Characters: Cloud/Yuffie, Godo, OCs galore for plot purposes, eventually all of AVALANCHE
Rating: M – for mature stuff, like violence, sensuality, and language.
Warning: Since I've decided to put a lovely little recap in here, it's not entirely necessary to read Part Ifirst, but really, why wouldn't you? This part will still be here when you're done and it'll make more sense;)
Summary: Cloud has accepted the ancient Wutainese quest to win Yuffie's heart and finds some surprises along the way. Will a curse none of them saw coming shake his resolve? Or will Yuffie end up making the choice for him. All games & movies compliant.
A/N: Over two years, wow. I apologize. School and the urgent need to get it out of the way became priority and I barely have been able to take a breath much less write anything interesting. Still don't think this measures up to the previous but it will have to do since I have hated leaving everyone hanging indefinitely.
Cloud is sent on a quest by Yuffie's father Lord Godo. Tifa and Reeve are married, leaving Cloud bitter after the Jenova/Reunion/Omega events, making Yuffie the only person he has monthly contact with. Rufus employs his delivery services as Cloud prefers being on the road.
Cloud figures out Rufus's strange deliveries have something to do with Yuffie and chases after her to find out what is going on. She tries to avoid him and complete the Quest to become the next ruler of Wutai on her own, but Cloud isn't having it and continues on with her. With each delivery comes a growing price in the form of what Vincent believes to be a demon. Only wanting to make Yuffie happy, Cloud is forced to deal with Akai's cohabitation, Yuffie's reluctance to state her feelings for him, and the evil Saosin's Akubi who has designs on Yuffie's throne.
Last Chapter: The Chocobo Sage tells Cloud and Yuffie about the Demon of Light, Akai and how all warriors that do the Quest are infused with a demon counterpart, Godo's being Sankao, Demon of Three Faces. Both are upset by this news and they fight after defeating Akubi and his demon once again.
- Chapter 七-
He stole into the Goblin Isle camp. All was quiet and the guard had fallen asleep due to sleeping powder. Striding confidently through the dark camp, the figure entered their Holy Shrine. Muttering the word, "Ai" a rectangular prism appeared. Smiling, he took it. A gong sounded then and he turned to see several men rush in with weapons. His smile grew.
Day 26 Midday
They finally arrived on Goblin Isle late in the day. They spent the day before lost and barely talking before passing out on a small island for the night. They didn't sleep together, but when Cloud noticed her shivering alone, he curled up around her and fell back asleep.
He spent the following morning agitated as well as he became aware of the other presence in his mind. It didn't speak to him, like Vincent warned, but he could feel him there all the same. His annoyance with it and the fact Yuffie wasn't speaking to him was giving him a headache. When he started getting down on himself, telling himself her rejection was better for both of them, he'd get a warming surge of energy all the sudden. While it did banish his depressing thoughts, it also made him angry. He didn't want anything to do with the demon. To him, it represented a life without Yuffie. And he just couldn't reconcile himself with that.
It wasn't until midday that they reached Goblin Isle. Yuffie slid off the chocobo without Cloud's help and collapsed in a graceless heap. Huffing, she pushed back her hair from her face before lifting herself to her feet. Cloud tended to the chocobo, feeding it some greens, while Yuffie looked around. She frowned and rubbed her arms.
Cloud too noticed something not right about their surroundings and lifted his head, his hand going to the hilt of his sword. Before he could get far, they were suddenly surrounded. Dozens of figures shrouded in leafy greenery rushed them. Cloud turned his head in time to see two of them grab Yuffie by each of her arms, disarming her pinwheel.
He jerked at her shout, making to go to her. He felt them behind him right before they latched onto his arms and he tensed. They were strong but he was already on edge and wasn't in the mood for a diplomatic solution. His skin heated and with a roar he bowed at the waist before exploding in a blast of golden white light. His captors were thrown back but he was unaware of everything but the pain of his transformation. Skin rippling, his muscles expanding, his tendons raw, his nerves on fire. When he opened his eyes, he realized he hadn't actually done so. Trying to blink voluntarily, he found he couldn't. He tried to lift his arms or move his body in any way that would suggest he was in control of his movements. Nothing happened. He was no longer Cloud.
Yuffie's eyes were wide. She doubted she'd ever blink again. Cloud looked different again, like before. "Cloud?"
His yellow eyes focused on her then. Their ambushers had frozen at Cloud's transformation. One stepped forward then and pulled off his foliage-covered hat. "What is this?"
Akai nodded to Yuffie. "Release her." She blinked at the guttural undertone of his voice.
"Who are you? What do you want with the woman?"
Akai growled. Yuffie's eyes widened more when she saw his hand at his side start to swirl with dangerous energy. "Get your hands off of her or die."
With a loud crash, the Akai sent a blast of energy into the earth before him, spraying dirt everywhere. Startled, her captors released her as they fell back to the ground to take cover. Eyes darting around, she quickly ran at Akai stopping a foot from him. "Cloud?"
He seemed to relax a bit, his fist unfurling, but he didn't answer.
"Who are you people?" Yuffie turned to face the leader at his question in Wutai, seeing him nod behind her. "Why do you travel with a Demon?"
Yuffie waved her arms and shook her head. "He's no demon. He's my friend. We're on a Quest."
The man looked at them suspiciously. "Are you with the man that came last night?"
She frowned and glanced behind her to see Akai also looked confused. "What man?"
"He came quickly. Killed several of my men."
Yuffie shook her head. "I'm sorry about that but we don't know of any man." Her eyes lit with a possibility then. "Did he have long hair?"
The man shook his head. "He wore a hood. We saw nothing but the destruction he left behind."
She opened her mouth to reply but a guttural voice beat her to it. "Restoration is of the greatest importance." She blinked as Akai spoke perfect Wutainese.
The leader frowned and took a step towards them then. "You speak our native tongue?"
The man looked at Yuffie then. "And you?"
Her mouth worked as she sought an answer that sounded as importance and mysterious as 'Cloud's'. Suddenly, it came to her and she felt stupid for not thinking of it sooner. "Koi wa moumoku." (Love is blind.)
The man suddenly smiled and turned to his men, speaking in perfect Gaian. "Our savior has come!"
The men broke out in cheers. Yuffie stared around at them in confusion before glancing behind her to see Akai. He merely stood there, looking to be in repose.
Turning back to the leader, she stepped forward only to halt in surprise when 'Cloud's' hand closed over her arm in a gentle but firm grip. Experimentally, she tugged but he was quite unmoving. To the leader, she called, "What's going on?"
The man turned to her with a smile. He was an older male, definitely of her heritage as his hair was only barely graying yet he had to be up there in years. His beard and mustache were thick and his face was weathered and wrinkled.
"You are here for the Quest, yes?"
She blinked and then frowned. "How do you know?"
"All warriors have to stop here before continuing on." He looked to 'Cloud'. "You are looking for the last location?" He pointed north, towards the Knights of the Round island. "Finish your Quest."
Yuffie nodded, backing away. The leader shook his head. "Not you." Guards seized her arms.
Akai growled, causing Yuffie to jump. "What? That's crap! I'm not sticking around with you bozos."
The leader pursed his lips. "You must." Nodding to Akai, he said, "The warrior must complete this on his own."
"The hell he does—"
At his voice, she looked at Akai with wide eyes. His glowing eyes flared briefly at the men holding her back and they immediately released her. She stepped towards him. "A-akai?"
He bowed his head respectfully. She gulped.
"He wants to protect you." Akai intoned, looking down at her. "The same way these people want to protect themselves. They fear me, so you must stay and show them I mean them no harm."
"Do-do you really mean no harm? Cause Cloud seems certain you're going to turn Sephiroth on us at a moments notice."
"Do you believe him?"
She tilted her head. "I—well, he and you are sharing thoughts, yeah? So he'd know better…."
"His judgment is clouded by his past." One of his wings flared out, eliciting gasps from the leaf-people nearby, as it wrapped around her, bringing her towards him.
"Wh-whoa." She was scooted forward before looking up at him with large eyes.
"Demon you may call me and damned I may be, I am here to protect you. I have no other purpose."
Yuffie slowly nodded, since it seemed like the right thing to do. "So…the damned thing and all means you look all pale and vein-y?"
Akai inclined his head. "It means a great many things." He leaned down so his face was near hers. She shrank back instinctively. "I hope you can trust me to keep your warrior safe."
She cleared her throat nervously. "Sure. I mean, you're all-powerful and whatnot. You should be at least good for defending stuff and—c-could you not crowd me?"
He immediately straightened, the move graceful, yet otherworldly. "Forgive me. I have not been around humans in a millennia."
Her eyes were wide. "We were around that long ago?"
"The demon realm passes time much differently."
"It is meant to be hell, yes." He was very amiable for a demon.
"Well, I can't promise you much since I don't really have a choice here. Cloud's the one I'm worried about."
"Again with the amiable bit." She muttered. "Just bring him back in one piece, please?"
"…I am going to have to agree with you again."
She snorted as she realized he made a joke. "Well, good." She glanced around his wing. "I guess I'll just stay here with the bush people—I'd probably get airsick on the flight over anyhow." She eyed him uncertainly. "Can I speak to Cloud?"
"He hears you."
"Er—okay. Cloud, I—just do whatever you have to to get your spiky ass back here safe and sound."
Akai grimaced. "He's telling you not to trust me…but he'll come back as soon as he can."
She nodded, stepping back. Akai flapped both wings out as he turned away.
"Demon!" The leader called out before tossing the package in his direction.
Akai caught it in his claw as he lifted off. With a powerful burst of his wings, Yuffie watched as he sped off across the ocean.
It was faintly like a conversation, except ranging emotion pervaded the senses rather than words. If it were verbal between them, it would go something like this:
Stay away from Yuffie, Demon.
If you are to grace me with your threats, call me Akai.
She's not experienced in dealing with your kind. She doesn't understand how dangerous you are.
You do not give her enough credit.
You know nothing about her!
I do not make the rules. I am here until you die and without Yuffie, I fear you very well might. Why would I do anything but help you keep her safe?
And why would I trust anything you say?
Why would you trust anything Yuffie says? She loves you but won't say it. If she tells you she does not love you at the end of all of this, will you so easily believe her simply because she claims it is true?
Trust is earned but you need to have faith to invest in it every day. I am earning mine now in keeping you both safe.
I will never trust a demon.
That is unfortunate. For not many individual's inner demons are as helpful as I.
Their 'conversation' was cut short then as Akai landed on the Northern Isle.
Inside the cave, Akai scanned the area, Cloud looking on. The aged gray roots that lined the walls were familiar. After exploring the crooks of the roots, Akai found a spot to fit the package in, stepping back as he said, 'Ai'.
As he stepped back, he watched several dark knights step from the shadows, fading into existence. The first one at the center spoke.
"Your place isn't here Demon. Where's the warrior you inhabit?"
"We are one and the same now."
"Not yet." He gestures around the cave. "Not until he defeats my brothers in arms and I."
"And we will. But if it is he you wish to see for now, so be it."
Instantly, he hunched over as he changed, allowing Cloud to reappear. Cloud staggered, still not used to the transformation. Breathing hard, he pulled his sword to face off with the first knight.
"Hairy monkey men, get off! Geez, when is the last time any of you had a bath involving soap!"
Elder laughed as Yuffie was carried by his men down the steps leading underground. "My you have spirit! But that is no wonder considering you are the first female to have come for the quest personally."
"How the hell would you know that? Are you a demon too?"
He guffawed. "Me, a demon." Shaking his head, he waved his men to set her on her feet inside a lift. As the rickety thing lowered itself further into the earth, he said, "The previous inhabitants kept record. I merely found them when I got here during the war."
"What war?" Yuffie narrowed her eyes.
"Wutai, of course."
She frowned. "Why the hell would leave when we needed you the most? Papa nearly lost everything to Shinra!"
"Ah, but it did cost us everything." Elder sighed. "I lost my wife and child in a bombing. My best friend was taken by disease and all I had left is his boy. I had to get him out of there—and the others who'd lost everyone and everything."
Yuffie was still frowning, but now mute. Before she could formulate more curses, the wall gave way to a view of a veritable underground city. Her eyes widened as she took in the shops and mud huts. It extended far to the back where there was another large opening.
"What the hell…" She muttered in awe.
Elder grinned. "Welcome to Haikyo, my Lady."
Her eyes were large as she translated. "Ruins…"
Cloud whipped the twelfth knight away in a whirlwind of lightning before falling to his knee, exhausted. The last infusion had worked wonders for his stamina and strength, but he was not invincible. Covering his arm, he muttered a healing spell to fix the bleeding gash there. It had just finished healing as he looked up in time to lift his sword before the final knight swung his sword down upon his head.
Kicking out, Cloud knocked the knight back before rolling away. Akai was requesting release, but Cloud ignored him and fought harder. However, the knight's assault was swift and unrelenting, as if he relished his foe being beaten and weak from the start. Cloud blocked every attack, using peer strength of will now. Finally, he lashed out on the offensive only to receive a boot to the gut, throwing him back against the wall across the cave. Cloud slid down the rough surface in pain, crumpling on the ground. Every bone in his body felt as if it were broken. He could barely lift himself, much less his sword.
Akai was silent.
The knight was suddenly there, not giving him time to breathe. Cloud lifted his sword to block him, but it was easily knocked away before the knight grabbed Cloud by the throat, lifting him into the air. Cloud clutched the knight's gauntlet, fighting for air.
He thought it was because everything was going dim that he suddenly thought, 'We will never have peace between us if we do not learn to work together. A great warrior is one who knows when to ask for help.' Help? He needed help… 'Do it for Yuffie.'
Turning blue, Cloud gave in going slack in the knight's grip. The knight smiled right before Cloud is engulfed in white light, transforming. The knight's eyes widen right before he is blasted across the cave.
Akai lands on the ground and slowly raises his head. The knight stands, taking up his sword. He laughs rather menacingly. "I was so hoping I'd get my chance with you."
Akai's voice is deadpan in return. "You are not my type."
The knight narrows his eyes and with a roar, charges the demon. Akai parries him easily for a while, making the knight more and more annoyed. When Akai grows tired of this, he appears behind the knight in an instant, skewering him. The knight chokes as Akai pulls his blade free, staggering to his knees. Akai walks around to face the knight.
"I told you, you were not my type."
With a growl, the knight rose as he summoned his Limit Break. A steamroller formed under him as he wraps his cape around him regally. Akai braced himself as the knight flung back his cape dramatically before taking his sword in hand and slashing downward.
Akai dropped to his knees. He knows he should be healing already but Cloud is still fighting him inside.
"Cloud, desist." He winced. "We can survive this but not unless you trust me." He felt the warrior's internal struggle as he fought for breath. The knight was quickly returning to his original state and healing. They didn't have much time. Finally, he felt the moment Cloud allowed him free reign. With a roar, Akai summoned his Limit Break. As golden light blazed around him, he rises to his feet, feeling his wounds knit together as he moves.
Lifting his sword straight up before his face, he flung it out the side. Furiously, he swiped a checkered pattern into the air before him. The knight watched guardedly before his eyes widened as the demon finished his swift movements and lifted his free hand to stream light over the criss-crossing pattern, sending it flying forward. Bracing himself, the knight was not prepared for the sizzling pain as he was cut into dozens of pieces.
Akai watched dispassionately as the knight froze for a moment before falling slowly to the ground in dozens of pieces.
After a moment the bloody pieces shook slightly before disintegrating into dust. The first knight reappeared then, his sword sheathed.
"You are a powerful pairing, Demon of Light and Cloud Strife. My knights in arms and I are agreed. You'd make a fine warrior for Wutai. For making it this far, you are granted one gift. Choose wisely."
Internally, Akai sought Cloud. "What is it you want most?"
Cloud's answer was automatic. "Yuffie."
Akai acknowledged this slowly, never having known love himself. "…Something for her then." To the knight he said, "My warrior and I only wish for the shinobi Princess Yuffie's happiness."
There was a round of chuckles from the scattered knights in the shadows. The first knight explained. "Forgive us. It has been a while since a warrior, as well as his Demon, has put his intended before himself. We'd been sure romance had died out centuries ago." As the laughter died out, the first knight considered them. "Alright." He lifted his hand, a long strand of golden warrior beads appearing before him in a shimmering circle. "A gift worthy of your fighting Empress and a token of your unswerving devotion to her and her alone."
Akai allowed Cloud to shine through to receive the gift. He stared at the beads for the longest time before looking back at the knight. "Sir, I would ask something more specific."
The knight seems surprised, but nods. "Go ahead."
"I would ask that Yuffie have a choice. And I don't mean of suitors. But of ruling alone."
Grumbles erupted from the surrounding knights. The first knight looked surprised. "There is no precedent for this."
Cloud nods. "I know that, sir. But then, Yuffie is one of a kind. She's strong and smart and cares about her people. She can defend them if she needs to and not because she has to…but because she wants to…. She has proven herself more than capable and deserves the right to make her life what she wants."
The knights seemed stunned. The first knight glanced around at his fellow knights in askance. Turning back to Cloud, his tone was skeptical. "You know this means she may not choose you, aye?"
Cloud nodded. "I know."
The knight considered him a long while. Finally he laughed. "So be it."
The knights disappeared then in a flash of white, leaving Cloud and Akai alone. Akai was slightly confused. "You are sure of this?"
Cloud glanced down at the warrior beads in his palm, now signifying choice and freedom. "I am."
Hontou ni, gomen. Cheers to a new semester. Pray that I don't fall into academic despair yet again and forget about this story.