Such was the nature of the world around him.
Water rippled and lapped gently at the armored greaves that shielded his feet as a gentle breeze kissed the golden locks that flowed from within the edges of his helmet. Serene quiet surrounded him, undisturbed by voice or movement, a delicate moment that stood between the discomfort of total silence and the nuances of noise. The skies were punctuated by the graceful, sweeping movements of slight clouds, puffy and saturated with tears that whispered a promise of rainfall, carried by light winds across the plains.
It was an atmosphere he was entirely at peace with, and on any other day, he would have been perfectly content to spend a few hours of soothing relaxation enjoying the surreptitious changing in the perpetual dance of the elements as they elegantly interchanged throughout a routine of earth, fire, wind, and water.
But not this day.
The Warrior Of Light's eyes were narrowed as he gazed across the dark, ragged terrain of the rocky mesa, focused upon a sight that could be seen by none. His form was still and tall, standing proud and noble at the lead of a group of individuals, his head held high and unflinching. A shimmering sword of stunning craftsmanship was clasped loosely in his right fist, the dim light of the obscured sun reflecting upon the cool kiss of steel, flowing in tandem with the flux of shades and tones that were the mirrors of the clouds like liquid seeping down the blade. Clad in a resplendent suit of platemail of an opal hue interlaced with dipping fingers of glittering gold, he was the very image of the hero, the savior.
The Warrior Of Light remained motionless, as, surreptitiously, the clouds began to weave from their original, natural routine, swirling in an elliptical pattern that fully obscured the sun. These were no ordinary clouds; thick and weeping onyx, they roiled and glided with an alien, ominous intensity that birthed to shadows that leapt and danced across the rocky contours of the mesa, moving from a crawl to a loping speed, and then halting back to a cautious prowl, as if the very shadows were afraid and hesitant of the light that always stood a step in ahead of them. A deep, unnatural rumble coursed through the stone beneath the Warrior's legs, but the Hero was undaunted, his only reaction to raise his weapon slightly in readiness. With a flicker of icy blue eyes, the Warrior took in his companions with an experienced tactical eye.
To his right stood an individual clad in simple, black combat fatigues, a metal harness draped across his hips and over his stomach, coarse onyx material extending from his waist to a pair of thick, rugged military-grade boots. A sinister looking pauldron rested uneasily on his left shoulder, protruding bolts and spikes of oiled steel casting contorted shadows across the rippling water that pooled around their feet. The shadows were dwarfed only by the ones cast by the individual's mane of spiky, golden hair that hung in an intimidating cascade past a pair of fierce eyes that shone with an unnatural emerald-blue sheen. Clasped tightly within his gloved hand was a monstrous bastard sword, the blade easily over five feet in length and blessed-or cursed-with a huge, unwieldy width. A pair of hollows rested at the base of this monster of a blade, but Cloud Strife clearly had no difficulty hefting the massive weapon, and his cold glare rested upon the sight that the Warrior's had been a moment ago.
Just in front of Cloud stood a slender young woman draped in foreign vestments of a passionate rouge and white, her slim shoulders angled towards the sudden cause of sound. A pair of beautiful amber eyes that shone with innocence and melancholy gazed from a lovely, smooth-skinned face, locks of shimmering blonde cascading in an ornate pattern over her shoulders. Her draping cloak flowed down her delicate shoulder blades to kiss the curved, metallic hilt of a radiant blade that was as just as slender as it's owner. To any other onlooker, Terra Branford would have seemed unimposing and out of place amongst the gathering of armed and armored males, but the Warrior of Light sensed the barely restrained aura of lethal magic that practically shimmered around her form, only contained by her endless reserves of psychic power and restraint. Even so, the magnitude of her abilities was such that, even under her iron walls of self-discipline, the Warrior felt his hackles rising involuntarily in reaction to the psychic aura, and for a moment, he felt grateful for her presence as an ally.
Standing at Terra's side was an individual who seemed more like a child in stature than a fully grown man; the youngest Hero of all, the wide-eyed teen known to him only as the Onion Knight. It was clear that this warrior had originated from a distant, foreign realm judging from his attire, which was even more flamboyantly outrageous than the rest. Dressed in slacks of a glaring crimson, the Onion Knight proudly bore a glamorous white cape that was swept over his shoulders, tucked under the magnificent helm that adorned his skull. Decorated by an elaborate plume of silver feathers that curled upwards, the helm was a perfect compliment to the light brown tresses that flowed like liquid rowan past the Knight's ears, and his emerald eyes shone with a mixture of curiosity and ferocity in one. Draped past his hips was a protective overskirt of an unfamiliar, luminescent material that glowed with a flaming orange, seeming akin to licking fire that appeared to dance upon his vestments. Clutched within his grip was a golden sword that shone with navy blue runes.
The Warrior's gaze lifted from the eye-holding spectacle of the Onion Knight and flickered to the left, resting upon the lone figure that stood to that side. A well-built young man stood tall and unbowed, locks of golden sunshine falling gracefully past a pair of eyes that were of the most brilliant sapphire hue, matched in intensity and beauty only by the beautifully shining, aquamarine sword that was held in his casual, yet confident grip. The blade was a pristine blue, shimmering and roiling as if the weapon was actually housing a torrent of swirling, crystal clear water that glowed with a spectacular clarity. The man's expression was unlike any of the others; on the contrary, his face was lit by a cheerful, confident, almost contagious grin, his sapphire eyes bright and unclouded. Possibly the most strangely-attired of them all, Tidus was clothed in fatigues of dim yellow and a black harness adorned with studs and spikes. Strange, unfamiliar symbols adorned his left pant leg, mirrored in the straight silver pendant that hung low around his neck, caged between the white tassels that extended back into a looping hood that rested snugly on his shoulder blades. Dangling precariously from his hip was a chain that seemed more akin to a flaming whip, the dim light of the sun and water barely contained within its glowing sheen.
Standing side by side to the Warrior's right were a pair of young men who were similar in stature. Of all the Heroes in the short time that they had had to acquaint themselves with each other, Zidane and Bartz had bonded the fastest, and had already established a firm friendship. The former was clearly from a different existence; he had classified himself as a Genome rather than a human, but the Warrior of Light had already come to that conclusion judging from Zidane's elfin features that were too delicate and perfect to be any human's, and from the sight of his tail. Clutched within a pair of slender hands were a duo of curved, lethally sharp daggers, each easily as long as the Warrior's forearm.
Bartz, on the other hand, was entirely human, and was, to the Warrior's quiet approval, the most practically attired and equipped of the rest of them. Clad in simple travelling slacks and a body hugging jerkin that was unlikely to interfere with his movements, Bartz wore his brown hair short in a controlled style. Strangely, the young man carried no weapons of any kind, and upon being questioned by the other Heroes, he had simply given an enigmatic smile and assured them that he did not need one. Terra had detected no magical aura of significant magnitude from Bartz, and the Warrior had been slightly concerned, until he had assured himself that the Goddess Cosmos must have chosen Bartz for a reason.
Behind Bartz and Zidane stood a stern-faced man clad in a set of ebony platemail, a cloak of cyan hue draped over his shoulders. He sported an elaborate bandanna on the crown of his head that obscured the majority of his radiant silver locks, and hung low over a gaze of intimidating brown. Where Bartz had carried no weapons, Firion had an entire arsenal, and his form protruded with an array of lethal instruments; wrapped around his waist were a pair of thowing knives and grappling hooks, whilst a slender longbow hung casually off his left shoulder. Slung across his back just above a long, lethally edged lance was a heavy, solid axe, and on his right hip hung a stave that pulsed with arcane energies. He sported a small shield upon his left arm, and on his left hip hung a longsword of which the blade was a shining ruby. Clearly unaffected by the weight of his armaments, Firion made a quiet, reassuring addition to the party of Heroes.
Standing at Firion's side was a tall individual who adorned a set of jet black, lethally spiked platemail, his facial features obscured by a fearsome helmet from which a pair of ominous, glowing eye-visors glared. The Warrior felt, as always, a heavy, shrouding cloak of shadow greet his spiritual presence with a chilling embrace whenever he concentrated upon the armored Hero; Cecil Harvey wore darkness and shadow about him akin to a reaper torn from the macabre grasp of the most hellish nightmares, and bore the deepest darkness of them all upon his heart. But the Warrior had faith within his tormented ally, and felt the light that this Dark Knight carried within his soul.
And finally, standing just in front of Cecil and Firion, stood the cold, intimidating form of Squall Leonheart, angry brown eyes narrowed in loathing and suspicion. A black bomber jacket hung from his shoulders to his midriff, and a simple gray shirt rode his torso until it hooked into a girdle of pristine white feathers that the brooding Hero hung from his hips. Directly below these were a trio of belts, hooked and trapped across each other in a strange harness that connected to a pair of plain black jeans and combat boots. A heavy silver pendant in the shape of a snarling lion hung from his neck, and the cold warrior hefted his weapon against his shoulder as lightning and thunder coruscated through the clouds above. The most obscure weapon of all the Heroes, Squall carried a lethal contraption that he called the Gunblade, a weapon that incorporated a firearm and a sword in one. Briefly, the Warrior wondered how such a weapon that emphasized on such awkward pressure of the wrist could be used effectively.
The Warrior of Light focused his gaze upon the cliffs on the far side of the mesa as a tremble greater than before coursed through the ground, his eyes narrowed and concentrating, easily picking out minute detail despite the huge distance between them as lava exploded from the rock face, spewing liters of liquid conflagration into the skies, raining smoldering death upon the rocky ground. The stone that had been one and still for centuries shifted, splitting and crumbling to the sides as the eruption's fury was made manifest, arcs of fiery wrath spitting from the deep grooves in the rock as entire sections of the cliff face collapsed away. Finally, with a monstrous, deafening explosion, the entire cliff erupted in a blinding inferno as a mighty upsurge of lava blasted its way through the stone, spiraling into the heavens.
The eyes of the Warrior hardened and flashed with fury as a group of individuals slowly emerged from the roaring streams of fire and lava, emerging from the hellish firestorm and stalking forwards to the cliff edge. All around him, the Warrior could hear sharp intakes of breath and snarls as his fellow Heroes recognized their personal foes and demons, and the Warrior felt his pulse race in loathing as he recognized the leader of the antagonists.
First to emerge from the hellstorm was the massive, heavily armored form of Garland, the Chaos Knight, and one by one, his cohorts and allies followed. Kefka, the sadistic clown, and then there was the confident, floating form of Kuja, arrogance shining from his alien eyes. The Warrior instantly sighted the tall, imposing form of Jecht and the massive blade that he bore, and noted the smile fading from Tidus' lips as father and son came face to face once more. A sharp intake of breath from Cecil indicated the presence of his brother, Golbez, emerging from the updraft of flame, followed by the hulking, striding form of Ex-Death, gargantuan, curved blades held within their gauntlets. Flanking them hovered the slender, lethally seductive forms of Ultimecia and the Cloud of Darkness, the Warrior of Light instantly feeling their spiritual presences and magical auras even from across the mesa.
Cloud stiffened as the next shadow emerged from the hellstorm, a tall, slender figure that, for some reason, seemed even more imposing and lethal than the huge, armored figures around him. The sleek, perfect form of the murderous Sephiroth stalked forward from the darkness with a feline's grace, a lethally curved smile on his thin lips. And finally, the last figure to emerge from the flames, was Emperor Mateus, his magical presence instantly flaring alongside Ultimecia and the Cloud of Darkness, his stave lifted in salute.
And for a moment, there was silence. A lack of movement. Just the Heroes, just the Villains, gazing upon each other with a mixture of loathing and fury, as the wind swirled around them and arcs of lightning danced in tandem across the skies. With a colossal shout of exploding fire, a gargantuan, terrifying shape reared from the depths of the volcano behind the Villains, molten streams of lava pooling and smoldering around the behemoth, giving birth to an utterly monstrous pair of flaming wings. A visage more fearsome than any creature that existed within Cloud's nightmares protruded from the fiery expanse of its shoulders, a face born from the deepest depths of darkness, a façade of flames and fear. Smoking spatters of lava dripped from his white-hot limbs as Chaos, God of Discord, reared to full statured and loosed an apocalyptic, deafening roar of challenge that echoed across the mesa, and for a moment, the Warriors of Order felt tendrils of the most desperate trepidation take root within even their stoic hearts.
But only for a moment, and then the Ex-Soldier felt a soothing presence, not as ostentatious or intimidating as Chaos' caress his very soul, quelling the chill of the fear and banishing the darkness of indecision, filling him with a calmness and serenity that straightened his shoulders and lent him strength. The Ex-Soldier cast his gaze sideways, and saw his companions regain their resolve, watching as Zidane curiously turned and glanced upwards even as a shining light bathed them in a protective girdle. Cloud angled his eyes upwards and watched as the dark, shadowy clouds parted and the blissful, shimmering form of Cosmos, Goddess of Order, made herself manifest, her melancholic gaze resting upon her sworn foe.
His Mako-enhanced eyes noticing even the slightest movements of the antagonists as they readied themselves, despite the distance between them, Cloud Strife hefted the Buster Sword in a calm ready stance in tandem with his companions, their weapons drawn and readied to a chorus of whispers of sibilant silver being drawn from the sheath. And for a moment, there was silence, as the Gods and their Warriors gazed upon each other, endless meaning evident within the depths of their gazes.
Lightning flashed, and both Hero and Villain moved at once as the volcano exploded with a shout of fire.
This was it. Endgame.
Light against Dark.
Good versus Evil.
Winner take all.
The Warrior Of Light reacted like a snapping whip, his muscles tensed and ready within moments as he raced forward, his greaves driving hard against the stone. Leading the group was Tidus, his long, driving legs easily the fastest of them all, powering the blond Hero effortlessly across the ten foot crevasse between water and mesa. Without halting his stride, Tidus raced forth into the darkness towards the oncoming Villains, fading from view as he disappeared into the shadows cast by the rocky spires and boulders that littered the plateau.
Cloud and the swiftly moving form of Cecil moved in tandem to those of the Warrior's, and the trio sprinted towards the onrushing giant that was Garland, the Warrior's blade readied and singing as it clove an arc through the air to counter the immense length of the Chaos Knight's blade. Garland pressed his assault instantly, swatting at the smaller Warrior of Light and driving him clear with a riposte that shattered their bladelock with a screech of steel. The Warrior of Light instantly recovered and readied a rallying charge just as a blur of onyx that was Cloud leapt to his aid, the Ex-Soldier surging forth and swinging the enormous Buster Sword in a brutal, double-handed blow that actually stopped Garland in his tracks, but the weapon of the Chaos Knight was even larger and heavier than Cloud's, and both blades met screaming as they grappled each other to a standstill. Moving faster than the Warrior would have expected of one of such immense stature, Garland's heavily gauntleted fist whipped out like a striking cobra and connected with the side of Cloud's head in a crushing, punishing blow.
Had Garland been a normal human, Cloud would have easily shrugged off the blow, but the Chaos Knight was over twice the Ex-Soldier's height, and was easily heavier than him, and the force of the strike sent Cloud tumbling sideways, but to his credit, the Ex-Soldier reacted swiftly, turning his tumble into a lithe roll as he instantly surged upright, blade angled and ready to strike again. But such was not to be as a pulsating magenta wave of psychic energy leapt around the approaching form of the Cloud of Darkness as she readied a lethal spell before he could react. Coruscating arcs of fickle energy danced from her fingertips towards Cloud with deadly force, but at the last second, a shadowy form leapt forward, interposing between Cloud and the beam of dark energy. Cecil summoned the darkness that he carried within his soul, calling upon the very shadows that hovered around him to form a protective barrier that deflected the fury of the psychic attack, just as Garland swatted Cloud aside with a strike of colossal strength that the Ex-Soldier was barely able to parry before leaping at Cecil's unprotected back. But the Warrior of Light was already moving, his sword flashing towards the Cloud of Darkness, forcing her to pivot away and recover whilst allowing Cecil to react. The Dark Knight called upon his light and the shadows melted away as he was instantly clad in the holy form of the Paladin, already twisting his body around to parry Garland's oncoming attack with a shriek of grinding metal.
Driving the Cloud of Darkness backwards under a flurry of lethal, precise slashes and cuts, the Warrior of Light snarled and pressed the assault, whirling and allowing the momentum to turn his shield into a weapon, the curved, solid sheet of metal missing the mage's neck by millimeters. In response, the woman smiled coldly and gestured; with a haunting howl that seemed to mute out the sounds of Cloud and Cecil attempting to corner the frenzied, raging force that was Garland, a wall of shimmering energy materialized from the darkness and blasted towards the Warrior of Light, far too wide for the Hero to leap around or dodge. Instead, he bounded backwards in a graceful backflip that bought him enough time to channel his spiritual energies into the steel of his blade, and, without hesitation or thought, the Warrior brought the blade flaring up in an underhand swipe that sent the Holy energy he had summoned spearing forward in a pillar of blazing light that impacted with the oncoming wall of magenta flame, causing the two opposing magical forces to collide with a psionic screech and an explosion of stone and flames. Without further ado, the Hero leapt for the Villain, his sword bared once more and chorusing through the darkness for her perfect, pale skin.
However, a slender form dressed in rouge whipped in between them, flashing past as both the Warrior of Light and the Cloud of Darkness hesitated, startled for a moment as Terra flew backwards, her hands gesturing in a protective incantation as she nimbly flipped sideways to claim a stable position atop a jagged spire. Before they even thought of reinitiating the combat, both the Warrior of Light and the Cloud of Darkness were forced to pivot and deflect an oncoming hailstorm of amethyst shards of spiritual energy as the blurry form of Ultimecia unleashed her fury upon Terra, her crimson pupils darkened with loathing.
Whirling backwards, his shield and sword twirling in elaborate arcs and patterns to bat aside or shatter the incoming projectiles, the Warrior of Light cast a concerned glance towards Terra even as he was forced to roll aside to successfully evade the last of the shards without injury. But his concern was unnecessary as Terra swiftly unleashed her own magicks in a powerful Protect spell that concaved around her, deflecting the steady stream of psychic arrows. Satisfied that the young Mage could handle herself for the time being, the Warrior rose to his feet, only to have to instantly throw himself sideways again to avoid being obliterated by another powerful burst of chaotic energy that funneled from the outstretched hands of the Cloud of Darkness, who had already recovered and was beginning to throw attacks of staggering magnitude at him.
The Warrior rose from his roll and charged into combat once more.
The Onion Knight made a beeline for the hulking form of Garland even as he struggled against the furious combination of counterattacks shared between Cecil and Cloud, hoping to provide the edge that would allow them to be rid of the gargantuan servant of darkness. However, he stopped short as he felt a flare of spiritual energy, and his eyes widened as he turned just in time to see Terra forming a protective bubble of psychic energy around herself to deflect a hailstorm of violet energy. The shards of lethal power repelled off the shield, and rose upwards and outwards like the blooming petals of a perversely beautiful flower, falling towards him.
Deciding instantly that he didn't want to be around when the shards rained upon the ground, the Onion Knight instantly wheeled about and dashed towards the Warrior of Light, who was charging towards the Cloud of Darkness. Slipping through his legs easily due to his small height, the Onion Knight immediately leapt high, sailing above an extended beam of magenta-crimson energy as the Warrior of Light was instantly lost in a series of explosions. But the Knight could lend the Warrior no aid at the moment, and continued his sprint towards Garland just as Cloud leapt forward and landed a furious blow that split the rock of the ground with its force and sent the Chaos Knight stumbling backwards.
The Chaos Knight recovered quickly, surging upright and planting his heavy feet solidly in the ground as Cecil leapt forward to collide with him in a solid bladelock, but the Onion Knight was already falling, landing lightly on the Chaos Knight's extended arm and swiping at his helmet with three light strikes. Garland hissed in outrage as the Onion Knight sprang from his shoulder, and let loose a wrathful swing that sent Cecil sprawling to the dirt, swinging at his now unprotected back, only to be countered by Cloud, who returned the favor to Cecil by parrying the Chaos Knight's blow.
Sounds of battle surrounded him, increasing in tempo and dynamics as more and more Heroes and Villains joined the fray, and for a brief moment the Onion Knight glimpsed Zidane falling through the chilling air in a vicious aerial assault that the heavily-muscled form of Jecht was forced to leap backwards to avoid, the Genome's blades scything back and forth and slicing deep furrows into the rock. Emerging from the darkness beside him came Bartz, weaponless and sprinting hard, but a storm of violet explosions erupted in a blanket that surrounded them and the duo were forced to separate, Bartz cutting to the left as the Onion Knight pushed on. His legs aching from the previous dash, the Knight wasn't quite fast enough to avoid the stream of detonations, but at the split second managed to leap just as the force of the explosion just beneath him propelled him forcefully into the air, soaring away from Bartz even as the young man flexed his wrist as a replica of the Onion Knight's sword materialized in his grasp just in time for him to angle it in a leaping thrust at the Emperor Mateus, who had been content to stand atop the cliff, bathing the plateau in showers of coruscating lightning.
The world jolted horribly as he landed in a painful roll, momentarily stunned, tumbling to a halt at the feet of the hulking, massive form of Ex-Death, the Death Knight raising his gigantic, forked blade to skewer the helpless youth before him. But the wind whispered a warning as a shining sapphire blade materialized from the shadows, whiplashing through the darkness towards Ex-Death's helmet. The Villain barely reacted in time, whirling and hastily leaping backwards to avoid Tidus' sudden strike that would have parted his head from his shoulders had he been too slow. But the Hero pressed the assault, allowing his previous momentum to carry him through the air and, as fast and light as a shadow, he planted his feet firmly against the stumbling Death Knight's breastplate and sent him flying backwards with a powerful thrust of his legs. The athlete landed lightly on his feet, and spared the Onion Knight a quick grin before turning and racing towards the terrifying form of Kefka, who was advancing steadily on Zidane even as the Genome was being driven backwards by Jecht who was now relentlessly marching forward with a line of punishing blows. For his part, the Onion Knight clambered to his feet and dashed for Terra, who was steadily retreating from the ever-advancing form of Ultimecia, streams of fire dancing from her fingertips like molten strings as she precisely immolated shard after shard.
Squall barely even saw it coming.
He had been sprinting across the rocky expanse of the mesa, heading straight for Ultimecia as she pursued the steadily retreating Terra, but a stream of shining orbs had rained down directly in front of him, kicking up plumes of dust and sending shards of shrapnel showering in all directions. His SeeD instincts were well honed; instantly, he leapt backwards, up and away from the stream of detonations, landing on his feet in an agile crouch even as Kuja summoned another wave of orbs that wove through the shadows towards him. Immediately, Squall turned and sprinted in the opposite direction, flicking the Gunblade left and right to parry the orbs that he wasn't fast enough to evade. Casting a precarious glance over his shoulder, he noted with cold satisfaction that Kuja had ceased his ministrations, choosing rather wisely to instead focus on Firion in response to the flaming bolt the Warrior of the Wild Rose had sent screaming in his direction from the enormous longbow before peeling off to Zidane's aid.
Turning his attentions back to the combat in front of him, Squall focused on the lethal form of Sephiroth, who had emerged from the shadows, leaping from the cliff face in a direct line for Cloud as the Ex-Soldier struggled in his endeavours against Garland. Deciding that Cloud was no match for both Garland and Sephiroth at once from different directions, Squall altered his direction and streaked towards the wielder of the ludicrously long Masamune, hoping the catch him off guard. But Sephiroth was far too experienced a warrior to be surprised so easily, and swiftly angled his sprint to accommodate Squall's approach, and the blades of the two swordsmen clashed in a shower of sparks as the volcano behind them loosed yet another roar of flame.
His booted feet moving swiftly up the jagged slope of stone, Squall swiftly deflected the vicious flurry of strikes that the silver-haired Villain directed at his neck and shoulders, and returned a quick double strike of his own. With a cold smile upon his lethally arched features, Sephiroth contemptuously parried Squall's efforts, and with a bound of his powerful feet, sprang easily into the air, soaring meters above the ground.
Refusing to be outdone, Squall leapt in pursuit, pushing his spiritual energies to their zenith as he summoned the Lionheart blade, sky blue flames dancing down the expanse of the Gunblade as he flew at Sephiroth with a sheer wall of swift, lethal strikes that the opposing swordsman actually had to use both of his hands to effectively parry. Sephiroth's eyes darkened with fury, and, with a swift backroll in the air, send an arc of pure energy at Squall at such blinding speed that the SeeD could only lift his blade to feebly parry, the force of the contact between steel and energy knocking him away and towards the ground. As he fell, Squall watched helplessly as the wave of energy that had nearly broken through his hasty defense surged through the skies towards the grappling forms of Firion and Jecht as they struggled for the upper hand in a combat between them that had degenerated to a brutal, physical brawl.
Jecht was astonishingly strong.
No lightweight himself, Firion had kept himself in excellent physical condition as an able warrior who had triumphed over many imposing and mighty foes in the name of freedom, but the bare-chested brawler that was Tidus' father was beyond even Firion's abilities in terms of sheer physical prowess. The Warrior of the Wild Rose had been barely able to parry Jecht's strikes after drawing his attention away from Zidane with an arrow or two, and had been forced to redirect the man's blows rather than directly block them. Within moments, both had engaged in a ferocious grapple, holding each other's weapons at bay as they strained and forced against each other. Slowly, however, Firion felt the muscles in his forearms protesting and aching in Jecht's vice-like grip, and knew that he would not be able to sustain such a maneuver for long. Silently, he prepared himself for a quick leap backwards to regain the advantage.
His plans were immediately dashed as an arc of sheer energy plummeted towards them, and, instinctively, both he and Jecht pushed away from each other in a movement that brought them barely out of the arc's path. But Firion had no time to take solace in his brief reprieve; the arc sliced cleanly through the plateau that they had been dueling on, and huge chunks of rock slid free from ancient postures that had been maintained for centuries.
Firion's feet slid out from underneath him as, by some unexplainable, unseen force, the stone layer beneath his feet began to rise and rotate, sending the Warrior of the Wild Rose tumbling head over heels. As he fell, struggling for purchase, Firion saw out of the corner of his eye a figure clad in platemail similar to Cecil's controlling the floating boulders with arcs of telekinetic energy, the jerking motions of his gauntlets akin to the sudden, unpredictable movements of the rock he slid upon.
Managing to rotate his sword arm, the Hero drove the blade furiously into the rock, hoping to make a grip before he slipped off the edge to his doom. His efforts were partially successful; indeed, the resistance granted by the blade slowed his fall enough for him to find a secure grip, but only after his entire body had slipped over the edge. Firion hung precariously by his arms, his legs flailing helplessly over a sheer drop that spanned over a hundred feet. Looking up, he was just in time to catch Jecht sprinting towards him, loosing a punch of such titanic strength that the Hero was momentarily knocked unconscious as he plummeted. Regaining consciousness in a matter of seconds, Firion instantly reacted, reaching for the grappling hooks wrapped around his hips, and immediately sent them flying for the underside of one of the hovering boulders, praying the rope was long enough.
His prayers were answered; with a reassuring screech, the grappling blade embedded within the stone just as the rope reached its limit, and Firion allowed his momentum to swing him to safety, his free hand drawing one of his throwing knives as he flew past Jecht, who was now heading for the combat at the mesa's centre.
Terra landed lightly beside the Warrior of Light, her magical abilities guiding her in a gentle descent to the ground and slowing her fall. Immediately, she extended her hands and slammed them into the rocky expanse of the ground, palm down, as she channeled magicks into the stone, summoning the energies of the elements around them. Instantly, geysers of water erupted from fissures within the stone in between the Heroes and the Villains that surrounded them, blasting upwards with such forceful intensity that even Garland took a hasty leap backwards, allowing Cloud to recover and regroup with the others.
A titanic rumble sounded in their ears, and as one the Heroes in the mesa centre turned to watch as the Sephiroth's vicious attack split the rock plateau upon which Firion and Jecht brawled in two. Helplessly, Terra watched as Golbez sent Firion tumbling with his telekinesis into the waiting Jecht's range, and her sigh of relief when the Warrior of the Wild Rose managed to reach safety was echoed by that of her immediate companions. Beside her, Cecil growled and immediately headed straight for his brother, enshrouded by darkness once more,
Without warning, the huge form of Garland tore through the geyser that surrounded them, impacting with the Warrior of Light with enough force to send them both sprawling to their knees. The combat initiated once more as Cloud leapt towards the Cloud of Darkness, his features etched into a snarl, and Ultimecia instantly unleashed a barrage of magical attacks at Terra, and the Esper immediately responded by backflipping away and summoning a meteor, which she sent streaking at the opposing Mage as forks of lightning and shards of ice were birthed into life across the mesa centre, signaling the Emperor and the Onion Knight rejoining the fray.
The Warrior of Light fought furiously, his blade an almost invisible promise of death as it struck repeatedly against Garland's blade, sending showers of sparks cascading across the combatants. Perfect was his form and impenetrable was his defense, and his face shone with a righteous hatred for the former Cornelian Knight who had fallen so far. Garland responded with equal fervor, his blade a crushing behemoth of steel that sent shockwaves of aching pain up the Warrior's limbs whenever their blades connected, but the relentless training he had been through had inured him to such concerns, and he shrugged them off.
Their stalemate might have continued until the end of eternity had one of Ultimecia's stray bolts not struck the ground behind Garland. A ricocheting shard of debris struck the Chaos Knight's helmet with surprising force, and Garland reeled in surprise from the blow. The Warrior, seeing an opening, leapt in to finish off the Chaos Knight, but was immediately forced to ward off an incoming attack from the Cloud of Darkness, who came to Garland's aid. At the same time, Cloud had stepped around the Cloud of Darkness' attack, swinging the Buster Sword at Garland in an attempt to finish him off, but the Chaos Knight had swiftly reacted and parried. The combatants broke off and circled each other warily, almost as if daring each other to make the first move.
Cecil Harvey didn't even think before he launched himself at his brother, onyx energies dancing along the shaft of the stave he carried. Blind fury at Golbez's hand in what was nearly the death of Firion filled Cecil to the core, and the Dark Knight summoned the light once more and took on the mantle of the Paladin as he surged into the air, leaping for his brother.
Admittedly, Golbez reacted swiftly, and, without any further words, sent a flurry of spheres that pulsated with a fickle energy at Cecil. It was not an offensive maneuver, but a delaying one, and in the time that Cecil took to leap over the projectiles, Golbez had swiftly levitated to another spire, his hands gesturing in preparation for another spell.
The Paladin felt a sudden darkness that was not his own suddenly dwarf his spiritual presence and reacted instantly, throwing himself away from Golbez. His reaction proved true when a sphere of onyx energy much larger than the ones cast by his brother materialized, tearing a rift in existence as Ex-Death entered the fray, and Cecil felt invisible fingers of what could only be gravity magicks lunging and tugging him towards the rift, and what was an inevitable death. Struggling to free himself, the Paladin leapt away from the rift and turned to face the hulking forms of both Golbez and Ex-Death at once.
Grudgingly, Cecil realized that it would not be much of a duel.
However, just as Ex-Death was about to strike, a blur of movement whipped past Cecil, cannoning straight into the Death Knight. The sword of Onion Knight singing within his hands, Bartz unleashed a punishing series of cuts and slashes at Ex-Death's heavily armored form. Without hesitation, Cecil drew the Sword of Legend with his free hand and leapt for his brother, their weapons connecting with an explosion of light and shadow.
Zidane was in trouble.
The Genome was moving swiftly, hopping from rock to rock amongst the remnants of Golbez's telekinetic carnage, constantly leaping and flipping as bursts of flaming energy tracked him and slashed back and forth through the air, leaving rippling afterimages in the air that scorched his skin. Just behind him and gaining steadily was the form of a terrifying, grotesquely self-styled clown, his lips peeled backwards in a leering, horrific grin that was more of a grimace than a smile, his hands glowing eerily with lethal magicks punctuated only by the murderous glimmer that shone within his eyes.
Zidane threw himself into an aerial roll just as a cartwheeling loop of flaming bolts surged past him, and leapt for the next rock as Kefka surged in pursuit, cackling manically. The Genome chanced a swift doublehand strike at the sadistic clown, only to snarl in frustration as Kefka levitated himself just out of range. A flash of blue caught his eye, and, momentarily distracted, Zidane caught a glimpse of Firion, swinging from some form of rappelling line, shot past them in an arc. Bringing his attention back to his own predicament, Zidane was nearly struck by a savage flurry of bolts, saved only by a leaping spin that carried him to the next rock.
But Kefka was one step ahead of him; as he landed, a trio of bolts wheeled and interconnected, creating a savage detonation that broke through the Genome's momentum and sent him stumbling.
Within seconds, Kefka was on him.
Zidane felt a pair of viciously taloned hands clasp the end of his tail, and, with a savage wrench of his wrists, the giggling clown gleefully swung the helpless Zidane and flung him away from the safety of the rocks, sending the Genome soaring through the air completely unable to break his plummeting fall.
The Onion Knight deflected yet another bolt of lightning with the flat of his blade and heaved a breath of exertion as the Emperor gleefully sent arc after arc of electricity coursing at him. Angrily, the young Hero summoned a cluster of ice shards into existence and sent them streaking at the dictator, only to hiss in disappointment as forked lightning obliterated his attack.
An explosion sounded to the left, and both the Onion Knight and Mateus looked up as one to see the form of Bartz smashing through one of the pillars, a fully powered Ex-Death striding purposefully after him. The Onion Knight watched helplessly as the other Warrior of Order tumbled helplessly over to a halt as the Death Knight teleported atop a nearby spire, and, with a deep, rasping chuckle that seemed to echo despite the sounds of battle around them, raised a heavily armored arm and sent bolts of coruscating lightning forking in arks towards Bartz, who was unsteadily rising to his feet.
Terra immolated the incoming flurry of shards with a quick cast of Flare, backflipping through the cold air away from Ultimecia, who teleported in an erratic and dizzying pattern in an attempt to flank her. The Esper was constantly forced to switch directions, ever on alert, her amber eyes flashing back and forth as she searched for the enemy Mage. Ultimecia adapted and reacted to any change in tactics that Terra utilized in the blink of an eye, and her reserves of magical energy were absolutely astonishing. Terra had long lost count of the number of psychic blades she had disintegrated, immolated, shattered, and frozen, and the intensity of Ultimecia's assault was such that she was barely able to mount an effective counterattack for fear of compromising her defense.
Noticing a flurry of incoming projectiles, the Returner levitated herself five feet into the air, and, with a quick focusing of her energies, sent a steady stream of Holy orbs searing through the shadows towards them, countering the deadly shards and breaking through towards Ultimecia. But the Mage was already reacting, creating a vortex in time that swallowed the attacks, and she summoned a fresh wave of blades, only to see Terra soaring away and higher into the sky.
A series of flashes and eruptions caught Terra's eye, and with a deft aerial twist, she turned to see Bartz literally get blasted off his feet by a burst of lightning that flooded the mesa, flowing steadily from Ex-Death's extended arm. The Warrior of Order buckled and cried out under the ferocious assault, and, with a desperate lunge, flung himself just out of range of the hissing bolts as they searched for his flesh.
Almost immediately, invisible fingers snaked around his legs as if to tug him back into the torrent of snaking bolts, and Terra traced these magical traces back towards Ex-Death. The Esper could do nothing but marvel at how the Warrior of Chaos was able to direct and manipulate two spells at once, stunned at the intensity of his focus and mental control. To his credit, Bartz reacted instantly and summoned a golden blade which he immediately plunged into the stone as an anchor against the gravity magick.
Unable to assist the ailing Hero, Terra desperately cast a quick glance around the battlefield at her allies, seeking someone within range to lend aid. She saw Garland and Cloud literally smashing into each other, their swords swinging and connecting like titanic pistons, both combatants heaving and snarling as they battered away at each other's defenses-
-an explosion of violet-magenta hue to the left that filled an entire third of the mesa, and a flash of opal amidst the flames that was the Warrior of Light as he surged towards the Cloud of Darkness-
-Cecil plowing into Golbez with the force of a landing meteorite in the form of the Paladin, the ensuing eruption shimmering with waves of both Light and Darkness-
-the Onion Knight dashing hard towards the Emperor, both their weapons sizzling with summoned energies, the air around them thick with flying spells-
-Jecht swinging furiously at Squall, who summoned a circumference of flaming orbs to counter with Kuja heading straight towards the duo-
-Firion, sending arrow after arrow screaming towards Sephiroth, who was simply slashing his way through them-
-Kefka, who was hopping manically from rock to rock, an infuriating sneer etched upon his hideous features as he sent bolts of flame after-
-Zidane as he plummeted helplessly through the air, unable to arrest his fall, his arms flailing wildly as he fought for some measure of balance-
-in short, Terra was frantic. In the corner of her eye, she saw Ultimecia readying a fresh stream of psychic projectiles, and the Esper readied a swift meteor spell, aiming at Ex-Death in the hopes of distracting him long enough for Bartz to escape. It would be a risk though; doing so left her plain open to Ultimecia's next strike-
And then she saw Tidus.
Hurtling out the darkness, the sapphire blade clasped within his grasp, Tidus sprinted hard towards the spire upon which Ex-Death stood, his legs driving hard. Immediately, Kuja altered course and intercepted, summoning a plethora of shimmering spheres that he sent flying in the Guardian's direction, and Terra's eyes widened in concern as Tidus was instantly engulfed in a hailstorm of explosions that erupted left and right. But her fears were unfounded as she watched him initiate a series of swift, agile flips and handsprings that carried him through the storm. His timing was perfect, his speed unmatched, eruptions flaring all around him as he twisted his body gracefully in a lithe dance around every potential death, his form untouched and firm. Despite the horrific danger that cascaded all around him, Tidus' sapphire eyes were bright and unclouded, an easy, confident smile worn casually over his lips as if the considerable predicament he faced was an enjoyment as compared to a serenade of certain death.
Terra breathed a sigh of relief as Tidus emerged from the hailstorm, unscathed and instantly sprinting hard towards Kuja, who readied himself in preparation, but the Guardian simply ignored the Genome and flipped straight over his head, moving quickly towards the pillar. With a snarl of outrage, the Warrior of Chaos behind him sent another torrent of spheres surging towards him, and Tidus was immediately lost within a series of eruptions that surrounded him.
But Terra caught sight of him as he surged out of the explosions in a graceful leap that carried him high into the air, his body twisting and twirling in a soaring bound towards Zidane's falling form, his gaze locked upon the Genome, who immediately understood and wrapped his tail around Tidus' extended leg. The Warrior of Order swiftly twisted his body round and round in a spiraling sideflip that provided Zidane with the anchor and momentum he needed and sent him flying towards Ex-Death as fast as a bullet from a gun, his knives extended and outstretched. The Death Knight was forced to cease his spell and defend himself, and below, Bartz scrambled free, sparing Tidus a quick nod of thanks before diving into the melee around him once more. For his part, Tidus wheeled about and leapt towards Kuja, his teeth baring in a snarl as his shimmering blade keened through another stream of orbs with arcs that shone with sapphire.
Terra turned to face Ultimecia once more, and almost didn't react in time to the bolts speeding in her direction. Releasing the Meteor spell she had been summoning, Terra danced backwards from the opposite reaction of the colliding magical forces, and leapt into a series of agile backflips that carried her out of range of Ultimecia's next attack. Landing lightly, she took a quick step backwards-
And landed straight into the trap that the Emperor Mateus had laid, instantly engulfed in a sea of violent and sudden bursts of lethal electricity as the very ground glowed with a violet hue. Terra barely had enough time to raise a feeble Barrier spell, and flinched as she felt the strands of magic that she had hastily woven together tear apart, expecting the agonizing bolts to bathe her in pain instantly.
But a trio of blurry forms flanked her, and took up defensive positions around her. Immediately, the detonations ceased in intensity, and Terra looked up, surprised, as the smoky haze faded away to reveal the Onion Knight, Cloud and the Warrior of Light, their weapons held in a guarding posture that had shielded the four of them from the rage of Mateus' spells. A pair of light thuds sounded to her left and right as Cecil and Firion landed agilely beside them, and immediately, the two Heroes charged forward, Cecil calling upon the shadows to cloak his form once more.
Following suit, the three followed their friends, and charged as one towards the Warriors of Discord, whom had assembled and were heading towards them in straight wave.
Dropping in like a hawk from the skies, Zidane landed in an immediate run beside Firion, just as Tidus emerged from the maze of the mesa, sprinting hard at the head of the group. Bartz and Squall raced out and flanked them, their weapons readied and singing.
High above them, Cosmos emerged from the clouds, and swooped in a graceful glide overhead, her presence bathing the Warriors of Order with courage and a shining light.
Behind the Warriors of Discord, Chaos rose to his full height and charged in turn, his presence coating his servants with determination and power.
Their patrons' powers embodied within them, the Warriors were each imbued with a shimmering flame that surrounded their forms, licking and caressing with a lover's touch-
-The Warrior of Light, pulsating with a shimmering Silver-
-Garland, flaring a tempestuous Scarlet-
-Firion, ablaze with flames of the deepest Emerald-
-The Emperor, alight with Gold-
-The Onion Knight, kissed by a cloak of Aquamarine-
-The Cloud of Darkness, shrouded in Rowan-
-Cecil, shielded by the darkness of Onyx flames-
-Golbez, mirroring his brother, nestled in Ebony-
-Bartz, glowing a gentle Magenta -
-Ex-Death, imbued with a flame of the most pristine White-
-Terra, her form shimmering a deep Rouge-
-Kefka, the very hue of dancing Flames-
-Cloud, his body shining with a Topaz light-
-Sephiroth, his figure steepled in Crimson fire-
-Squall, blazing with a furious Violet-
-Ultimecia, aglow with the blessing of Lavendar-
-Zidane, a shade of the most brilliant Orange-
-Kuja, his body shackled with an inferno of Amethyst-
-Tidus, bathed in an embrace of Sapphire-
-Jecht, his visage alight with a fearsome Red-
As one, the Warriors of Order and Chaos seared forth in a conflagration of color and flame, their forms bonding and rebonding to clash in a titanic eruption of dedication and emotion, an eternal struggle and conflict that would last until the end of time.