Disclaimer - I don't own Final Fantasy or any of its characters.

Madness against Madness

Cloud didn't move a single muscle as he stared at the masked person before him. Why does it always happen to me? Getting kidnap or being targeted first? Why do they always pick me? Cloud was pretty sure that if he was able to say that out loud among his acquaintances, Genesis would definitely said that he was the weakest of them all, Zack would simply said that he was the one who needed to be protected the most and Detective Highwind... what would he say? Never mind that.

'I see you are awaked brother,' the cold male voice said behind the thick mask, sounding pleased. Cloud was not sure if he should reply or not, but he was more surprised by the last part of the sentence. Did the masked guy just call him brother? Suddenly he felt cold fingertips touched his neck gently, Cloud could only stared at the man before him, slightly feared that he might strangle him.

'Was it them? Did they take your voice?' the man said in an almost monotone tone, but Cloud could detect a hint of anger in his voice.

Cloud might not know who the "they" the man referred to were, but he was somehow certain that they were scientists. If it really was scientists, than the chance that the broken capsule behind him belonged to this masked man was pretty high and with his dumb luck, he could gave up on praying that this guy wasn't the one who was being drowned in toxic liquid, which caused mental illness and intense pain, for an unknown amount of time. In short, he was now standing in front of a mentally unstable man.

It's alright, I'm fine... Cloud said telepathically, putting his hands over the cold ones in a comforting manner.

The masked man leaned forward and placed his forehead on Cloud's, Cloud tried to relax as much as possible, since the masked man seemed to mistake him for someone else. It was best if he pretended to be said person for now, until Genesis and Zack had figured out where the hell he actually was right now. As much as his idea sounded very damsel in distress, he couldn't find another better solution to his current problem.

Where the hell are those idiots? Cloud thought silently in the back of his mind. Genesis...

'Where the hell is that idiot!' Detective Highwind shouted at the top of his lungs and sneezed loudly at the same time as they climbed up the small rocky trail of Mt. Nibel.

'Detective, perhaps you should take your med-' Shera tried to suggest, but was abruptly cut off by the aggravated policeman.

'Shut it, I don't need those-ACHOOO! DAMN PILLS!'

'How come a detective has pollen allergies, I mean wouldn't a single sneeze get the attention of gang member or any type of bad guy you are chasing after?' Zack asked sceptically as he jumped over a small stream.

'Yeah right, try to find a single thief, who is stupid enough to steal something while I'm around,' Cid replied gruffly as he sneezed once more.

'Or lack of. I doubt there is anything valuable enough in that godforsaken village to catch the lowliest thief's attention.' Genesis added his two cents as he tried to extent his senses to search for Cloud's and the monster's trace while trying ignored the bickering of the two idiots of the group.

So far they had not found a single clue where Cloud might be hidden and they were running out of time, in two hours, the sun would be completely set and they would be in a huge disadvantage against their mysterious adversary and without Cloud breaking his seal, he had limited power to use.

Genesis growled in frustration as he couldn't pinpoint the location of his pact partner, it was like the blond was here and everywhere at the same time. They were running out time and he didn't like the idea of fighting without his full strength against a monster that had control over the shadow. His musing was interrupted by a loud yelp. When he turned around, he was ready to throw a fireball at the two idiots behind him, but he stopped when he saw the hole in the ground where the Pup had been standing.

'At least the pup was useful enough to sniff things out,' the redhead commented nonchalantly as he went to stand next to the hole.

'I HEAR THAT YOU KNOW!' Zack's shout echoed deep within the hole. 'AND I'M NOT A PUPPY!'

'Of course, pup,' Genesis replied sarcastically as he dropped into the hole and landed gracefully next to Zack, who he could barely see if he hadn't had some vampire abilities in him, was glaring at him the whole time.

'See anything down there!' Cid bellowed from above them, his shout echoed throughout the cave.

'It's too dark to see anything in here!' Zack replied. 'We need some more light!'

Seconds later, Zack let out a yell of pain as he rubbed his head where a small bump was already forming. Genesis was smirking all the time as he went to pick up the item that was the cause of the painful bump on the black haired teen, twirling the heavy flashlight in his hand.

Though his smile turned into a grimace when his nose caught a familiar scent, a scent he loathed as much as his vampire instinct favoured it immensely. Blood. The smell of both dried and fresh blood filled his nostrils as if the entire underground cave was covered by it.

'I don't think we need anymore light here,' Genesis muttered offhandedly.

'Sorry Mr. I-can-see-in-the-dark! Not all of us can see in here!' Zack snarled in frustration as he snatched the flashlight out of the Krusnik's hand and opened it. As soon as light flooded out, Zack's face turned ten shades paler.

The Krusnik tried to keep a straight face at the sight before him, while the human was making dozen of choking sounds as if he was going to puke in any given seconds. Genesis tried very hard to ignore the bloodlust that was urging him to kneel down and lap up the blood on the ground like the blood-sucking monsters he had hunted down during his time as a vampire hunter.

'Come on pup, we need to find Cloud before we become part of the décor,' Genesis growled, as he felt his fangs growing a bit longer at each passing second and the temptation to drink blood was growing stronger. If it wasn't for the seal on him, he might had already changed and gone berserk.


The voice of Cloud cut through the fog that was starting to surround his mind and cleared his thoughts. Genesis was slightly relieved that Cloud was safe and their pact was once again strengthen, allowing him to regain control over his vampire's instinct. The redhead turned and gestured to Zack to stay silent and moved towards the tunnel on the right.

After walking a little while, they spotted some faint lights before them and Zack quickly shut off his flashlight. Both of them quietly crept closer to the light, but they kept a safe distance from it, in case they needed to retreat or take cover.

Though the lights were faint, they helped Genesis' sight and what he spotted made him swore he was going to have a long talk with Cloud about rules of self-preservation when facing blood-thirsty monsters. Rule number one: Never, ever, let a monster be any closer to you than a sword-length. Now Cloud was breaking the first rule, hugging the monster that they were hunting was the worst choice he ever made.

Before Genesis was allowed to ponder whether he should stayed hidden and continued his observation or simply jumped out of his hiding place and threw fireballs at the two, he caught sight of his own shadow and Zack's twitching slightly.

Genesis quickly, as much as he played with the idea of either letting the pup eaten by the shadow or had the puppy owed him for saving, shoved Zack away as their own shadow tried to swallow them whole.

'SHIT!' Zack cursed as he watched his own shadow returned to its former shape.

Genesis turned his head to gaze the creature that still got his back facing them said, 'So you finally found me.'

'Give Cloud back to us!' Zack immediately shouted as he quickly stood.

'Cloud? Cloud? Cloud?' the creature muttered as he slowly let go of Cloud and turned to stare at them. Genesis recoiled a bit when he noticed the monster got his entire head encased in a metal mask of some sort, just seeing it brought some nasty memories back to the surface of his mind. Though he quickly pushed those dark memories aside as he focused on his enemy, knowing that both he and Zack were in a huge disadvantage, because they were not only in the territory that the monster seemed familiar with and they were surrounded by darkness.

Taking a chance and hoping it could surprise the monster long enough for Cloud to release the seal over him. He quickly threw a couple fireballs at the humanoid monster as he yelled, 'Get out of the way Cloud!'

Genesis was glad that the blond's reflex was at least quick enough, but before his pact partner could get out of his range of fire, the creature caught Cloud's wrist and held him close to him. Shit!

Before Genesis could cancel his own spell to prevent harm to his partner, the shadow-manipulating monster simply made a small gesture with his hand and the nearby shadow came up and took the hit instead.

When the shadow was dissipated, Genesis' eyes glared at the monster and he could practically felt the hatred and anger emanating from the creature whole body as some shadow that looked like threads shot out of no where and tied him and Zack up in mid-air.

'I won't... I won't lose my brother... I won't lose... I won't lose AGAIN!' the monster shouted madly as dark energy emanated around him. 'I WON'T LET YOU TAKE MY BROTHER AGAIN! I WON'T LET HIM LEAVE ME ALONE AGAIN!'

'CLOUD!' Genesis heard Zack yelled out as he watched the novice mage being enveloped by the shadow and vanished without a trace. 'YOU BASTARD!'

That was pretty much what had happened to Cloud that had leaded him to his current position, which was in the middle of darkness and with no apparent exit or any kind of weak spot he could use to pierce his dark surroundings.

Cloud couldn't help but thought back at the few words that the creature – no, the man – had said before he was more or less banished into this shadow realm. That person was perhaps in pain, both physically and mentally. Cloud knew he shouldn't really relied to much on his instincts, but something told him that he had hit the nail on the head in this case.

The man was probably stuck inside the cavern, not knowing how to get out for years and all he got with him was only sadness and despair.

He mentions a brother. Cloud thought melancholy. Once in a while, he wished he got a sibling who could understand him and support him whenever he needed. He shook the thought out of his man as he studied the darkness, while ignoring the frosty bites aall over his body. Suddenly he started hearing a voice saying something, it was then he realized it was the monster himself who was talking.

'Brother will back soon, he will come back to get me.'

'Brother where are you? You will come back, right?'

'I hate to be alone. I hate to be alone. I HATE TO BE ALONE!'

'It's entirely the people's fault that my brother left me! All of you go to HELL!'

'It's that you brother? You really come back and you didn't leave me!'

'No, it's not true this person is Brother, not who they call Cloud!'

'No, no, no, no, no, NO! They can't take you away again! I don't want to go back to that dark room! I HATE ALL OF YOU! LEAVE ME AND BROTHER ALONE!'

Cloud grimaced at what he had just heard. He really couldn't imagine what had happened to this... human being and he was certainly not going to let him down, though he couldn't do anything right now, since he was in the darkness.

Cloud Strife! You need to get your facts straight. You can always do something! So stop sitting on your ass and get up! Cloud's moral gone up and it was like his own spirit warmed his cold body, giving him more strength. He was ready to try whatever spell he got in his mind to get out of here.

He looked down on the pendant he was wearing and pulled it off. He quickly squeezed his hand around the stone until he felt the burning pain of the stone cutting his flesh as he unlocked the seal over Genesis' power.

The stone flashed brightly for a moment before its light dulled a bit. At least, Genesis got his power back to defend himself. Now, what to do? It seemed like he was either going to wait for Genesis to get him out of here or tried to get out by himself. I'm getting out of here myself. I have got to make sure that Genesis won't kill the man.

Cloud muttered a few short fire and light spell, but the darkness was as gloomy as ever. Seeing that none of his easiest spells were working, Cloud decided to use a long versed one to see if it could do anything. He put his hands close together in prayer as he started chanting in his mind:

Darkness that surrounds me,

Light that resides in me,

As Light shine on Darkness it grew stronger than ever,

As Darkness engulfed all Light which goes brighter than ever,

I pledge myself to thee,

Let Darkness be vanished,

Give me the power to vanquish,

Those who stand against me!

I summon forth your power!

Lord of the Sky of Light!


He swung his hands, which were bathed in white light, up like he made baseball swing and the light left his hand.

The ball of light flew in the air for a moment before it turned and changed into the shape of a winged dragon that gave a powerful roar as its body shone brighter, while the darkness around Cloud and his summon cracked and, eventually, broke into dozen of pieces like a broken mirror.

The first Cloud saw as the dark pieces rained down on him was Genesis with his ruby red sword held up high and the shadow manipulator on his knees in front of the Krusnik. NO! Cloud shouted as he hurriedly stood before the weaken man who had trapped him in darkness and found himself closer to Genesis' sword than ever.

'Cloud, get out of my way,' Genesis growled lowly in his throat as he kept his blade close to his pact partner's throat. 'He doesn't deserve to live after all that he had done.'

Stop it Genesis! He didn't even have the slightest idea that what he was doing was wrong! I heard his thoughts, he should not died like this. He deserved a second chance! Cloud said, hoping his words could convince the stubborn Krusnik, though he did not succeeded, when Genesis simply pushed him aside roughly as he swung down his sword as Cloud shouted him to stop as the masked man just lowered his head as if he had accepted his fate.

Instead, the rapier landed a few inches from the masked man on the ground. Genesis cursed in some foreign language that sounded more like singing than talking before he waved his free hand to dismiss his weapon. Cloud quickly went beside the shadow manipulator as he thanked Genesis telepathically, though Genesis only reply was a snort, while Zack scowled at the redhead for his rudeness.

Are you alright? Cloud asked the weakened masked man.

'Brother...' the masked man said in a low voice.

I'm sorry, but I'm not your brother. Cloud replied honestly as he took the cold hand in his. But I promise I'll help you find him.

Even though Cloud couldn't what kind of expression the masked man was making, but he was sure that he was smiling behind his mask.

What's your name? Cloud asked gently.

When the man simply shook his head sadly, Cloud suggested. What do you think of, Nero?

Cloud heard Genesis scoffed behind and said he was not every original with giving names, but the masked responded positively with his new name, which made the blond smiled happily as he pulled Nero up to his feet.

I am extremely sorry for those who were waiting for a new chapter, but my mind had been blank for long, long while and it was only recently that my imagination decided to get back to work! So I apologies deeply for the delay and I hope everyone have enjoy this chapter!