Chapter 54: Sephiroth
Author's Final Note:
Where to begin? I started work on this novelization in 2007. As you can tell if you've had the patience to read this entire thing, you can see that my writing style and technique changed quite a bit over these six years, some plot threads I meant to expand upon were thrown by the wayside and a few scenes which, in the hands of a better author would have been amazingly detailed and vibrant, I sort of… yadda yadda'd over.
This is not the end of my novelization endeavors, I am still halfway through my Oblivion novelization, and just began a Final Fantasy: All The Bravest novelization (albeit it's really more of a spoof of novelizations than a serious one.) However, obviously, this is the end of this one. Later on (and I mean much later on) I might come back to tidy this one up, give it some uniformity and correct a few errors throughout, but for right now, I'm wrapping this one up.
It's very odd ending something that has been a presence in my life for so long. I started working on this when I was working at my very first job, was brand new to this site, was fresh out of high school. In these six years I have been through so much. It's kind of perfect that I am ending this story today as it's closing a very large chapter of my life in a nice way… tomorrow I'm getting married.
I want to thank everybody who has supported me throughout writing this story. All my readers and those who have left reviews and given me constructive criticism. I want to thank all my fellow Authors on the Genesis Awards Forums where sadly I haven't been around lately. That said they have all played a huge part in developing my skill as a writer by seeing how they write and having them critique and offer pointers. There really is no better joy than having a fellow author (especially one as talented as all the folks over there) show you how to improve your art and help teach you. Mind you this was mostly in an indirect way, but still, I think their criticism and support has paid off for me.
I want to thank my lovely fiancé Stefanie although she'll never read this story, because she has been a huge driving force in my life since I met her. She is the reason I wanted to get my act together and finish these long projects. She renewed my purpose in life.
Enough chatter and ranting, I still have a whole chapter to write. Thank you all so much for reading. More than anybody it is you, the reader, which is why I'm still doing this stuff!
Enjoy the finale!
The Highwind set down just above the base of the crater. Cold mist blurred their vision as they stepped out onto the deck. Yuffie was the first to comment on the deplorable conditions.
"I bet it's not much warmer inside the crater is it?" Yuffie whined.
"In this case, the cold literally let's you know you're alive I suspect," Barret explained. "Yo, Cid can't we get this thing any lower?"
"Not if you want us getting back out of this thing," Cid replied hitching ropes their waists. "The Highwind is graceful in open skies, but she's not too nimble getting out of tight spots."
"Now you tell us," Cait Sith chuckled humorlessly as he clung to his Mog.
"Listen up!" Cid shouted. "We used up the parachutes in Midgar. We've all done this rappelling stuff before, but this time we're also using it to navigate down the side of this mountain into the crater proper. If the tether snaps, we lose the entire line, so don't be an idiot!"
With that word of warning Cid leapt over the edge first and slid down the rope, his safety harness intact, and hit the side of the crater walls.
"No time to waste," Cloud said, heading over the edge next.
"Get one last good luck at the sun," Tifa sighed following behind him.
Cait Sith went next, followed by Yuffie. Red had to be fitted into a rather embarrassing harness similar to his parachute, but it did manage to keep him secure as they headed down the side. Vincent was the last to go, behind Barret who muttering to himself about missing stairs.
The descent into the crater was the most treacherous thing they'd ever attempted. During their last visit the descent had natural paths that could be utilized to make it into the heart. However, since WEAPON burst free from it, the entire crater was a massive cave with a straight down shot into the planet.
They were just a few yards from the bottom when Red slipped against the rock and caused the rope to sway. The tiniest movement set a chain reaction. The tension in the rope when it snapped against a jagged edge caused it to sever and everybody below him fell to the ground in a heap. Vincent and Barret were forced to drop down and when they landed they weren't in much better shape than those who had fallen.
"I'm sorry!" Red cried, biting to get his harness off.
"Well that was a graceful entrance," Yuffie groaned. "And we've lost our way back out."
"The Highwind has plenty of rope, quit your whining," Cid said. "Anybody seriously hurt?"
The group muttered but there didn't appear to be any lasting damage, except a nasty gash on Tifa's leg and a fractured finger on Barret's hand. Tifa wrapped it up in a torn piece of cloth from his shirt and splinted it with a long, flat pebble.
"Not the best patch job, but it will do," Tifa said.
"Where do you think that leads?" Vincent asked, pointing towards a long dark chamber with a glowing green light shining from the end.
"They left a light on for us," Cloud said. "Let's move everyone."
The Crater was eerily quiet. This was deeper into the earth than they'd ever been. As their eyes grew accustomed to the dark, they noticed the bony remains of enormous creatures that had not been seen by others in maybe thousands of years.
"There's a whole world down here," Tifa said, amazed.
"Look at this!" Cait Sith said, pointing to a piece of wreckage.
They gathered round and saw it clear as day. The Shinra logo was stamped on the piece of metal equipment which was now smashed.
"This is it," Vincent said. "This is where they first found JENOVA."
"Reports say it was a geological stratum, but they never mentioned the location," Cait Sith explained. "Makes sense. Looks like Shinra knew from the very start about this place. Kept one out from under his own son. Unbelievable."
"Probably not him," Vincent explained. "Dr. Gast would have been the one who reported this."
"That's why he was so interested in talking with Aeris's mother," Tifa nodded. "And because he kept this secret from Hojo…"
"Eerie how it's all fitting together," Cid sighed. "Let's keep walking."
At the end of the chamber was a large well of lifestream energy. It rose straight up towards the pillar that was visible outside the crater.
"There's a path leading down," Yuffie said.
"It will be the last path you tread," came a ghostly voice from around the chamber.
A monstrosity like no other appeared. The body of a woman, but misshapen and disfigured. Her head had been restored, but he arms were like tentacles and she floated above the ground looking almost piteously at them. There was no mistaking it.
"JENOVA!" Cloud shouted.
"The Meteor will destroy this planet." JENOVA said solemnly. "And I will ride along it towards another planet where I will do the same that I have done to this planet. Had it not been for your Cetra, I would have done this over a thousand years ago."
"We're going to stop you and Sephiroth!" Tifa shouted.
"Sephiroth is the first to truly accept his fate. My path offers salvation and he has earned his rightful place as God. You who fight against him and reject me- you have no place amongst us. Begone!"
JENOVA smashed her tentacles towards the well and a large platform comprised of large chunks of the earth appeared beneath her. The others leapt onto it and rushed into the battle. Cloud struck first with his Buster sword, but his strike seemed to go straight through her.
"Pathetic," she said, knocking Cloud back.
They failed no matter what attack they threw at her: Tifa's fist, Cid's spear, Vincent and Barret's bullets. All were useless before JENOVA.
"You can't defeat me. I, like Sephiroth, am one with the Lifestream. The wisdom of the ancients, as you call it, is now the very source that gives me my power," JENOVA said. "Please stop. You cannot hope to win and I do not wish to harm any of you."
"Fine!" Barret shouted. "You want some power?!" Barret wrenched a piece of materia from out of his gunarm. "Take it!"
He flung the orb at JENOVA. It smashed into her body and erupted in flame. She shrieked in agony, but soon the flame was out.
"Materia!" Yuffie shouted. "Of course! We have to attack her with magic!"
"No," Cloud said. "The energy from the condensed Mako!"
"Quit your nonsense!" JENOVA shouted smashing her tentacles again, knocking them all down.
Yuffie tried a bolt of lightning but it missed. JENOVA picked her up by her ankle and dropped her. She landed hard, a definite snap rang through the hall even above the sound of the rushing Lifestream. Her arm lay useless at her side and she wailed in pain.
"Barret!" Cloud shouted. "The Materia we have has been condensed unnaturally! Bugenhagen said that this damages the Lifestream, that it corrupts it! She isn't weak to our magic, she's weak to the Materia itself!"
Cloud threw one of the orbs wresting in his armor at JENOVA. Icy spears shot out from her body. The others continued throwing theirs. Flame, ice and lighting shook the foundation of JENOVA. Wind and earthquakes rumbled beneath. Yuffie threw her last piece of Materia and an enormous dragon shot through JENOVA's body, sending a wave of water to wash away the remains of her corrupted body.
"Leviathan," Yuffie said. "This is why we've protected this Materia for so long."
"Amazing to see it in action," Cid grunted, nursing a bruised shoulder.
"No time to stop now. Sephiroth is just ahead," Cloud said.
"Is he now?" came an all too familiar voice.
The others looked back towards where JENOVA had been. Sephiroth stood there, in his true body, not the astral images that they had seen before.
"Why have you continued to try and win a battle that is absolutely hopeless?" Sephiroth demanded. "I suppose you have discovered about Holy and are placing your hope in my demise."
"That's right, we're going to kick your ass and let Holy do the rest!" Barret shouted.
Sephiroth shrugged his shoulders. "It is inevitable then. I don't have to kill you slowly. I can stop your heart with a single snap of my fingers. But in this case, I think I will enjoy watching you suffer."
Sephiroth's body slowly began to change. He was becoming even more monstrous than any form of JENOVA that they had ever seen. His face stretched and contorted, his body grew immensely in size until he was easily over thirty feet high. His muscles grew a thousand fold, his still beating heart was now visible behind a cage of skin and sinew.
"Accept your fate!" Sephiroth shouted. "Or perish!"
Bolts of dark energy rushed through the chamber smashing off the walls and ceilings. However none of them seemed to hit their mark.
"What?!" Sephiroth shouted. He sent another blast of energy, but this time a bright white light shone in the center of the chamber.
"Don't give up!" Came a small voice in the back of Cloud's head. "You're almost there!"
"Aeris!" Cloud shouted. The light pierced Sephiroth's heart and Cloud rushed towards it with his sword, piercing it in a flash of steel.
Sephiroth's body began to slowly crumple away, but Sephiroth himself was laughing.
"Even that poor Cetra girl doesn't understand my true power or purpose. I am your new God, and you will submit!" Sephiroth shouted.
He disappeared in a bright light, as did the chamber. When they could see again, they saw only the Lifestream and seemed to be floating within it. Where Sephiroth had been standing a moment ago he now hovered, closer to his true form than before, but with an enormous black wing stretching out of his back and sitting on a thrown of clouds.
"This is where we end it, Cloud," Sephiroth said, raising his Masamune with one hand.
Cloud rushed at Sephiroth and met his sword blow for blow. The others behind him tried to help as best they could, but their attacks seemed to do nothing. This battle was strictly between Cloud and Sephiroth.
"You are nothing!" Sephiroth shouted. "Nothing is in your mind that I did not place there!"
"Well then thanks for all the sword-fighting lessons!" Cloud shouted smashing back at Sephiroth as he continued to strike at him effortlessly.
"Where would you be without the gifts that I have bestowed upon you?" Sephiroth asked. "Hiding, as you always have, behind others. It was you who let Zack die. It was you who let Aeris die. And now you lead the rest of your friends to meet the same fate."
"We're not going to die here, Sephiroth!" Cloud shouted. "Aeris gave us the chance to live!"
"Then she died in vain!" Sephiroth shouted as his Masamune broke Cloud's stance and pierced him through the heart.
The others stopped and watched as Cloud lay on the blade, completely off the ground.
"This is your hero, you miserable woman," Sephiroth said as he threw Cloud and the Masamune onto the ground. "And now the rest of you shall meet the same fate."
"Cloud!" Tifa yelled. "You son of a bitch!"
Tifa rushed at Sephiroth and pummeled Sephiroth in the chest. He laughed and pushed her onto the ground with a wave. The others joined in the attack now sending their best shots. Barret emptied his clip into Sephiroth with Vincent backing him up. Cid's spear seemed to bounce right off. Cait Sith and Red's attacks were equally useless.
Cloud slowly opened his eyes. Deep in the distance of the Lifestream he saw her.
"Cloud," she said. "I'm sorry that you have been through so much pain. I never meant for any of this. But you mustn't give up . Just one more push and it will be over. I promise."
Cloud's Buster Sword suddenly shimmered in the light from the Lifestream. It looked brand new. Every knick, scratch, dirt patch, blood stain and bullet hole vanished. Cloud slowly stood up with the Masamune still sticking out of his chest.
"Sephiroth!" Cloud shouted.
His friends were all on the floor now, looking up at the two. Sephiroth's face was not calm and arrogant now, but filled with rage.
"You are dead!" Sephiroth screamed.
"Almost," Cloud said. He threw his sword at Sephiroth and it pierced through his body.
Sephiroth fell from his throne and landed on the ground.
And suddenly the world disappeared. It was just Sephiroth and Cloud. Cloud's Buster Sword was back in his hand and Sephiroth's Masamune in his.
"No more tricks then," Sephiroth said. "Your skill against my own. Blades only. And you were never able to beat me."
"That's in the past, Sephiroth," Cloud said.
Sephiroth rushed at Cloud with his sword but in a skill that even Cloud had never known before he disarmed Sephiroth in a flash and brought his sword down into Sephiroth's chest.
Sephiroth's head dropped, and his eyes shut.
"You will never be able to return to who you were," Sephiroth said.
"Thank goodness," Cloud said as he pushed the sword in deeper, ending Sephiroth's life.
Cloud closed his eyes and when he opened them again he was back on the crater floor with his friends all around him. Tifa was pulling him up to safety as the ground slowly began to collapse around them.
"Come on!" Cloud shouted as they all pulled away from the collapse.
The Highwind lowered another rope but it was soon sucked down into the vortex of the Lifestream that was now billowing around them. Cloud had no idea what was going on, it was all happening too fast.
"Lady luck don't fail me now!" Cid shouted as he jumped onto the deck of the Highwind. "Pilot! Full power to rear engine! Pull us out now!"
The others climbed into the bridge as well.
"We're still sinking!" Yuffie shouted.
"Not for long! Pilot get out of the way!" Cid shouted taking control of the steering column. "I hoped never to use this. Everybody onboard?!"
"We're all here!" Cloud shouted.
Cid pulled a lever on the console and suddenly they were airborne again. They rocketed high into the air as the bridge- and only the bridge- hovered in place around the edge of the crater. It had small wings that appeared out of the inner hull and was able to remain aloft.
"And another one of my ships gets ruined, that's 3 for 3 goddamnit," Cid cursed.
"What happened?" Cloud asked.
"You and Sephiroth sort of disappeared for a minute. And then the next minute you were back, but the world starting falling apart all around us," Yuffie said as Vincent slowly wrapped up her shattered arm.
"And when the hell did it become night time?" Cid asked, looking at the starry sky.
"It's not," Cloud said. "Meteor has eclipsed the sun."
"Oh my god, look at that!" Tifa said pointing out the rear window of the bridge.
Meteor was now mere miles above the surface of the planet. Cid pushed the ship towards Midgar and within an hour they saw it clear as day. Midgar was in chaos and the Meteor was rapidly flying towards it.
"We need some help clearing the people out of the city!" Cait Sith said.
"I'll go!" Yuffie said.
"Me too!" Vincent nodded.
"But you'll be killed!" Tifa shouted.
"If Holy doesn't show soon we're all screwed," Yuffie said. "I'd like to spend my one last act on this planet doing something selfless for a change."
Vincent nodded. "And I have many sins left to atone for."
"Be careful please!" Cloud said as the two of them rappelled over the edge of the bridge down into the city.
"It's too late for Midgar. Meteor is approaching the planet," Red said. "But there may still be some hope for the planet."
"I had hoped the kids to be here for this one," Cid said. "But hell, if we're going down, I'm glad I'm going down with you guys. Some adventure you numbskulls have put us through."
"Maybe Lord Godo was right," Cait Sith said. "Even if we die in the end, just the fact that we fought alone makes it worth it."
Cloud pulled Tifa closer.
"Thank you Tifa. For everything," Cloud said.
Barret folded his arms. "I guess I wasn't able to save Marlene's future after all."
"I'm sure she will understand when this is all over," Red said.
The Meteor suddenly seemed to stop moving as hellstorms of fiery pillars cascaded down onto Midgar.
"My god," Tifa said. "Yuffie and Vincent…"
"We're still A-Okay for now!" Cait Sith said. "Don't worry about us!"
"Aeris. Thank you for giving us a chance," Cloud said. "I'm sorry that we weren't able to finish it."
"What's that?" Tifa asked.
She looked out the window and a massive swirling ray of green light slowly poured out of the planet near Kalm. Then near the base of Midgar. Then from all corners of the globe.
"Of course…" Cloud said. "The ultimate white magic. Holy. It's the Lifestream. It's the energy of the entire planet. The will of all of us to live."
The energy solidified into an enormous white force field that engulfed Meteor. With a blinding flash of light Meteor faded away into nothingness.
There was silence that seemed to fill the entire planet.
Then after a few seconds Cait Sith exclaimed. "The Meteor is gone! It vanished into nothing! Midgar is badly damaged but Meteor is gone!"
The remains of the Highwind touched down outsideKalm and Vincent and Yuffie rushed up to the team, followed very closely by Elmyra, Reeve and Marlene.
Barret hugged his little girl and gave her the memento that Dyne had left with him. "This was your mommy's. She'd want you to have it now."
Reeve hugged Yuffie while petting the head of his Cait Sith doll. Cid wrapped his arm around Vincent's shoulder who managed to smile for the first time that they'd ever seen.
"So," Tifa said putting her arm around Cloud's. "What do we do now?"
"Now we do what Aeris gave us the chance to do. We live," Cloud said.
Cloud turned to Tifa and kissed her as fireworks launched from Kalm and cheers echoed all around them. It was their future and their chance to truly live. Side by side the members of Avalanche walked into Kalm, and on to their futures.