manner. The next blow, which was in a manner of a thrust, reduced the ice to water and the figure passed through.

The figure blinked, bittersweet eyes examining the ruins. The figure chuckled, the only thing hearing it being the damned inhabitants of Lea Monde. The figure thought, thinking how it was ironic that such a thing that would come would happen here, a place hardly anyone in the world knew and a cursed one at that. This was going to be interesting.

XXXXX

Cloud was still up around midnight, looking out a window. His shirt was unzipped, revealing his torso. He just stared at the rain which had let up, though it still came. His sword was on the floor as well as the Hrunting.

"Can't sleep?" asked a voice from the doorway.

Cloud turned his head, seeing the lithe figure of Vincent leaning against the doorway, his blood-red eyes glowing like lamps in the dim light and his pale neck standing out like a sign. The older man approached, his permanent glare still etched on his face. Cloud resumed looking at the rain, the drops splashing onto the veranda outside. Vincent came up behind Cloud, his reflection apparent on the window's glass. Cloud looked not at Vincent, but at his reflection's eyes.

"Is it about her?" Vincent asked.

"Tifa?"

"Yes, you haven't said a thing about her."

"Tch, nothing's wrong." Cloud stood up, attempting to walk away, though Vincent grabbed his arm with his strong hand.

"There's something you're not telling me."

"So freaking what?" Cloud shrugged off the hand, going out of the room and into the hall.

Vincent rested his elbow against the bedpost, examining Cloud as he left.

"He hasn't changed a damn bit."

Cloud walked about halfway down the hall when he stopped, fishing in his pocket to take something out. His fingers felt something hard and sleek inside and he pulled it out. A PHS was in his hand now, its surface silver with some black on it. Cloud flipped it open and was about to dial a number when his thumb stopped.

Hesitation, it was something that happened to almost everyone. Of course, a person's decision was already made they second they hesitated. Cloud closed the PHS and slipped it back into his pocket. He leaned more heavily against the wall, sighing just as deeply.

"Shit."

XXXXX

Cloud opened his eyes, seeing a beautiful site next to him. Tifa was still asleep, her wine-colored eyes closed and her hair splayed everywhere on the bed. Cloud propped himself up on his elbow, looking at his new wife. He brushed a strand of her hair away, the long strand tickling her cheek and eliciting a moan from her.

Tifa's eyes opened, red meeting blue. She craned her neck up, kissing Cloud on the lips.

"Mornin'." she grumbled.

"You look tired."

"Only 'cuz you kept me up all night."

"Like you didn't enjoy it."

"Ass."

Tifa got up, the sheet covering her nude figure as she did so. Cloud draped an arm over Tifa's shoulders and then buried his face in the crook of her neck, taking in her scent.

"Hey, I'm still sore, so wait." Tifa protested.

"Heh, and to think you're supposed to be a martial-artist."

"Asshole."

XXXXX

A loud knocking woke Cloud from his slumber. He fell of the bed, taking the sheets with him as he did so. He cursed out loud whilst disentangling his legs from the sheets, more than likely making the person on the other side of the door blush.

"Who is it?" he asked.

"Take one goddamned guess." said Cid's voice.

"Lemme get dressed."

"Woo! Cloud butt-naked!" yelled Yuffie's voice.

"Not half as interestin' as you nekkid, sweet-cheeks." said a snickering Reno.

"Perv."

SLAP! SHMACK! THUD!

"Don't wanna know." Cloud thought.

Cloud finished putting on his clothes and gear and exited the room, seeing Cid laughing, Yuffie fuming as she stomped off, and Reno on the ground.

"You severely need to stop hitting on her." Cloud chided to Reno.

"Hey, my hand moves on its own ta tap dat ass."

"Get up off the damn floor and get downstairs."

Reno did so without any argument, though he did complain about how strong Yuffie was for some skinny tomboy with a hot body. Everyone was downstairs, Vincent leaning on the wall and Marlene on the floor with her gun by her side.

"Carriages are outside." Vincent muttered.

"Get comfortable because it's a two hour ride to the entrance."

Cloud got into the first carriage with Vincent, Cid, and Nanaki. Vincent shut the door as they entered, the sound being muffled by the wooden doors. However, the small windows didn't exactly make it easy to see.

"Who turned off the friggin' lights?" Cid wondered.

"Just bear it for now and if you try to smoke I'll hit you." Cloud warned.

"Are you tryin' ta kill me?"

Nanaki curled up on the floor, closing his eye and dozing off. Cid shrugged his shoulders and decided to follow suit, closing his eyes and slumping. Vincent crossed his legs and looked out the thin window with his chin propped on his hand. Cloud just looked at nothing, his eyes vacant.

Vincent just looked westward at the island they would have to go to. Of course, he knew what going in there meant. Vincent looked at Cloud out of the corner of his eye, the blonde not seeing him. Vincent sighed, blinking his eyes as he did so.

"I hope he's right about this."

XXXXX

The other carriage wasn't as mute because of its occupants. Yuffie kept her eyes open at all times because of Reno who was also being watched by Marlene. The red-head just slouched, a cigarette butt in his mouth. Rude was tapping his fingers against his leg, contemplating.

"Whaddya tink 'bout 'dis whole ting?" Reno asked Rude.

"It's weird, but at least it'll get us paid."

"Hey, I saw a whole lotta weird ten years ago." Yuffie argued.

"Yes, yes, but abnormal occurrences like that haven't been seen since then."

"Only 'cuz you people haven't been messing with the Planet."

Marlene looked at the city from her window.

"It's…creepy." she said.

"What is?" Reno asked.

"That city, it's like looking into a dead man's skull."

"Shit, neva 'spected youse ta say dat."

"Yeah, I got a bad feeling."

XXXXX

The rides were uneventful, not a single thing happening the entire time. However, what happened when they arrived was interesting indeed. Bethuel said that they would be met by police, but not a one was there.

"Dey betta not be out fa fuckin' donuts." Reno said, rolling up his sleeves.

"Hey, like you didn't slack off." Rude argued.

"No one did it betta dan me!"

Cloud got out of the carriage, looking at the station. Chocobos were still outside eating grain so they couldn't have gone far if they left, but it didn't look like anyone was inside either. Cloud fiddled with the doorknob, seeing that it was unlocked. This was odd, very odd indeed.

That is until the smell hit Cloud's nose. He reacted immediately, covering his face and drawing Hrunting from his hip. Cloud knew that stench: it was the smell of rotting flesh and blood. He held Hrunting in a backhanded manner, taking his steps slowly. The stench was getting stronger as Cloud went further in, decay and flies running rampant.

Cloud saw two bodies slumped on the floor, both having taken strikes from blades. Blood pooled in a huge puddle, looking almost black and starting to solidify. Cloud put Hrunting away and examined the bodies a bit more thoroughly. The wounds were all aimed at vital points so there was no way someone could have survived such a blow.

Cloud picked up one of the swords left on the ground, examining it. It was a rapier and the blade was completely covered in blood.

"So, they killed each other." Nanaki's voice said.

"Yeah." Cloud discarded the rapier.

Nanaki sniffed the air, his eye in deep thought.

"Something wrong?" Cloud asked.

"Someone else was here, but…."

"What?"

"Nothing, I'll go tell everyone what's going on."

Nanaki walked out, causing Cloud to raise an eyebrow at his behavior. Cloud stood, looking for a phone, but not before he swallowed another pill.

"Fucking hell."

Cloud hadn't even gone into the city yet and weird things were already happening. More things like this and he'd be addicted to drugs. Cloud grabbed a receiver off the wall and dialed Bethuel's number into it. The phone rang twice and then someone picked up.

"Hello?" asked Bethuel's voice.

"It's Cloud."

"Oh, I suppose you're not inside yet."

"Well a couple of your guys getting killed tend to derail plans."

"What?" Cloud heard the sound of wood scraping on the floor.

"Yeah, looks like they killed each other."

"Odd, they had no problems on their psychological evaluations."

Cloud looked at the bodies from where he stood, looking at them. He looked at their faces now, seeing how they seemed to be contorted in horror, not anger. Alright, now he was convinced.

"I'll have to go now."

"I'll have some of my men examine the bodies. Be careful."

"I will."

Cloud hung up the phone, going outside the moment he did. Rain assaulted him immediately and soaked his clothes again. Vincent stood under an awning to keep from getting soaked. Cloud approached him.

"I suppose that oddities are already happening." Vincent stated.

"No shit."

A roar decided to come from out of the entrance. The sound was loud and deep, rumbling out of the bowels of the earth. Cloud tested the heft of his sword

"Da hell wazzat!" Reno exclaimed.

"Never heard something like that before." Cid threw away his damp cigarette butt.

"Let's go." Cloud twirled his sword and then shouldered it while going into the mine shaft.

Marlene went next, Nanaki as well. Reno spat before tapping his rod into a puddle, the current sparking through it. Rude followed him in a moment after flexing his knuckles. Cid went in with Yuffie, leaving Vincent behind.

Vincent looked as the rain fell to the earth, soaking his clothes. The drops dripped off the huge gun he held, trickling down the barrel. He sighed.

"Alright."

And he followed at last.

XXXXX

Bethuel made a different call once Cloud had hung up, one to a place only Bethuel knew of. He had to have insurance in case something happened and his was very…effective. The phone was picked up immediately and a voice answered.

"What is it, Bethuel?" asked a stoic voice.

"Grissom, your dogs are dead."

"Is that so? Interesting."

"Dead by their own hands, as though they killed each other."

"How fascinating. It seems the Dark is powerful indeed."

"No, someone, not something." Bethuel looked for something in his desk.

"Do you believe that someone has been able to tame it?"

"I don't know, perhaps."

"In any case, is anything else up?"

"Yes, I want you to go into the city and make sure the people I hired don't do anything stupid."

"Give me an hour."

The phone at the other end hung up, Bethuel doing the same after a moment. He finally found what he was looking for, getting a rosary out of the desk. He examined the odd, six-pointed cross on the rosary. He grinned.

"Bloody Cross."

XXXXX

Cloud was a bit surprised at the lack of inhabitants in the city, like it was a tomb. The City of Ancients as well as the Temple had been empty, but Lea Monde was ten times as creepy for some reason.

" I wonda who keeps da candles lit?" Reno said.

"Good question." Vincent replied.

Somehow the torches and candles had been kept lit despite no one living inside of it. It wasn't like the undead would care how dark something was, so why the hell was is so light in here? A rumbling occurred, which caused Cloud to ready his sword. However, Vincent made him lower his blade.

"There are odd geological activities here." he explained "That was just one of them."

"How'd you know?" Cid asked.

"…Bethuel told me."

Cloud raised an eyebrow as Vincent examined a door, cracking it open to see if anything was around. Odd, Bethuel never said anything about earthquakes around here. Had Vincent been to Lea Monde before somehow?

Vincent wagged his fingers, signaling that it was okay to move. He opened the door to let everyone in, each going one at a time. They came into a large room with a high ceiling and a lot of mining carts. Cloud examined them, pulling out a chunk of ore. The metal was odd, gold in color, but as light as a feather.

"Never seen this before." he commented.

"Throw it over here." Cid said.

Cloud tossed the alloy over to Cid who caught it deftly and then examined it under a torch. Cid's seasoned eyes looked carefully at it, taking in its texture. After a moment, his eyes widened and his cigarette dropped out of his gaping mouth.

"Are we in a fucking time warp?" he yelled.

"Thanks fer makin' me deaf, ya geeza!" Reno unplugged his ears.

"Orhicalcum, right?" Vincent said.

"Da fuck izzat?"

Cid gave the alloy to Vincent, who caught it in his claw. He looked at the strange rock.

"I haven't seen this since I was a Turk." he explained "This is the strongest alloy in the world, but it vanished when Shin-Ra was just getting started."

"What happened?" Yuffie asked.

"Well, the amount that could be refined was actually very little, about a few tons, so there was no way it would last. After awhile the ratio of ore was too low and they gave up."

"Then why is there this huge vein here?" Rude asked.

"No clue."

Vincent dropped the hunk of Orichalcum, the floor changing shape upon impact. Vincent began to walk up a ramp and everyone else followed. However, Cloud was the last to go, as he began to wonder a bit about Vincent. That cold feeling happened to his gut again on cue, warning him about something.

Cloud took a deep breath and exhaled, trying to get rid of his anxiety. He moved after a moment, putting his sword on his back. A pair of eyes watched him go deeper into the ruins.

The eyes belonged to a rather beautiful woman. Her long hair was as a black as a raven's wings with some strands of it braided. Her eyes were a rare shade, grape-purple, and shaped like almonds with long lashes framing them. Her figure was curved, over-accented even, though her bust wasn't of exceptional notice. Her alabaster skin was bronzed in the light, ethereal and haunting.

She tilted her head and swayed her hips a bit, high-heeled shoes clacking on rock and the long skirt she wore swishing to send dust everywhere. The skirt split at the thigh, revealing a pair of tight, gray leggings and some exceptionally good legs. Her midriff was exposed because of the short shirt that only covered her bosom and her arms were covered by a pair of gloves that went to her bicep.

The woman placed her hand on her face and contemplated Cloud.

"So, he's the one that he was talking about?" she said "He tears himself apart."

"We all have, that's why he's wanted." responded an older, male voice.

"Aye, but this one has no sins, he merely thinks he does."

"Is that not a sin in itself?"

"Hmm, sin against the self, I suppose it is."

"They've not a notion what happens here."

"No, they don't."

The woman turned on a thin heel, quite literally vanishing into the walls of the city.

XXXXX

Cloud stopped for a moment, looking back at the halls.

"Something wrong?" Nanaki asked.

"Thought I heard something."

Cloud looked back at the hall, almost positive that he had heard something. He decided to take another pill, positive that he was an addict by this point.

Yuffie jumped over an underground stream in a single bound, showing off her athletic abilities. Marlene just hopped over a few rocks to get to the other side as well as Rude and Reno. Cloud was the last one over as the rumbling occurred and decided to shake the entire room they were in. Cloud sunk his sword into the ground for support.

The rumbling stopped after a moment, though the price paid was the only exit being caved-in by some rather large boulders. Reno fumed for a bit, swearing whilst pacing around the room. Vincent tapped the boulders with his claw.

"Tch, more of that damned ore." he cursed "You'd have a better chance of cutting down a bloody tree with a toothpick then smashing through this."

"What about magic?" Marlene asked.

"Orichalcum absorbs magic, so it's no use."

Cloud looked down one path whilst everyone was talking, his mind wandering. Down the tunnel was a figure clad in a black robe that Cloud had seen the night before. The figure turned around upon Cloud seeing it and tread further down the dark tunnel. Cloud's feet compelled him to move and he did. However, his mind was so intent that he didn't hear a door shut behind him and lock itself.

Cid was the first to notice despite being preoccupied with finding a solution to get the fuck out of the place later.

"Eh? What the hell happened?" he slammed on the door, trying to get it open, but to no avail.

"Something wrong?" Vincent asked calmly.

"Spiky went through this door, I swear he did."

Vincent, oddly enough, cocked his gun.

"So, it begins." he said.

"Eh?"

Cid didn't expect what happened next in the slightest. Vincent slammed the handle of his gun into Cid's gut, knocking the wind out of him, and then on the back of his head to knock him out.

No one hesitated as the second blow struck Cid and readied their weapons. Marlene had her gun out and aimed it right at Vincent's heart while Yuffie withdrew a few shuriken from her belt and readied them. Everyone else was ready to reduce him to just about anything with spells.

"Mind explaining yourself?" Rude asked.

"Sorry, but this is something I must do."

"Anyway to persuade you?" Marlene inquired.

"Kill me." Vincent said with a sideways glance.

Marlene knew that Vincent never went back on what he said no matter what, so she just pulled the trigger of her gun and fired off several rounds. Vincent made no effort to move despite knowing that the shells were coming towards his heart. However, the rounds stopped a mere inch from his chest and then just hung in the air. Vincent tapped one with his claw, causing it to fall to the ground.

"Th' fuck…?" Reno wondered.

"Just stand down if you don't want to get hurt." Vincent warned.

"Ta hell whit'cha!"

Reno raised his rod at Vincent and went to swing it at his arm, but then stopped as he went back to prepare the blow. Reno wondered what was happening, but the fact of the matter was that he couldn't move.

"Well, this is interesting." Vincent said in a cynical manner.

"Th' hell didja do?"

"Not me, them."

Reno was knocked off his feet and blown into the small stream after skidding some fifteen feet. Nanaki leapt at Vincent with his fangs bared, but suffered the same blow as Reno and struck the ceiling. Rude just managed to turn his head as something struck him, something cold and hard. A fist struck him next and sent him flying. Yuffie and Marlene were next as the figure that knocked out Rude swept its hand and knocked them off their feet.

"Well, the Dark is quite the source for power, isn't it?" Vincent asked the figure.

"Aye, but it comes at a price."

The figure removed the hood it wore and revealed a man's face of about late-twenties. His skin was slightly tanned and weathered. His hair was an odd honey color and had a massive, lightning-bolt shaped spike jutting from it. His eyes were of the same shade and had a bored, or perhaps stoic, expression on them. His build was well-toned and he was slightly taller than Vincent. His clothes were plain, consisting of nothing more than a pair of pants, a long coat going to his ankles, gloves, and boots that were all made of black leather. He had something large, about his width and exceeding his height, wrapped in a black cloth with a long handle coming out of it.

The man stepped away from Rude and walked towards Vincent.

"Held out your arm, the left one." he said.

Vincent did as he was told and offered the armor-clad limb to the man. Gloved fingers pressed something on the arm and compressed air shot out. Bronze plates fell off and loudly clanged onto the ground. Vincent looked at his arm and flexed freshly freed fingers, hearing the joints pop. The skin was pale, though that was no surprise, but the blood-red, six-pointed cross on the forearm was something else. Vincent just looked at it without batting an eye.

"It's not inverted." the other man said.

"And what of it, Ashley?"

"Ye aren't of his power, but ye can follow us from now on."

Vincent looked at his downed, former companions.

"He better be right about this." he mumbled.

"Right? Why should people care about being right, wrong, better, or worse?" said a new voice.

Vincent eyed another man leaning against a wall. This one was less dressed than the other, his attire also being black leather, but of a pair of pants with boots attached, a black wrap around his waist, and a shirt that only covered his chest. His hair was a bright blond and went to his shoulders. His eyes were the deepest blue that Vincent had ever seen, as deep as the twilight sky.

Strangely enough he bore no weapon, at least none from what Vincent saw. His arms were armored in grey metal, the fingers of them ended in jagged, seemingly cumbersome claws. All around the armor were runes in a strange language, though Vincent knew what they meant.

"You're late, Sydney." Ashley said.

"Late, early, no one ever gets to a place exactly when they plan."

"Where's Hardin? He's usually with you."

"He'll be along shortly. Ms. Merlose wanted to attend to a few things and we have to be in pairs to keep the Cold Ones from attacking us."

"What is Cal doing with Hardin?"

"Jealous?" Sydney raised an eyebrow coyly.

"Bah, she was my subordinate, nothing more."

"Heh."

Sydney examined Vincent from head to toe and Vincent did the same with him. Vincent caught a glimpse of something on Sydney's back that disappeared under his shirt and he knew quite well what it was.

"Vincent Valentine," Sydney began "former Turk from thirty-five years ago, one of the best even. Disappeared upon the completion of unknown tests in Nibelheim and was thought to have committed suicide." the man looked at Sydney "Anything I miss?"

"No, Sydney Losstarot. You were the leader of the Mullenkamp cult eight years ago and your fortunes actually rang true. You vanished one night when every cultist was slain and you vanished with your associate, John Hardin."

"Very good." Sydney looked at Ashley and jerked his thumb towards him "You don't know who he is, though."

Vincent examined the man.

"No, should I?" he asked.

"Ye'll learn in due time." Ashley answered "Let's move 'fore we're left behind."

Ashley grabbed his large item and Sydney gestured for Vincent to move first. Vincent did so, vanishing into the walls of the mine with Ashley and Sydney following soon after.

XXXX

"The hell…?" Cloud finally caught on to things being too quiet and looked behind him to see no one.

Cloud examined the wall and noticed that no exit was around, as though the wall had sealed up. He cursed for a bit and attempted to smash through the wall, though all he had to show for it was a slightly chipped sword. Despite being frustrated, he decided that everyone would catch up with him at some point or another.

The city was already beginning to mystify him and he hadn't even stepped into it yet, quite odd. That feeling happened to his gut again, that cold feeling. Fucking anxiety, why the hell did this have to happen now?

Cloud…

He didn't hear that, he didn't hear that. Just the passing of air, that's all it was. Cloud rapped himself lightly on the skull to get his head straight since the last thing he needed was hallucinations in a place like this. He rubbed his temples lightly with one hand before advancing forward again.

Cloud saw that the tunnels were silent as always, which was completely unnerving. He at least expected some sort of creature, but not even that was around. The place was like a giant tomb. Disturbing, very disturbing.

Cloud examined the mines more, though the presence of pillars and rafters was making it seem less like a mine now. Cloud stopped for a moment, looking around for a bit. He always felt like eyes were on him. He moved forward, disregarding that feeling.

That roar echoed through the halls again and Cloud drew his sword on instinct and took in both hands as he went into his battle stance. That sound couldn't be any less than ten yards from him, so about another four rooms or so.

Cloud advanced slowly, sliding his feet along the ground. The roar echoed again like a challenge to him. He sped up a bit, going into a normal-paced yet cautious walk. He expected another roar, but this time he got a rumble this time that sent him to his knees.

Other side of the door, it had to be. Cloud just kicked the ancient, wooden gate open with a sound blow and ripped it right off its hinges. However, the site of a rather frightening beast made him think twice.

A bovine head with a rather impressive set of horns sat upon a rather large human torso that was attached to a pair of legs ending in hooves. A Minotaur stood in front of Cloud, a beast fifteen feet tall that carried a gigantic mace ending in a huge sphere. He was in a bit of shock. Then again something that should have been extinct standing in front of a person would shock anyone.

Cloud was forced to snap back to reality as the huge beast swung its mace at Cloud and forced him to dodge. The weapon, combined with the monster's power, obliterated part of the wall Cloud had been in front of and caused the rock to smash down onto the floor. Holy shit, that wall had Orichalcum in it.

Cloud rolled as the heavy mace swung down again and created a rather large crater in the ground. Cloud glanced at what might have been his grave for a moment before running again. The next blow came close to Cloud, but only because he allowed it so he could jump over the mace's thick shaft. Cloud took his window and slashed at the Minotaur's arm, though not even his sword could make a deep wound on such a body.

The beast grunted, air shooting out of its nostrils. The beast crouched low like it was ready to charge, the tips of its horns almost scraping the ground. Cloud leapt just as the thing lunged and basically made a huge section of rock reduce to dust and collapse an entire wall. Just what the hell could do something like that?

That second of contemplation was too long and as such, Cloud suffered the consequences. The Minotaur proved it could move swift and grabbed its mace, swinging it at high speed at Cloud. It was a glancing blow, though it still sent Cloud flying into a wall and then slamming into the ground. Cloud curled up and coughed a bit. Fuck that was one hell of a hit. Nothing was broken, but the force was still enough to stun a man of Cloud's physical abilities.

The Minotaur's heavy hoof stepped but a mere inch from Cloud's foot, causing the very ground to shake. Cloud looked up and watched as the heavy weapon swung down at him.

Move, move, move, move, move! Get out of the damn way! Cloud's mind screeched.

Something clacked, like a stone against a rock.

I'm not going to let you die, not here, not now. said a voice.

CRACK!

Cloud reacted on instinct and reached his hand out to block the heavy mace of the Minotaur. However, neither of them expected the man to be able to stop such a massive weapon with one hand. Cloud raised his blade and swung it at the Minotaur. A massive burst exploded and ripped the haft of the mace in two as well as the Minotaur who turned into dust instantly. Cloud collapsed against the wall in a sitting position and just looked at the massive, broken mace on the ground being that his mind was too exhausted to think about what just happened.

CLOP

Heavy boots tread in the same room Cloud was in, slowly, methodically. Cloud swore he smelled something, like cigarette smoke. It was Cid, had to be since Reno smoked, but he didn't wear boots. Then again, Cid didn't walk like that, it was too elegant. Cloud saw heavy, black robes drop across his legs like a blanket and a pair of legs in front of him.

"So, what did you think of my masquerade as a man of the cloth?" asked a deep voice.

No way, it couldn't be him. The voice was familiar, but he hated cigarettes. Cloud knew he had to be losing his mind again. Cloud felt a bit of strength return to him, not enough to stand but enough to crane his neck upward. He did so quickly, but wished he hadn't as he saw an effeminate face framed by silver hair with a pair of jade eyes looking down at him whilst thin lips smoked from a kiseru The man blew out a line, shooting smoke from his lips.

"It's been an eternity, Cloud."

Sephiroth, the madman himself was standing before Cloud. Despite his muscles being exhausted and not exactly sure if this was a hallucination or not, Cloud grabbed the handle of his sword and swung the heavy weapon in a downward slash at the taller man. His blade hit nothing and the tip of it was shoved into the ground by a booted foot.

"Hastily drawing a blade is one of the worst habits a man can have." Sephiroth shook his head.

"So is giving yourself cancer."

"Bah, I'm more resilient than that."

Cloud swung his sword upward despite the heavy pressure Sephiroth had on it and caused the man to do a back-flip, dropping the tobacco out of his pipe. Sephiroth frowned at his kiseru and slipped it into an inside pocket he had in the long coat he wore. He tossed his head, silver hair flashing in the low light.

Sephiroth's manner of dress was different, far different from the humble black leather he used to wear. His coat was still black, but made of suede and going to his ankles with a vent up to his waist. His pants were brown suede and flared at the ends to accommodate the heavy, black, high-heeled boots he wore that were polished to a mirror-like sheen. His belt was dark brown and he had another loosely at it waist that had a pair of katana on it on the left side. Odd, where was his long sword?

Sephiroth wore no shirt on his torso, but had a vest instead. It seemed to be made of purple silk and glistened in the candlelight. Around Sephiroth's neck was the rosary Cloud saw earlier, the one with the strange, six-pointed cross. He wore no gloves, going bare-handed instead. His left ear had three ear-cuffs on it. His hair was also different, knee-length and in a braid starting about halfway down the length of it. Cloud examined the man, still wondering what was happening.

"You don't look surprised." Sephiroth smirked.

"Hell, when you can't tell the difference between reality and a dream you tend to get used to things like this."

"Ever had a fantasy of me?"

"No, not until now."

Sephiroth chuckled and blinked slowly.

"Reality, fantasy, men can make either the other as long as they will it to be so." he said, his eyes never leaving Cloud.

"The hell are you babbling about?"

"I'm real and I'm not dead."

"Prove it."

"How?" Sephiroth raised an eyebrow.

"By dying!"

Cloud charged despite his aching muscles only to have his strike sidestepped. Sephiroth pressed against Cloud's back, looking out of the corners of his eyes.

"You've the subtlety of a damned bull charging."

Cloud swung again but then Sephiroth seemed to vanish into thin air, making Cloud hit nothing. He felt a firm hand tap his neck, long nails just under his hair.

"I could've broken your neck just now." Sephiroth warned.

"Try getting your blade out instead."

Sephiroth just sighed and swept Cloud's legs out from under him. A split-second after Cloud hit the ground a boot slammed into his sword-arm and then the tip of a sword sheath pounded right next to his skull. Sephiroth stood over him as his mako eyes burned in the dark. Sephiroth tapped his fingers against the katana methodically.

"What are your, some damned brat?" he asked "You seem to only be able to strike out like a child."

Cloud had enough of Sephiroth's insulting and drew Hrunting from his belt to slash at the older man's leg. The latter noticed in time and managed to avoid the blow but then had the larger sword coming from above at him. Sephiroth decided to do what Cloud had told him earlier and drew his sword from its sheath. However, Cloud never expected to see a wall of fire appear once the blade was drawn.

The inferno let forth a gush of hot air so extreme that it sent Cloud hurtling and then tumbling on the ground. What the hell was that!? Since when did swords let loose goddamned blazes?

Sephiroth sheathed his blade and returned it to his belt. Cloud got up just as the older man leapt onto a ledge and looked down at him.

"Here is my game, Cloud, I run, you give chase." he said "I am the fox and you are the hound, so chase me."

"Screw you."

Cloud got his sword again, but then he felt it get blasted from his hand. He turned but then felt a bullet strike his shoulder and send him flying. Wait, he knew that sound.

"Vincent?" he growled.

"Yes, it's me." Copper-tipped boots tread on the ground.

"Are you out of your damn mind?"

"No, just making a decision."

Cloud looked at the crimson-eyed man.

"Is it because of Lucrecia?" Cloud demanded.

"Perhaps, but there are others."

"I swear I'll send you to he-!"

BASH!

Vincent didn't allow Cloud to finish his sentence as he shoved his foot into his gut, making him pass out instantly. Vincent sighed and leapt to Sephiroth's sigh, crimson meeting jade. Sephiroth smirked.

"Well, you can be quite nasty." he said.

"I don't need your damned quips. You're going to put quite a few people through hell."

"If they're in hell, it's because they brought it upon themselves."

Sephiroth looked upward and closed his eyes, listening to nothing.

"Ready?" he asked Vincent.

"Yeah."

The two men's feet left the ground and went upward like a pair of birds in the darkness.

XXXXX

Author's notes:……..Damn, that turned out weird. This is one of the few stories I'm doing without any sort of outline, so it's turning out bizarre and pretty haphazard. Since I can't access my other stories' data at the moment I decided I needed to do something for an artistic outlet. I've always wanted to do a story about a city where it's always raining (I've been doing a lot of rain scenes or thinking of them as of late. I'm starting to think I have an alternate personality that goes by the name of Tite Kubo) and this is what came up. Didn't exactly expect this to be a Vagrant Story cross over, but what the hell, might as well give it a shot. I expect chapters to be long but not the amount of chapters and for this story to be updated infrequently.

Characters:

Name: Cloud Strife

Weapon: First Tsurugi
Main Blade: Excalibur
Outer Edge: Caladblog
Saw Edge One: Hrunting
Saw Edge Two: Fragarach
Switch Blade One: Balmung
Switch Blade Two: Tyrfing

Birthplace: Nibelheim

Age: 31

Height: 5 ft 8 in

Blood type: AB

Break Arts (Limit Breaks): Braver, Cross Slash, Blade Beam, Climhazzard, Meteorain, Finishing Touch, Omnislash

Biography: The unsung hero of the battle against Sephiroth a decade ago. He married Tifa Lockheart not long after and is working as a mercenary. Though ten years have passed, his eyes still hold a glint of a man with guilt

Name: Nanaki

Weapon: Head-dress, claws

Birthplace: Cosmo Canyon

Age: 55

Height: 3 ft 9 in

Blood type: n/a

Break Arts: Sled Fang, Lunatic High, Blood Fang, Stardust Ray, Howling Moon, Earth Rave, Cosmo Memory

Biography: A mentor and spiritual guide for the younger members, Nanaki is a high-ranking elder in Cosmo Canyon. He has also been helping with the Planet's restoration.

Name: Cid Highwind

Weapon: Spear

Birthplace: Unknown

Age: 42

Height: 5 ft 10 in

Blood type: B

Break Arts: Boost Jump, Dynamite, Hyper Jump, Dragon, Dragon Dive, Big Brawl, Highwind

Biography: An engineering genius with a mouth like ten sailors. His wife Shera often chides him and covers their son, Michael's, ears quite a bit. He helps Cloud with his airship and is a damned good fighter.

Name: Yuffie Kisaragi

Weapon: Shuriken, kunai

Birthplace: Wutai

Age: 26

Height: 5 ft 7 in

Blood Type: A

Break Arts: Greased Lightning, Clear Tranquil, Landscaper, Bloodfest, Gauntlet, Doom of the Living, All Creation

Biography: A spunky, tomboyish ninja who is the heir to the Wutai dynasty and a master fighter. Her habits with materia haven't changed even though she's an adult now.

Name: Marlene Wallace

Weapon: Machine gun

Birthplace: North Corel

Age: 14

Height: 5 ft

Blood Type: O

Break Arts: Big Shot, Mind Blow, Grenade Bomb, Hammerblow, Satellite Beam, Ungermax, Catastrophe

Biography: Barret's adopted daughter who's taken his place because of his retirement. Her machine gun is actually modified from Barret's own arm.

Name: Reno

Weapon: Shock Rod

Birthplace: Slums

Age: 30

Height: 5 ft 9 in

Blood Type: B

Break Arts: Bitch-slap, Skull Blast, Lightning Rod, Stick it Where the Sun Don't Shine, Scuffle, Blast, Pyramid

Biography: A former Turk who works alongside Cloud at times to earn his keep. His perverse attitude, swearing, and accent make him a mascot character.

Name: Rude

Weapon: Fists

Birthplace: Upper plate

Age: 34

Height: 5 ft 11 in

Blood Type: AB

Break Arts: Bum Rush, Flip Kick, Crescent Moon, Back Breaker, Rising Dragon, Geronimo, Rumble Earth

Biography: Reno's partner and the mature of the two who's a master at boxing and has learned a few tricks from Tifa. He's quite stoic and looks after the younger people

Name: Sydney Losstarot

Weapon: Unkown

Birthplace: Unknown

Age: Unknown

Height: 5 ft 10 in

Blood Type: A

Break Arts: Unknown

Biography: The former leader of a fanatical cult who has suddenly appeared in Lea Monde and is assisting Vincent.

Name: Ashley

Weapon: Unknown

Birthplace: Unknown

Age: Unknown

Height: 6 ft 1 in

Blood Type: A

Break Arts: Unknown

Biography: A mysterious man who seems to have some sort of power over Lea Monde and is also assisting Vincent. His accent dictates he's from somewhere not of the main continent, but his other information is completely unknown.

Name: Vincent Valentine

Weapon: Gun

Birthplace: Unknown

Age: 62 (looks 27)

Height: 6 ft

Blood Type: A

Break Arts; Galian Beast, Death Gigas, Hell Masker, Chaos

Biography: The oldest of the group in terms of chronological age and the only man who knew Sephiroth's mother. He has seemingly betrayed Cloud, but for what purpose is unknown. He has a rood on his arm and seems to have powers similar to Ashley and Sydney inside Lea Monde

Name: Sephiroth

Weapons: Twin katana

Birthplace: Nibelheim

Age: 35 by Vincent's reckoning

Height: 6 ft 1 in

Blood Type: Unknown

Break Arts: Unknown

Biography: A man Cloud killed a decade ago and is alive once again. His infamous blade is gone and he now uses a pair of swords. He also displays odd powers and he seems to have become deadlier as a warrior.