Author's note: I'll explain everything after the chapter; this is my reviewer's response time.

Disclaimer: Don't own, don't sue: Just a college student working as a dish bitch to pay the bills.

Reviewer Response:

Sorceress Fujin: You are, without a doubt, among my favorite authors on this site, and to have you reviewing my story is a real treat. Thank you for the positive feedback, it always kick starts a writing spurt, but more than that, I feel the need to thank you for understanding the long standing absence and difficulties starting back up with writing. It's hard to get back into writing after having your spirit crushed by something, but I found it much easier after reading your reply to my note. This Chapter, even if it isn't my best or longest work, is for you and one other reviewer.

Bluestone: hehe, I will always update eventually, even if it takes a while (or as in the case of my other story, a LONG while since I got writers block). And I fall on my face all the time, in fact just on Thursday I did so in my dance class, it was such a fricken hoot! Thank you for the review, enjoy the chapter.

Shirox: You, like all my other readers, must have the patience of a saint, and I bow down to your superior waiting abilities. Thank you for the compliment, I think kick ass and bad ass are the highest rated compliments in my book, enjoy the chapter!

Beechiki: No Seizures for you! Hehe, enjoy :D.

Furorandtigol: I sometimes hit this snag with people who read my story, I didn't do almost anything in that story according to the "time line" everyone else seems to follow. First chance I got to go around aimlessly, I did, and I got all my people before I got to the Temple of Ancients, which is possible, considering the place I get my text directly from the game from also had Cid. And since this is my story, I'm going with the way I've seen it done. I don't mean to be rude, and if I am, I'm very sorry, it is not my intent to upset anyone or belittle anyone, but I feel I need to validate myself on this matter. Its rather late, I'm eager to finish this chapter tonight, and I get a bit grumpy when people point out flaws so early in the story when I'm just tonight going to be posting what happens twelve chapters later, it just isn't logical to think I can go back and fix something as big as removing a character that doesn't belong there without completely changing the story and making a completely new chapter to wedge in somewhere, especially not while taking over the recommended amount of credit hours and working. I thank you for your observation, I really do, and I'm pleased you like my story, but please bare in mind that with video games, results may vary, and no author likes to be corrected about something so far after the fact. I'll step off my soapbox now, and again, I apologize for any rudeness in this little rant of mine, I assure you, it is unintentional.

A.Girl.Named.Jake: Every author like being told that their ideas are original and that their work is beautiful, if any reader here should thank someone for helping get part of this chapter done, they really should thank you and Sorceress Fujin, because you both have been terribly sweet to this slacker-esque writer. This Chapter is for you also, and I certainly hope you enjoy it, thank you so much for those reviews.

Darkened-skys: Thank you for a few things, first for choosing to read this story, and secondly for saying that I've stayed true to the plot. With so many nit-pickers on this site, of which I must say I include myself, it is always a wonderful thing to know I'm doing alright by someone. Enjoy this chapter, because you helped make it worth writing.

Dedication: Sorceress Fujin, a.girl.named.jake, and my older sister, all of whom have kept me writing for one reason, or another. This is for you three.

A Door Beyond Absolution

Chapter 15: Any Leap of Faith

The road to Sephiroth couldn't have been harder if every weapon lined their path, well, actually, that's not true; that's just what Yuffie thought. Within the first four minutes of dropping, helter-skelter, into the crater, dragons, wyrms, and beasts, of all shapes and sizes, greeted the heroes. No one had been ready for the advanced monster activity in the crater, though with the life stream so close, it should have been expected.

"I told you," Cloud said gruffly, picking entrails from his hair. "Where life stream touches the surface, monsters gather. This is natural."

Yuffie picked up a small rock and hurled it at the leaders back.

"Only you would call this," she gestured to her blood spotted shirt, "NATURAL."

Vincent put a calming hand on Yuffie's shoulder, tugging her away from the center group as they argued strategy.

"It is the pulse of the life stream," he whispered, watching the lips of his comrades. "So much energy so close to the surface makes the atmosphere tense, like an on coming storm. You must be calm, meditate after each battle."

Yuffie relaxed her shoulders a bit as Vincent rejoined the group, closing her eyes; she envisioned the ocean on the coast of Wutai, still in the absence of wind. 'Be the ocean,' her mother had told her as a child. 'Be the smooth surface of Da-chao, the glass like surface of the sea.'

'The shiny surface of materia,' she thought to herself, calming her nerves as her feet carried her back to the group.

"Then it's decided," Cloud said firmly. "Barret and Red will take the left wing, Cid, Vincent, and Yuffie will take the right. Tifa, Cait Sith, and I will take the central route. We'll divvy up materia now."

Standing at Cid's elbow while Cloud picked and chose materia combinations was hard for the young teenager, who wanted to second guess his decision by suggesting a better pairing. When each group had support and healing materia, Cloud began handing out summons, his hand always pausing over the Knights of the Round materia Yuffie had given him earlier that day. Staring at it for many moments, and noting that he had given summons to everyone but Yuffie, Cloud held the materia out to her.

"You found it, it's only right you get to use it first." Cloud said softly, his eyes locked on hers. "It takes more energy than most, so be careful and use it wisely… I don't need to tell you what is at stake in this fight."

Turning away from Cloud abruptly, Yuffie was able to subtly swipe the tears from her eyes, and nod silently to the leader. Taking a deep breath, Yuffie slid the orb into a single materia slot, not far from her healing and all combination materia. As they started down their designated path, Yuffie watched the sparkle of the Knights of the Round materia as it caught the eerie glow of the crater and it made her appreciate the place all the more.

Sure, appreciation was an odd thing to give a cave that could possibly spell the end of your life, but Yuffie could accept beauty where she found it, and she found it here in abundance. The stone surfaces glittered with months and years of build up from this point where the life stream was, and always had been, so close to the surface. That is why the Weapons were here, in Northern Crater; that was why Sephiroth chose this place as his safe haven for his body; that is why people were drawn to this land filled with snow, because in this part of the world they were so much closer to touching that which gives and takes life. To Yuffie, this place was holy, like the temples she'd grown up praying in, or the ordeals she'd over come for so many years to bring her close to saving her people from the Midgar-ism that threatened to consume it.

Every beast they cut down on the path, she prayed for forgiveness for slaying. To her, these beasts were like sacred beings, dwelling in the heavenly place, even if it was also creepy. The green glow seemed to encompass everything, and yet gave no light for the wanderers, and more than once she found herself thanking Leviathan for Vincent's remarkably enhanced sight. But, the path was growing more dense with monsters and beasts, all thirsting for new blood, new flesh, new life to claim in this place that spelled death for the struggling and lax fighter.

Soon, perhaps too soon for Yuffie, the path abruptly began to decline and she nearly lost her balance and pitched head first into the dark.

"Looks like we're getting close," Cid mumbled, lighting a cigarette with shaking fingers. "Cloud said that fucker'd be a' the bottom…"

Vincent clutched Yuffie's arm as they began the slow decent, the path was slick, and rocks were constantly coming loose and bounding down the slope. Cid used his spear to keep him from stepping on the loose pebbles that Yuffie continuously lost her balance on. When the ground began to level out, it was Yuffie that reached flat terrain first, and she sank to her knees in relief.

"That was hard," she said softly, wiping sweat from her forehead.

"It looks like our path veers around this rock face, it does not narrow much and we should be able to pass without incident." Vincent told the two, his mako enhanced eyes seeing further than theirs could.

"Why would we have an incident?" Yuffie inquired, taking a long drink from her canteen. She offered it to Cid, who shook his head and drank from a large silver flask instead.

"Because there is a natural ravine not seven feet from you," he said, Yuffie skittered back quickly.

"Don' tell me the brat's afraid of heights," Cid drawled, leaning on his spear.

"It isn't heights so much as a fear of plummeting," Yuffie said simply, clambering to her feet. "I nearly fell off Da-chao twice in my lifetime, and once is more than most people ever experience."

"I thought that fuckin' statue was a national monument to you people," Cid said as he kept one hand on the wall to guide him in the darkness.

"It is a sacred shrine, not a national monument," Vincent said simply. Yuffie nodded briskly, though neither man could see it from where she walked behind them.

"You see, you can only climb Da-chao with permission from the royal family, or, if your child is training to be a ninja, the day after their trial by the mountain, you are permitted and go find the child." Yuffie explained as she hugged the wall, thinking longingly of those open sides where the sunlight permitted her to see every footfall in her path.

"Why'd those fuckers close it off from the regular folks?" Cid asked, squinting ahead in an effort to see.

"Many years before Yuffie was born, there was a noble family who thought they were better than everyone. They had three sons, each as headstrong as their ancestors, and the boys felt they were gods reincarnated. The local children idolized them, but only the noble ones were ever invited to go with them and cause chaos." Vincent explained, peering down the dark path ahead. "They caused all kinds of problems, playing pranks and terrorizing the less fortunate children of Wutai, no one thought to control them, maybe it would have changed everything if someone had."

Yuffie stayed silent, listening as Vincent spoke. She knew the story, of course she knew, but that didn't mean she liked to tell it, or even remember it on a regular basis. Cid, however, had heard very little of Wutainese history in his time traveling with the young princess, and found a rather morbid fascination with the topic at hand.

So much so, he couldn't resist asking Vincent what happened next.

"One of the boys said that he could stop the flames that thrived in one of Dao-chao's many caverns, though only a ninja, at their prime and ready to end their training, is supposed to be able to do so. The boy dragged his friends up the mountain, boasting and gloating, leaving the lesser children he usually tormented at the gates to 'await' his return." Vincent said stiffly as Yuffie drank from her canteen and held it out to him; he shook his head lightly and pressed on with his tale. "When they reached the cave, the boy went in and did not come out for a long time; the rest of the assembled children grew antsy and frightened and went in after him."

"That seems real fuckin' stupid," Cid stated, taking the canteen from Yuffie when she offered it to him. "I woulda let the little fucker stay lost."

With that he took a long drink and handed the canteen back to Yuffie.

"He wasn't lost," Yuffie said darkly, taking the canteen back from him.

"No, he was not." Vincent said blankly, "inside the children found several dragon hatchlings that had wandered in and found shelter in the flames."

"Hatchlings ain't so bad, it's the big ones you worry about," Cid laughed, Yuffie snorted.

"Dragons near Wutai come out much bigger than the ones near rocket town, and they grow much faster because of the constantly warm climate and availability of food." She explained, stretching her legs as she took another drink. Cid suddenly didn't look as certain of his statement and glanced at Vincent.

"They were edgy and frightened by the appearance of humans and attacked the children, injuring several and killing one right away. Some of the uninjured children fled back to the village and brought fighters to deal with the beasts, while the others did their best to try and help the injured ones out of the cave." Vincent explained softly, looking out at the glittering chasm before him. "The adults arrived quickly, but not soon enough to save the four children who stayed behind to help or the two who had been injured already. The people of Wutai were devastated by the death of eight noble children, and demanded action. The only thing the ruler, Yuffie's grandfather, could do was to forbid any man, woman or child to approach it, unless they had permission from the royal family."

"What happen'd to the first brat?" Cid inquired, flicking the ash from his cigarette, Yuffie looked up quietly.

"They found pieces of him after they cleared the cave, and the rest of him they found inside one the bigger hatchlings." She said softly, one arm draped around her knee with the canteen clutched in her hand. "My grandpa was one of the men who carried that dragon's carcass back to Wutai and sacrificed it before the dojo. My uncle was the first child who died while looking for the other boy."

"But you tell all kinds of stories about that fuckin' place!" Cid declared accusingly, Yuffie rolled her eyes.

"I only ever had ninja friends, and normally they were much older than me." She said as she took a final swig of water, "and of course I could get and give permission to climb Dao-chao, so we pretty much did what we wanted up there."

"An' how'd you know 'bout them dragons?" Cid asked, peering at Vincent, who shifted awkwardly.

"I was one of the children who stayed behind in the village, I was nine." Vincent replied, gauging Cid's reaction, which involved his cigarette falling out of his mouth.

"You were…?" Cid began, Yuffie hopped up.

"We need to get moving," she said firmly, pulling her shurriken from her strap. "I heard something weird."

Vincent watched the mixed emotions on Cid's face for a moment longer before staring at his bullheaded lover, and companion as she stared down the path which was so hidden from her lovely eyes.

"Yuffie," he began, uncertainty always prevailing over faith in his friends, "I hear noth…"

That was no longer true, and the word nothing had any reason to be said to completion. The clang of sword on stone, the sound of blowing wind, and the scattered and muffled cries of voices he knew all too well.

'Wind?' Chaos growled, still utilizing the voice of his host, 'this far beneath the surface? Something is wrong.'

Though silent, Vincent completely agreed with the demon, and launched after the already running Yuffie and Cid.

The path was still a winding, rock strewn path, but Yuffie stumbled on ahead of the group, feeling the pulse of something much greater drawing her forward. Vincent passed Cid quickly, even without the mako enhancements, he was faster than the chain smoker could hope to be as he hacked and coughed as he ran. The ledge became a full blown tunnel, no longer curved but straight, and like any tunnel, the light at the end of it was the goal. It was a green light, like the rest of the Crater emitted; only this part illuminated everything.

No monsters dwelled here, it was too close to the heart of the life stream for them to feel comfortable, but Yuffie pressed on despite the strong urges to turn on heel and run.

'This is it!' her mind screamed as she urged her weary legs forward. 'I'll finally get revenge for my mother!'

But that little voice inside her, the one that couldn't stand to let her be right, always had to have the last word.

'You could join your mother,' the thought sent a shiver up her spine, but it didn't stop her. The end was in reach, and breaking through that gap, onto the ledge overlooking the arena in which the THING was. It was like a man fused onto a huge, mis-proportional golem, or at least half of one. The features reminded her of Sephiroth, or at least of the man she'd seen take the black materia from Cloud, but with none of his grace or beauty. This was a thing formed of anger, and pain, this was a contortion of reality and the only thing to strike Yuffie was that this bizarre thing was attacking two groups of her friends.

There was only one thing she could do.

Vincent had barely reached her when she did the forward flip off the ledge, her shuriken held out in front of her furled body. Cid cried out in surprise as he drew even, and both men could only watch as she fell through the air.

She was a spinning blade, heading straight for the smaller Sephiroth's body.

And, Leviathan blessed, that girl rarely missed.

Author's Note:

Well! It took me forever, but here it is: Chapter fifteen! God, it's taken so long to get this out I think I must've frustrated nearly all of you!

It isn't the best work I've ever done, but I'm pleased with it. After such a long time of absence, its kind of like trying to jump start a dead car battery to get back into a grove, and since I have no luck with vehicle stuff, this will probably take a bit longer to get myself back to a normal updating schedule. Thank you all, so much, for sticking with this story, even with the long wait for an update. I can't tell you how much it means to me.

But, onto business, since its been so long I was indeed a bit fuzzy on where the Weapons emerged from, but my gut instinct says it was the crater, so in this story; IT IS. No Corrections, please, for all intensive purposes, this is still my story and that is what I am choosing, if I'm wrong, I have no problem with receiving criticisms on this point so I can come back and fix it, but if you wish to do so then please email me instead of leaving it in a review. I don't know about any of you, but I prefer to keep my disagreements private, these included.

My story about Wutai may not seem overly relevant, and I'm pretty sure there were lots of repetitive words in the revised version that is being posted, but it isn't mean to be looked at for the story itself. It's Vincent sharing with Cid about his past, and also giving us the not-so-subtle hint that he is older than Yuffie's father.

As for the Sephiroth fight, I had to look up pictures of Bizarro Sephiroth just to remember what the hell he looked like, so please, don't laugh too much.

That's about it guys, again, thank you for sticking with me.