Capcom and Square-Enix own DMC and FFXIII respectively. AN: Shout out to Skyshattered for giving me 11 reviews, and thanks to everyone else who reviewed. We're so close to 300, I can practically taste it!

So guys... I'm a college student now. I had planned to update this chapter last month, but a lot of things came up. So far, it's alright, but I'll most likely be given more work in the future... So if I take too long in updating, well, that's why...

I have more news, but I'll tell you guys at the end. For now, let's read.

Base Camp- The Pulsian Tower of Babel

Nero sat on the edge of the gorge, looking up at the night sky.

After divulging the details about his origins, he quietly excused himself from the fire, and asked for privacy.

The young man was lost in his thoughts. He felt somewhat relieved after telling his story, but his mind was on the current situation before him.

Vergil, his father, gave him an ultimatum that infuriated him greatly. Join him by abandoning his friends, or stay with them, and watch him kill them.

That is, unless Nero gave him the chance.

Nero sighed, as he slid his hand down his face. He knew that his father's pride was so large that he would go through with his threats. Unfortunately, most Spardas had large resolves.

His ears then picked up a noise behind him. The young man looked over his left, and saw Lightning Farron approach him.

"What's up?" he greeted.

"We're about to put out the fire, and call it a night. Just wanted to let you know," she reported.

"Oh," he whispered. "Well, uh... You guys go on ahead. I'll go to sleep in a bit."

He looked back to the gorge, but then looked at her again when he didn't hear her leave. "Unless you have something else to say?"

He noticed that she was looking up at the sky. "No..."

Nero followed her gaze up to the floating Cocoon. The inside of the shell was glowing green, showing that it was also nighttime up there.

"Looks pretty at night. Cocoon, I mean. Just floatin' there, twenty four hours a day, seven days a week," he expressed.

Lightning looked at him curiously. "What about the other two hours?"

Nero arched an eyebrow. "Whaddya mean?"

"A regular day in Cocoon is twenty six hours. Thirteen in the day, and thirteen at night," she revealed.

Nero blinked in surprise. "Whoa... Never knew that..."

"I'm guessing Earth days are twenty four hours long?" she wondered.

"Yep," he answered.

Nero continued to look up at the floating sphere in the sky.

"You really prefer Cocoon over your own world?" she asked.

He shrugged. "I guess. I mean, at least on Cocoon, things don't look as bad. But then again, that could also be because of the Sanctum."

"So, what are you going to do when you have to go back?" she asked.

Nero was about to answer, but he hesitated. Thinking about her words, he internally wondered about going back.

He chuckled to himself. "You know what? This is the first time in a while that I've thought about that."


"Yeah. I dunno. I guess I thought that killing Dysley was gonna show me the way home. But with all of this l'Cie business, I'm not sure that's even possible."

"Who knows?" Lightning shrugged. "Maybe when we save Cocoon, a way back will present itself-"

"And what if I don't want to go back?" Nero interjected.

Lightning blinked. "W- What?"

Sighing Nero elaborated. "Listen, Light. The only reason I wanted to go back was because I thought Vergil was still back there. But we all know that he ain't there."

"After everything that's happened to me, there's little to no reason for me to go back..."

Lightning, surprised by his answer, walked up and sat down next to him. "You're not going back? Don't you have any friends back home?"

He shrugged. "Yeah, a few... But they have their own lives. They'll move on."

The woman bit her lip, before speaking again. "But... Didn't Dante have friends?"

Nero's face instantly fell. "Yeah... He did."

"Then, shouldn't you go tell them that he's..."

Nero looked away, a mixture of shame and grief on his face. "Maybe... And... I could also go back to say bye."

Scoffing, Nero frowned. "Look, what does it matter to you? We don't even know if we're going to even make it when this is over."

The soldier gave him a fierce glare. "Excuse me, then!"

Sighing, Nero looked at her again. "Alright then, what about you? What're you doin' when this is over?"

Lightning's glare softened, as her eyes furrowed pensively. "Honestly? I'm not even sure about that. I mean, it's not like I can rejoin the Guardian Corps after this. I did quit, after all."

Nero shrugged. "True... I guess the rest of our lives are just blank pages before us."

She nodded. "Maybe..." Light then placed her hand on her chest, a small smile gracing her face. "But at least Serah will be there."

Smirking, Nero agreed. "Well, that's somethin'."

"OI! You two!" said a voice.

Both l'Cie looked over their shoulders, and saw that the others were getting up from around the fire pit, as Fang put it out with a Water spell.

"We're about to call it a night. We need to be ready for tomorrow," said the Huntress.

Sighing, both Nero got on one knee, while Lightning stood up full height.

"Guess it's that time," he muttered.

He was about to stand up, when he heard a loud gasp from Vanille. Everyone looked at her, as she quickly walked to side, while pointing to the sky.

"Everyone, look!"

The other six l'Cie looked at the girl, and then at what she was looking at. What they saw, was the sky illuminated with shooting stars. The group looked on in awe, as the spectacle before them went on.

Still sitting in his spot, Nero whistled to himself. "Well whaddya know? A meteor shower."

Vanille's face brightened, as the white dots in the sky shot out. "They're so pretty!"

Sazh crossed his arms. "Well, make a wish everyone."

"But don't tell anyone!" Vanille cautioned. "If you say your wish, it won't come true."

Snow grinned, as he jerked his thumb towards himself. "Well, I don't need to. I already know what to wish for! And once this is over, that wish will be reality."

Hope looked up at the man. "You're talking about Serah, right?"

Nodding, Snow answered. "Yep. I'm gonna get married to her, and have a big family!"

The elder Farron cast a wary eye at him. "And how big is this family going to be?"

Nero smirked. "I think she's asking about how many times you're gonna make children."

Sazh then burst out laughing, as Snow blushed noticeably. Lightning only sent a furious glare at both males, slowly reaching for her gunblade.

"If only every other wish was that easy," Nero commented.

"I mean, most of the time, wishing never really works. Sure, sometimes you get lucky, but most of the time, you ain't."

Fang grinned. "Aww. Did Nero wish for a pony, and never got it?"

Nero scowled. "Haha. Funny. No, Fang. That's not it."

"Okay, I already know where this is goin', son," Sazh interjected. "You're gonna go on about how, "people need to work hard for their wishes, just like their dreams," and all that. Trust me, Nero, I know that better than anyone."

"Then you know it's true!" Nero added. "It's exactly what you said. You can believe in a wish all you want, if you don't put in the effort to make it reality, it ain't happenin'!"

Vanille frowned visibly. "That's disheartening..."

Hope rubbed his hands to keep them warm. "But, it's better when more people share that wish, right?"

The demon hybrid glanced at the boy briefly, before shrugging. "Beats me. Wouldn't know anything about that."

"But it can be done, right?" asked Vanille. "If more people have the same wish, there's more chances of it coming true?"

Nero waved his hand dismissively. "Look, I'm gonna stop here, 'cause I can already tell that this conversation is going somewhere cheesy."

"At least answer the question!" Vanille begged.

Giving her a brief glance, the young man sighed. "Alright... Maybe. If you do have more people, there's a chance you have better odds."

"See! The more people making the same wish, the more likely it is to come true!"

Light raised her hand. "Excuse me, but where exactly are you going with this conversation? No offense, but it's starting to get pointless."

The girl's grin did not waver. "I was thinking that, since we have a meteor shower , we should all make the same wish at the same time! That way, it'll come true!"

"I didn't say that!" Nero blurted. "I said that you'd have a chance! Not it will come true!"

The girl crossed her arms. "Goodness, Nero! Why are you so negative?"

Putting his hand on his face, he let out an exasperated groan. "Look... You really want to make a wish come true?"

The afro pilot arched his left eyebrow. "You know how to make a wish come true?" he asked skeptically.

"No, but I know the closest thing," answered the devil hunter.

"Then spill."

Nero looked up to the sky, looking as lines of dots shot through the night. "Well... To make a wish come true, you need to make it into something else first."

"Somethin' else?" Fang repeated.

"Yep," Nero explained. "See, wishes are somewhat... They're like an empty space. You want it, but when you reach for it, nothing's there. However, if you turn it into something solid, like say, uh..."

"A picture?" asked Snow.

"It's solid, but not what I had in mind."

"A goal?" Hope followed.

"Close, but not exactly..."

Vanille spoke up meekly. "Um... A promise?"

Nero looked at the Pulsian girl. Turning his eyes away in thought, he nodded in agreement. "Yeah, why not? A promise."

"See, promises, especially important ones, incite action. At that point, a wish changes from a promise, to an action."

"And if there's anything that our trip has taught us, is that the will to act, despite everything else, is the key to change. The key to make things a reality."

"Wishes that turn into promises. Promises that turn into actions. And actions that become reality. Those wishes have the best chances of coming true, and leaving a lasting impression."

"Those wishes... Are eternal," he finished.

The six l'Cie looked at their comrade in awe. Never before, had he ever said words that could be described as inspiring.

"That's deep... Even for you," Lightning muttered.

He shrugged. "I have my moments."

Vanille let the words sink in. Surging with confidence, she suggested, "Okay, how about this? Let's make a promise!"

Nero frowned. "And here's where it gets cheesy."

"Don't be so mean!" she chided playfully. "There won't be a night like this for a very long time. I want to make this moment last."

Getting up from the ground, Nero crossed his arms. "Whatever. It's not like we're gonna forget this anytime soon."

"What did you have in mind?" Hope inquired.

Vanille cupped her chins in thought. "Well... I was thinking about making a promise about saving Cocoon."

Sazh glanced at her skeptically. "Why? Ain't we already doin' that?"

She nodded. "Yeah. But if we promise we'll save Cocoon, it makes it official."

The Hero stroked his chin hairs. "Yeah. Guess that makes sense."

Fang walked up to her best friend. "So, Van. What promise do you want to make?"

The group watched the girl, as she pouted in thought.

Smiling, she finally responded. "Alright! How about this?"

She extended her hand. "Let's promise that, no matter what happens, we will save Cocoon."

"And more importantly, once this is over, we'll stay together for whatever happens after. Because we're not just random strangers brought together by fate. I'd like to think that we've become something else in our time together."

She closed her eyes, still smiling. "I want to make this promise with you guys. Because now, you're all so much more. Now, we're a family! And there's no one else I would rather be with."

The others stared at her with expressions of surprise, and pride. Fang smiled, while Snow grinned heartily. Sazh nodded in approval, while Hope gave her a happy smile. Light also nodded, as Nero smirked.

"What do you think?" she asked meekly.

Nero chuckled. "And you guys say I'm deep?"

The chocobo chick chirped in agreement. "Looks like the little guy approves!" Sazh announced.

Snow walked forward, and placed his hand over hers. "That's one promise I'd like to keep."

Hope then extended his arm, and placed it on top. "Count me in. I promise."

The chocobo chick fluttered over the trio, until it landed just as Sazh had placed his hand over theirs. "You know us. We don't like to be left out."

The afro man then gave a stern look towards Fang. "Hey. You ain't gonna go bonkers, and attack us like last time, are you?"

Fang grinned. "Dunno..."


She then laughed. "Alright. Won't do it." She placed her hand on top. "But I am making that promise."

The l'Cie then glanced at Lightning. The woman stood there with her arms crossed, and eyes closed. Looking at them, she walked over to them, and placed her hand over the others.

That only left Nero.

As the group looked at him, he had an apprehensive look on his face.

He looked at his Devil Bringer, as his left gripped its wrist. "I don't know... Every time I make a promise, especially a big one, I only end up letting people down."

"You haven't let us down," Vanille consoled.

"So what if your track record with promises ain't exactly, uh... Promising?" Snow dismissed. "There's always a first for everything. And I think this may be the time you actually keep your promise."

"I guess..." The young man looked at his arm, before letting out a deep breath.

He extended his Bringer, and placed his hand on top. "Alright. I'm making that promise."

Gasping out loud, Vanille smiled happily. "Wow... Guys... We just made the best promise ever!"

Sazh shrugged, as everyone retracted their hands."It was just a promise between us l'Cie. No big deal."

"Hey, can we watch the shooting stars until they all go out?" Vanille asked.

"Van, we've got a big day tomorrow," Fang told.

"But it's still a bit early! Pleeeeaaase?" she begged, with a pleading look in her eyes.

Everyone looked at each other, wondering if they should stay up longer.

"To tell you the truth, I don't feel tired," Snow admitted.

"But we need to be well rested for tomorrow," Lightning reasoned.

Hope looked up at the sky. "Well, maybe looking up at the sky will bore us into sleep?"

The others looked at each other, before resigning.

"Works for me," Sazh confirmed.

The girl cheered in excitement. "Just think about it. We're going to be family for the rest of our lives, so we can remember this moment forever!"

"Oh, give it a rest, already!" Nero exclaimed.

"You know, I never believed her back then. But after that night, I can honestly say that Vanille was right."

"That night stayed etched into my mind. Every time I felt bad, or angry, I'd always look back to that night."

"We looked up at the sky, as blinking lights gave us a light show that only nature could provide. We all told stories, joked, and enjoyed every second of it. Even Lightning. It really helped me forget the sadness that followed after telling my story."

"Looking back, I realize that it was the first step in my recovery. The was the beginning of the road to getting me back on my feet."

"I never forgot that night, no matter how many times I tried. And I never did."

-The Tyrant's Gate-

Vergil looked up at the tower before him, while Somar began walking up the steps.

He was somewhat curious as to how a quarter of the tower could be so high. What exactly had they been working on in this tower?

Clearing his mind of the thoughts, Vergil then looked over his shoulder. The night was beginning to end, as daylight was creeping in.

Taking in a deep breath, he raised his demonic aura, unbeknownst to the old man. He released it at a level that could be detected; enough to get his attention.

"Time's up."

-Base Camp-

Nero's eyes instantly shot open. He sat up, as his eyes narrowed in the direction of the tower.

"Bastard... He's calling me," he hissed.

Calming himself down, he took a moment to look around the camp.

Fang was sitting against a nearby stone, sleeping calmly. Sazh was snoring as he lay on the floor, using his right arm as a headrest. The chocobo chick sat asleep on his afro. Snow had both of his hands behind his head, as he dozed off, with a goofy grin on his face.

Nero looked over to his left. He saw that Hope was sleeping a few feet away, with his left hand on the side of his face. Vanille, who was a few feet behind the boy and with her back to him, had both hands on the right side of her head as she slept.

He then noticed that Lightning was sleeping a few feet away from him. Her back was to him, so he could not see her face.

Knowing that he would not get a better moment, Nero quietly stood up, and put on his coat, which he used as a blanket. He quietly pulled his Red Queen out of the ground, and crept toward the camp's edge.

Before leaving, however, he took one last glance at the group. Looking over them as they slept, Nero finally saw Light as he slept. Her body was curled halfway, arms extended slightly. Her face looked blank, due to her being asleep. Nero mentally noted that she looked less guarded asleep, than she was awake. Perhaps that would change when this was over.

Sighing shamefully, he looked away from them, and at his arm. "I told you guys I couldn't keep a promise..."

The Grandson of Sparda clenched his Bringer fist in determination. "But I will promise you this... I will not let him hurt you guys."

With his decision made, Nero walked away from his friends, with intentions of finally facing his father.

-The Palisades-

Nero exited the path, and found himself before a large canyon. The sun had begun to rise, giving him a better look of his surroundings. Large stones were spread out across the path. He could not see the bottom, for it was covered in fog, thus making visibility difficult. However, it was the large tower nearby that caught his attention.

Spires lined about its sides, while some of the tower was covered with a stone layer. Underneath the tower was dome-like structure that kept it from falling down completely. Despite it being the lower quarter of a very large tower, it was still the height of a skyscraper.

Nero briefly pondered how tall it would have been in the past, but quickly reminded himself of his task. Looking up at the tower, he quickly deduced that Vergil would be at the top. With reassurance, he began walking towards the tower.

Walking along, he had made it under a stone arch. Nero had only made it a few feet, before he heard a strange sound from above.

Looking above his shoulder, his eyes widened, as a black figure lunged at him with its glowing sword raised. Raising his Bringer defensively, he caught the blade in his hand, as it was aimed at his neck. With a strong tug, Nero threw the assailant over him, managing to disarm him.

The devil hunter looked at the weapon in his hands. It was the handle of a katana, but there was no blade. He then looked at his attacker, and instantly scowled.

"Should've known," he muttered, as his eyes glared at Somar's soldier, Hollow.

Tossing the handle onto the ground, he stepped on it furiously, which crushed it instantly.

"He can't even come here and meet me in person? What's up with that?" he asked.

The Soldier made no response.

Nero frowned. "I'm guessin' you're one of those silent soldier types, huh?"

Again, no response.

Sighing, the half-devil put a hand on his hip. "Look, I dunno if you're a robot, or something, but at least have the common courtesy to participate in a conversation, man."

Hollow stood sill, but surprised the boy when he responded. "RESPONSE: This unit is only authorized to speak to ranked Sanctum officials."

"Okaaay... You can talk. Still, you have enough time to talk, don't ya?"

"RESPONSE: This unit-"

"Okay. If we're gonna talk, you kinda need to cut it out with the caveman talk. You know, third person point of view? And while you're at it, why don't you ditch the whole "RESPONSE" thing?"

The soldier said nothing in response for a moment. However, it did answer him. "Affirmative."

"Good," Nero nodded. "Now listen, as interesting it would be to fight you, I have some business with that blue coated idiot of your group. So if you can lead me to him, I'd appreciate it."

Hollow shook his head. "Negative. This unit... I... Am under strict orders from Somar Leunam, the Commander-In-Chief, to annihilate any and all of the identified l'Cie, should they come across this designated path."

Groaning, Nero crossed his arms. "So it was that old coot..." He then turned his attention back to the soldier. "Look, whether you like it or not, I'm getting into that tower. Y'know, I don't even know why I'm here talking to you. You're unarmed!"

Hollow then reached for his back, and pulled out a long, black sheath. Nero examined the object, closely, before watching the soldier hold it before him. Gripping its metallic handle, he unsheathed it to reveal a straight black blade.

Throwing the sheath to the side, Hollow gripped the handle of his blade with both hands. As he lowered it, Nero heard a high pitched sound coming from it.

"High frequency blade... They actually have those?" he muttered.

"I am Super Soldier Unit-001 Codename: Hollow. I am your destroyer," he announced.

Nero tensed, as the soldier readied his blade. "Could've walked out of this."

Hollow then quickly rushed forward. Nero whipped out his Blue Rose, and fired.

-Base Camp-

Lightning's eyes opened slowly, sunshine caressing her cheek. Furrowing her eyes, she pushed herself up with her hands. Sitting up, she stretched her arms over her head.

When she finished, her eyelids opened slowly. Her vision came back slowly, the grass being the first thing in sight. Looking around, she saw her fellow travelers as they slept. She sighed in relief, knowing that nothing went wrong during the night-

She paused, as her eyes caught something. One of them was missing.

Looking to her right, she saw an empty space that was supposed to have been Nero. Another thing was that his sword was nowhere to be seen.

'Maybe he went to go get food,' she reasoned.

Then, the sound of small pops were heard. Looking to her left, Lightning realized that the noises came from the far path.

The one that they had not been to.

The one they were supposed to go to today.

It didn't take long for her to visibly scowl, realizing that Nero had done something extremely foolish.

"That bastard!" she cursed.

Getting onto her feet, she ran over to Snow, and shook him furiously. "Snow, WAKE UP!"

Snow blinked repeatedly, being pulled out of sleep. "W- Wha-"

Lightning slapped him across the face, waking him up completely.

"WHAT THE- What'd I do?" he blurted.

Ignoring him, she spoke. "Wake everyone up!"

Snow had a shocked look in his eyes, as he saw her furious expression. "W- Why?"

Light frowned heavily. "Nero ditched us."

-The Palisades-

Hollow swiped at the oncoming bullets from Nero's pistol.

Deciding that that they were not doing him much help, Nero holstered his pistol, and raised the Red Queen as Hollow came down on him. Nero pushed against the soldier, before jumping away. However, Hollow did a front flip and landed a hard overhead swipe, which Nero blocked.

Nero and Hollow swung at each other ferociously. Left and right, metal clashed against the other, as both swordsman fought to kill. Nero blocked each attack from the super soldier.

Once both warriors were caught in a stalemate, Nero pushed Hollow's blade to the side. Using the momentum of his swing, he punched Hollow in the middle of his helmet. The force of the punch caused the soldier to spin away. Still, Hollow used the momentum of the spin, to do a roundhouse kick to Nero's face.

Nero reeled back, and fell onto a stone. Eyes widening, he jumped out to his left, as Hollow swung downward to cut him in half. This caused for his sword to be impaled into the rock.

As the half devil raised his sword, he was caught of guard when Hollow's left leg arched over his back, and kicked Nero's face with the force of a whip.

The boy fell on his back, clutching his nose. Hollow used the opportunity to pull his blade out of the rock, and then charged at Nero. The young man raised his blade to block the oncoming strike. Nero glared angrily at Hollow's black visor, as the soldier pushed his sword against the Red Queen.

In a split second, Nero swung an uppercut to Hollow's helmet to force him back. He rolled onto his back to regain his footing. As soon as he did, he jumped to his feet, and ran towards the soldier.

The battle was not yet over.

-Base Camp-

"WHADDYA MEAN HE DITCHED US?" shouted an enraged Fang.

She, Vanille, Hope, Snow, and Sazh stood before Lightning as she explained what had occurred while they slept.

"Nero left us. Why, I don't know. But the bottom line, is that he left!" Lightning fumed.

Vanille put her hand on her chest worriedly. "But... But why? After everything we did, why would he leave now?"

Fang crossed her arms. "Guess that explains why he went all sentimental on us yesterday. He was already set on leavin'!"

"Fang!" her friend gasped.

"What? C'mon, didn't any of you wonder why he decided to tell us his life's story? I mean, sure, he was gonna have to eventually. But right when we're this close to Oerba?"

"Guys, c'mon. Truthfully, this was something that's been with him for a while, even before he came to Cocoon. Our problems were more recent, so I can see why he waited this long to tell us," Hope defended.

"Still doesn't explain why he left," Fang countered.

The chocobo chirped sadly on Sazh's shoulder. "I can think of one reason he'd want to leave," he spoke grimly.

The others looked at the pilot's serious expression. Then, Lightning realized what he had meant.

She put her hand in her forehead, frustrated by the fact that she had not remembered Nero's first priority. "Vergil."

"Vergil? But why? He wasn't around here last night," Snow inquired.

"Maybe it's a demon thing," Hope suggested. "I mean, he has detected other demons before."

"So not only did he ditch us, he didn't warn us about Vergil!" Fang in raged.

"Can you blame him? I mean, if someone killed my son like that, I know I'd want to get the bastard," Sazh sympathized.

"Okay, look!" Fang interrupted. "We can stay here, and keep movin' our yaps. Or, we can go after Nero, get answers from the man himself."

Vanille meekly raised her hand. "Ummm... That doesn't involve hurting him, does it?"

Fang shrugged. "Depending on his answer, it might come to that, Van."

Snow, uncomfortable with how the conversation was going, walked to the middle of the group. "Look guys, this is Nero we're talkin' about. Obviously, he's dead set on beating this guy, so maybe we shoul-"

He stopped, when he felt something on his left arm. Looking at it, he realized his l'Cie mark was glowing with a light blue hue. The feeling in his arm became stronger, as he felt a burning pain in his arm.

Crying out in pain, he fell to his knees, clutching his arm. Noticing his distress, the others quickly ran up to him.

Then, a glowing object floated out of his arm. It was a floating blue crystal, that resembled a heart.

They watched in awe, as the Crystal Heart flew towards the unexplored path.

"Uh... You think Nero needs some help?" Sazh questioned.

Lightning's eyes narrowed towards the path. "Only one way to find out."

One way or another, Nero was going to answer to them.

-The Palisades-

It was when he had jumped away to avoid an offensive swing from Hollow, when Nero felt a burning sensation consume his Devil Bringer. However, he took his eyes off of it, to avoid the soldier's flying kick to the head.

Nero looked as his arm fidgeted from the pain. Although he knew that he was about gain a new power, he cursed at the timing of the occurrence.

The boy swung against his attacker's blade with one arm, hoping to buy himself some time. Unfortunately, Nero's swings were weak and uncoordinated, while Hollow's were strong and precise.

Hollow broke through Nero's defense, when he did an upward slash, which made the hunter lose his grip on the Red Queen. The Soldier followed with a downward slash across Nero's chest, forcing him to the ground.

Crawling backwards, Nero pulled out the Blue Rose, and fired at Hollow. The Soldier blocked both bullets, walking towards the l'Cie.

Nero internally cursed. Here he was, trying to finally confront his worst enemy. And he was about to be done in by his soldier lackey.

Then, he caught something in the distance. He could see a blue crystal heart shooting towards his position.

Nero jumped away from Hollow's oncoming strike, before the Shiva Eidolith Junctioned with him. Instantly, light blue aura enveloped him. As the demonic energy covered his entire body, he felt his arms and legs becoming cold. Strangely, the cold feeling disappeared after a moment.

Letting out a battle cry, Nero threw his arms to his sides, instantly dissipating the demonic energy.

Nero looked examined his new body, trying to determine which demon's power he had gained. He noticed that his body was covered in armored scales. On both of his biceps were black scales, as well as his thighs. His torso was covered in blue scales, and a pair of gills were on his neck. His most noticeable change, was that his forearms and shins were covered in ice.

Nero blinked as he examined his new attire. He could feel the demonic energy pulsating from them.

"Whoa," he awed, as he looked at the gauntlets and grieves.

Nero figured that since he had the power of ice, he had gained the powers of the Demon Goddess of Ice. He had changed into Aquaria Nero.

The newly transformed Nero then regarded his opponent, who had readied himself in an offensive stance. Hollow gripped his blade with both hands, pointing the tip to Nero's chest.

Aquaria Nero raised his arms, and got into a fighting stance. "Shall we dance?"

Hollow gave his answer, by charging towards Nero. He swiped his sword from the left, but Nero raised his right arm to block it. Grinning, Nero sent a straight punch into the soldier's gut, forcing him back. When his fist connected, the area where he struck had ice covering it. Nero freed his right arm, and followed with a right hook to Hollow's helmet, freezing his visor.

The soldier strafed backwards, avoiding Nero's high kick. Reaching for his visor, Hollow tore off the ice, and looked at his opponent again. Nero was inches away from his face, and punched Hollow in the stomach. He punched him again, and once more. Aquaria Nero then attacked Hollow with a storm of punches, raining down onto the soldier's gut.

After landing a hard blow with his left, but charged demonic energy into his right arm. Nero then launched a hard uppercut to the soldier's chin, which caused both of them to soar up into the air. As they ascended from the ground, a large pillar of ice followed after them, due to Nero's Aquaria gauntlets and grieves.

Finally stopping his ascent, Nero's uppercut pushed Hollow backwards in mid-air, making him fall on the other side of the ice pillar. As Nero fell to the ground, he decided to make use of the pillar. Charging his fists with energy, Aquaria Nero pummeled the ice pillar, sending chunks of ice towards Hollow. Each chunk sent him further away from the half-demon, and gravely injured him as well. When he landed, Nero give the last chunk of the pillar a straight kick, to make it shoot out towards the Super Soldier.

Hollow reached out for a nearby stone, using it as leverage to pull himself up. The soldier stood up at full height, albeit shakily.

The soldier looked up to find his target, but saw that the l'Cie was nowhere to be found.

"HOAAAAAAH!" shouted a voice from above.

Hollow looked up, but was met with a cold, sharp foot to the middle of his helmet. Aquaria Nero had jumped into the air, and shot down toward the soldier with his right leg extended with a downward stomp. Jumping off of Hollow as he fell, Nero followed with another downward stomp. This one was stronger than the last, and pinned the soldier to the ground.

Putting pressure on Hollow's chest, Aquaria Nero raised his right arm. Demonic energy enveloped the gauntlet, as three circular runes surrounded the arm. Charging ice into it, Nero sent a hard glare to the soldier, and swung his arm downward.

"FREEZING TEMPEST!" he shouted.

His fist landed on the soldiers helmet. As soon as it did, an explosion of ice surrounded both of them. Various sharp points impaled the soldier. The force of Nero's fist cracked the helmet. When he retracted his fist, all of the ice retracted as well, dissipating into nothing.

Aquaria Nero stepped away from the soldier. To his satisfaction, Hollow wasn't getting up. Looking at the soldier's helmet, he managed to see some of the inside. He only managed to see an eye, which was open. After a few minutes of waiting, Nero guessed that he was perhaps dead, or shut down.

Taking a deep breath, Aquaria Nero looked over himself again, especially the new weapon he received.

"Sweet Devil Arm," he complimented.

He then turned his gaze to the tower, anger evident in his eyes. "This is one more reason for me to give you one biblical ass beating, jackass-"

Suddenly, he felt a strong current of electricity shocked him from behind. Screaming in pain, Nero fell on his stomach, reverting back to his human form as he did. He felt numb, as he could not move his body. Nero did have control of his eyes, and looked over his shoulder. Before he could however, he was yanked onto his feet.

And what he saw, was a furious glare on Lightning's face, before she punched him back to the ground. This caused him to regain feeling in his body, although the first one was a painful sting in his cheek.

"What's up, Nero?" greeted Fang from behind. Her tone was also an angry one.

Rubbing his cheek, Nero stood up, to see that the other four l'Cie had arrived as well. Unlike the two women, they had mixed looks on their faces. Hope, Snow, and Vanille had relieved looks on their faces, while Sazh had a look of apprehension.

"So, Pretty Boy? You gonna tell us why you ditched us for that boy in black there?" Fang interrogated, as she pointed at the fallen Super Soldier.

The hybrid's eyes only narrowed, before looking away. "You shouldn't have followed me."

"And you shouldn't have left without us," Lightning shot back.

Nero scowled, and turned away from them. "Look, just head back to camp."

"Why?" Fang demanded. "There something up there you don't want us seein'?"

"It doesn't matter!" he responded. "It doesn't concern any of you!"

"Why's that?" Light shouted. "It's Vergil, isn't?"

Fed up with them, Nero began to walk away. "I don't have time-"

Lightning pulled on his shoulder, to make him face her. When he did, she slugged him to the ground with a hard hook to the face. As he was about to get up, he felt cold steel on his neck. Looking up, he saw a furious Lightning have her Blazefire Saber.

"Make time!" she hissed.

"Whoa, whoa, whoa, whoa, whoa... WHOA!" Sazh interrupted. He ran up to Light and Nero, hoping to resolve the tension in the air. "Okay, I know what Nero did was stupid, but we're startin' to get a little outta hand here! So why don't we put the weapons down, before we end up fightin' each other."

"Sazh's right," Snow agreed. "We can't go fighting among ourselves this far into the game, guys. Not after everything we've done together.

He walked up to his future sister-in-law. "C'mon, Light. Let him go."

Nero and Lightning did not take their eyes off the other, as if daring the other to make a move. Reluctantly, the soldier retracted her gunblade, and sheathed. Her angry glare never left Nero.

Sighing in relief, Snow faced the half-demon. "Alright. Now, Nero, we've known you for a while now. Ever since then, you've always been honest with us. But ever since that one guy came into the picture, you've been actin' a bit, uh..."

"A bit like you?" Lightning finished.

"Ouch... Anyway, the point is that you can't just go doing these things, man. Believe it or not, we get worried when stuff like this happens. And even though Fang and Sis are mad at you, it's because they care about you. We all do."

The more Nero listened to Snow's speech, the more he guilty he felt. As he looked down to the ground, Nero contemplated what the Hero had said. He had already felt bad for leaving them, but he knew why he had to in the first place.

Vanille walked up to Nero, worry etched in her face. "Please, Nero. If there's a reason you came here, tell us. You can trust us Nero."

The young man looked up at the girl, and saw honest worry in her eyes. His eyes then wandered to the others. In every pair of eyes, he could see their worry. Even after Light and Fang had berated him for his actions, he could see that they too were trying to look out for him.

Unable to look them in the eyes, Nero looked away. "I... Yeah. Vergil's up there."

Sazh nodded in understanding. "Alright. You came here to settle the score. Bit reckless, but I understand."

Nero frowned. "Uh... That... May not be the only reason I came here."

Eyes were instantly on him, with two pairs becoming suspicious.

Hope spoke up, confused by his comment. "What do you mean? Why else would you come here?"

Nero looked at his companions apprehensively. "See... When I went to scope the landscape yesterday... Vergil found me."

He could instantly see the surprised looks on their faces. Light and Fang knew they were not liking where he was going.

"He had been watching us. He saw our fight with the demoness. He used it as an opportunity to get to me."

"He... He wanted me to join up with him."

Fang only blinked once, before narrowing her eyes accusingly at him.

"He said that he knew how to get rid of his l'Cie mark, and wanted me to join him-"

"So that's why! You wanted to get rid of your mark, and screw us over!"

"FANG!" Vanille gasped, horrified by her friend's reaction.

Caught off guard by the girls remark, Fang instantly became quiet. Nero, however, continued to look at her.

"Fang... I would never do that to any of you. To even assume that is insulting," he growled.

"So then what did you tell him?" she demanded.

"I told him to take his offer, and shove it. I wouldn't be caught dead helping him."

Lightning, who was just as interrogative as the Pulsian Native, did not let up. "That still doesn't explain why you decided to come here."

Nero briefly glanced at her, before continuing. "Right. After that, he..."

He paused briefly. "He threatened me."

Sazh arched his eyebrow. "Threatened you how?"

The young hybrid sat down on a nearby stone. "He told me that if I didn't join him... He'd make me watch him kill you guys..."

He heard gasps among the group. Nero saw frightened looks on both of the teens, while the others had more shocked expression.

"Vergil gave me until today to go answer him. I was on my way to go tell him off, when this freak ambushes me," he told, signaling at the fallen Hollow with his Devil Bringer. "I beat him using my new Devil Trigger. And now, you guys are here interrogating me."

Nero sat there patiently, waiting for their responses. He looked up, and saw that what he had said was slowly registering to them.

Lightning's arms fell to the side, narrowing her eyes at him. "Why didn't you tell us this before?"

"I didn't want to worry you guys. You guys were all in a good mood, I didn't want to be the one to ruin it."

"Besides, I told you. When the time came, I needed you guys to stay out of the way."

Fang scoffed condescendingly. "Heh, is that right? I thought you meant that we'd stay out of it when all of us beat Vergil as a group."

Nero shook his head. "No. I told you guys. Vergil's mine."

"Doesn't mean that we can't get in a few hits before you do him in," Fang responded.

"I said no. Vergil is dangerous. Toying with him is even more dangerous. When he fights, he won't show you guys any slack."

He then looked at Lightning. "Don't you remember? He almost killed you and Hope. I can't let something like that happen again."

Lightning frowned, obviously offended. "That was back when we barely became l'Cie. We've gotten better since then."

"And you think that bastard hasn't?" he countered. "Who's to say that he hasn't gotten stronger?"

His resistant claims annoyed Fang. "So you're sayin' we can't beat him?"

"Exactly!" he answered. "Out of all of us, I'm the only one who stands a better chance of beating him!"

Fang shook her head. "That coming from the guy who's had his ass handed to him by Vergil. On more than one occasion, I might add."

Frowning, Nero glared at her. "I'm stronger now."

"And so are we!" Light snapped. "Listen, Nero. I know you want revenge, but that's no excuse for rushing into battle by yourself."

"Yeah," Snow added. "Plus, you've got all of us. If we go fight him together, he won't see us coming!"

Having reached his limit, Nero shot up from the stone. "You don't get it, DO YOU?"

Snow stepped back, as he shouted. "If you fight Vergil, YOU WILL DIE!" He then pointed at Vanille. "SHE'LL DIE!" He gestured to Lightning. "LIGHT WILL DIE!" Nero finally pointed at the others. "THEY'LL DIE! IF YOU FIGHT VERGIL, YOU'LL ALL DIE!"

Nero looked at his companions with a mask of fury. Noticing perplexity in their eyes, Nero's anger ultimately fell.

He sat down on the stone, his face showing fear for the first time in front of his companions. "Vergil's taken so many people from me... I-" He gulped loudly. "I don't want to go through that again. I'll die before I go through that again."

The group then went silent, with only the sound of the wind's howl. Nero felt a mixture of anger and shame in his chest. Anger, because he was being delayed with his duel with his father, and shame because he had chosen to leave his friends, unaware of his whereabouts. He did not even wonder if he was going to return to them alive.

Nero felt a hand grip his shoulder. He did not bother to look, as Lightning spoke to him. "Nero. Do you remember what you did yesterday?"

The former knight briefly glanced up at her, but looked away. "Yeah. I told you guys everything."

Light shook her head. "No. That wasn't it. It was something else."

Nero furrowed his eyes in curiosity. "What?"

"By telling us about yourself, you solidified yourself as one of us. You shared your pain, just like we all did. You trusted us with your past."

He shrugged. "So? It was an explanation that was way overdue."

"But the thing is, you trusted us. And now, what were asking you, is to trust us again."

Finally realizing what she was saying, Snow spoke after Lightning. "Yeah. I mean, what's one more obstacle for seven l'Cie?"

Vanille, who had been relatively quiet the whole time, walked over to where Nero was, and knelt down to his eye level.

"Nero, we all promised to go to Oerba together. All of us. We're so close, too. So please. Please trust us," she pleaded.

The demon hybrid pursed his lips. The group stood there in silence, waiting for a response from the demon hunter.

After for what seemed like a whole minute, Nero stood up to his whole height. His eyes drifted to every single member of the group.

He closed his eyes, before nodding. "Alright. Let's go, then."

Vanille then jumped up from her crouch, smiling in relief. The others glanced at each other in agreement, and the group began to head towards the tower.

Hollow slowly rebooted his systems. After a short while, he regained control of his eyes. During this time, he watched the l'Cie converse with each other, before seeing them leave.

At this time, Hollow decided to use his internal server to look at the files on the l'Cie. He did not have anything on his opponent, or the two other female l'Cie, but he did have files on the other four.

He began with the soldier woman. In the unbroken part of his visor he could see a mugshot of her.

"Faction: Guardian Corps. Task Force: Bodhum Security Regiment. Rank: Sergeant. Hair: Strawberry-Blonde. Eyes: Blue. Codename: Lightning. Name: Farron-"

He smiled to himself, as the woman laughed at his joke.

"P-Please! Please stop! You're too, funny!"

He scratched his head, ruffling his short brown hair. The man always blushed when he caught her smiling. He lost himself every time she pushed away her pink locks to reveal her crystal blue eyes.

He only realized it too late, when he had uttered the words, "I love you."

Hollow blinked briefly. His rebooting continued, but something was changing his programming.

"Li... Lisa..."

-Taejin's Tower-

"If we get through this tower, we'll finally reach Oerba!" Vanille cheered.

Snow grinned at her. "Yep. You two are almost home."

The group had walked through the Tyrant's Gate, and were walking down a corridor, with ominous lighting on the floor. When Nero looked at the design of the path, and it reminded him of something from ancient China, except it was extremely old, and was run down.

"How much do wager that his place is filled with monsters?" Sazh wondered.

As he heard the man, Hope visibly frowned. "Guys, isn't that one fal'Cie from before in this tower?"

Lightning's stride did not falter. "After all we've done, what's one more fal'Cie at this point?"

-Ground Tier-

The chamber that they had entered was easily deduced as the bottom of the tower. Above them was a long dark ceiling with a small bit of light at the top. The room was surrounded by strange pillars, but upon further inspection, they were wheels, that were positioned around the chamber. In the room's center, two stone arcs loomed over a strange crystal, but there was a circular hole where the two arcs connected. Surrounding the crystal were four large statues. To Nero, they looked like armored bipedal lions, with horns on them. In each hand was a stone sword. He assumed that these were probably ancient warriors from the past.

It was as he walked past the statues, however, when he heard something. He couldn't understand it, but he realized it was some distorted language. Looking around, he tried to see if anyone else was in the chamber. However, he spotted nothing.

He was about to continue, when he heard the sound again. And when Vanille spoke, he knew he wasn't going crazy.

"Hey! D- Did anyone else hear that?"

Nero shook his head. "Yeah. I did." Looking at everyone else, he knew that they had heard the voice as well.

Sazh looked around nervously, and looked at the statues. "Uh, guys... Those statues wouldn't happen to be alive, would they."

His eyes widened like dish plates, when one statue turned its head to face them.

"AH! It moved!"

The statue spoke again. The group could only hear strange whispers.

"Does anyone understand what it's saying?" Lightning asked.

Hope shrugged. "I don't know. It sounds like voices in my head. But I can't make them out."

Fang walked forward, hands on her hips. "I can. It says, "Your presence draws the Tyrant's gaze. Leave this place at once.""

Vanille looked at the staue, the Menhirrim, pleading. "But we can't go back. This the only way through!"

"Plus, you let those other two idiots through!" Nero added.

The Menhirrim turned its head towards Nero. It looked at him and spoke again, as Fang listened carefully.

"He who passed here carried Sparda's Proof on his neck," the Huntress translated.

Nero realized what the statue had meant, and reached for his necklace. "Wait! Was it this?"

He held out Dante's Amulet, which quickly got the statue's attention.

""You carry Sparda's Proof over your neck?"" Fang repeated.

Nero nodded. "Yeah. I'm Sparda's Grandson. Me and my friends are traveling, and this is the only way we can go. Tyrant or not, we need to get through. Will you let us pass?"

The Menhirrim stared at the group of l'Cie, before answering them in its language.

Fang smiled in satisfaction. "As you wish, Descendant of Sparda. Look for us, and the path will open for you."

The statue then gripped its stone blade, and impaled it into the ground. A light illuminated the room, and a rumbling sound was heard. All around them, the walls rotated, linking with a rail along the wall. Strangely, small bell chimes were heard when the machinery was working.

When the rails linked together, a circular elevator descended from the upper floors.

Snow smirked. "Easy enough."

Hope had a cautious look on his face. "But it could still be a trap."

"Could be. After all, Vergil came before us, and messed the pattern up. He could've left us a few surprises," Nero concluded.

The afro man shrugged. "Then again, there aren't any stairs for us to use, are there?"

Fang walked towards the elevator. "Bumpy or not, this is our ride. So let's go!"

The others followed after her, and they all entered into the elevator. There was a lever at the center. Once everyone was inside, Light pulled it, and a whirring sound was heard. With a small jerk, the elevator ascended, with the seven l'Cie inside.

-Second Tier-

The elevator stopped, startling the group. To the right, the elevator opened, to reveal that they were on their first stop.

The group walked out of the elevator, when a distant howl was heard.

"What was that?" Hope nervously.

Suddenly, the fal'Cie from before had appeared from the lower floors. Now that it was close, Nero examined it fully. It had a large face reminiscent of a golden skull, with two horns on the sides of its face, and white paint surrounding its eye sockets. A long tail followed behind it, made out of large pearls, and strange ornaments that had faces designed on them. Two arms with green scales were on it sides, with sharp claws as well.

"This thing must have been waiting for us!" Lightning realized.

The fal'Cie, Dahaka, screeched at them, before doing a circular loop. As it did, the group noticed that it had three pearls at the bottom of its tail, resembling a snake rattle. The pearls began to glow, and as it did the loop, it fired a Firaga Blast.

"RUN!" shouted Snow, as the group scrambled to get away.

The seven managed to dodge the blast, before it collided with them. It created flames that cut them off from the elevator.

Another screech was heard, and the l'Cie drew their weapons as Dahaka hovered before them.

"Here we go again, "Fang remarked dryly.

"Tenacious little fella, ain't he? Can't take a hint!" Snow responded.

Light scoffed. "Teh. You're one to talk."

Before Snow could answer, three lights appeared before them. Out of them, came three Menhirrim, with weapons in hand.

Two of the warrior statues charged at the fal'Cie, swiping their weapons at it, and forcing it back. The one that stayed behind, however, charged energy into its stone sword, and swung. When it did, it released a wave of energy that was sent to Dahaka. The energy wave sliced through half of the tyrant's tail. Dahaka screeched in pain, as it flew to the upper levels in retreat.

Sazh stared at the floating statues with a dumbfounded expression, before cheering loudly. "WOO! Yeah! I'll be damned!"

Nero faced him. "You tryin' to jinx us?"

The Menhirrim trio turned towards the seven l'Cie. They heard one of them speaking to them.

"Vanille, what are they saying?" Hope inquired.

The girl listened carefully to the statue. "They're... They're sad..."

In a bright flash, the three Menhirrim disappeared, leaving the travelers to themselves again.

"Well, at least that thing won't bother us again," Lightning acknowledged.

"Still, we need to be on our guard. For all we know, Vergil's right around the corner," Nero cautioned.

With that being said, the l'Cie continued to walk down the pathway.

-Sixth Tier-

The three Vampire Cie'th stumbled backwards, before they all fell backwards, with both halves of their bodies separated. Before them, the Sanctum l'Cie sheathed his blade slowly.

Somar Leunam walked up from behind and examined the corpses. "Impressive."

Vergil ignored the man, and continued walking past the doorway. In his sights, was another elevator to be used.

""An Offering of Blood must be given in the Pulsian Tower of Babel. Let the Blood of the l'Cie fall into the ground of the Cloven Spine, in the Coming Hours of the Day of Wrath." That is what the excerpt in the Ark said, did it not?" asked the Dark Slayer.

"Indeed," He answered, as he placed his hand on Vergil's shoulder.

Vergil tensed briefly, before walking away. "Once there, we will have to investigate the whereabouts of where to make this offering."

Somar nodded. "True, but there is still the dilemma of what the offering is."

"That will not be a problem..."

Somar watched as Vergil slowed to a stop. As he stood there, the old man noticed that the l'Cie was shaking violently.

A sly smile appeared on the old man's face. "Of course that won't be a problem."

Vergil fell on his knees, shaking sickly. "What... What have you done to me?"

Somar walked before Vergil, and knelt in front of him. He lifted his right hand, the one he patted Vergil's shoulder with. Looking closely, the Sanctum l'Cie saw little spikes on the glove's palm.

"Yes. I placed a certain poison on these little spines. One of our most developed weapons in PSICOM, made just for l'Cie. You see, it begins with paralysis, making you lose control of your entire body. Eventually, you'll black out, and expire."

Vergil slumped further, never taking his eyes off of Somar. "How... Dare you..."

The old man stood up, grinning triumphantly. "Let's be honest with each other, Vergil. You were going to kill me once this was all over, anyway. At least now, you won't have to worry about that."

"And as for our offering, well, I'm going to need your blood." he explained. "Seeing as you were the only l'Cie I could get my hands on."

Seeing Vergil's helpless position, he elaborated further. "You see, originally, I was going to steal one of the captive l'Cie back in the Palamecia, and use it to translate the Pulsian lore at the Ark. However, seeing as how we were attacked, I had to abandon my plans to save my life."

"Thankfully, you appeared. True, I had to make you think you were in charge, but it was all worthwhile. Thanks to you, I learned of how Sparda freed himself from his curse."

"But what it also did, was confirm a legend. You see, Cocoonian lore stated that they were also experimenting with methods to enable people to use magic naturally, even if you were not a l'Cie. If this place truly is where Sparda abandoned his role as a l'Cie, then this is where I will gain new power.

He began chuckling. "I will gain the power of magic, and shall overthrow the fal'Cie! I will take my place as the most powerful being on Cocoon, and rule as I should have done years ago!"

The older Leunam laughed as he played the thought of finally being the leader of Cocoon.

"And I have you to thank for it, Vergil! I owe it all to you! Heheheh, HAHAHAHA-"

Suddenly, he heard the sound of sliding metal. Then, after a brief second, he felt pain on his left eye. Screaming in pain, Somar clutched it, as Vergil stood on his full height, with Yamato in his hand.

"That's all I needed to hear," he responded.

Somar's eye widened in shock. "B- But! The poison! How-"

"Your venom was made for regular l'Cie. I am not a regular l'Cie. I am beyond that. I am a Son of Sparda!" he interjected.

Stepping backwards, Somar then sprinted towards the exit, and past Vergil. The old man only made it a few feet from the door, before something impaled his leg. Crying out in pain, he looked at his leg, and saw a light blue phantom sword that went through the back of his knee. It broke apart, and he hastily limped towards the doorway.

Vergil, meanwhile, walked towards the official with dark intent. "Did you think yourself to be wily enough to deceive me? I warned you, those that betray me shall receive a swift and painful death!"

Somar fearfully stepped back, and held his arm up. "No! P- Please! Mercy, I beg of you!"

Then, suddenly, the tower began to shake, with sounds of bell chimes being heard. Somar fell forward, right in the middle of the door. The Sixth Tier began spinning, which closed the path to the room Vergil was in. Thus, Somar was caught in between the opening as the chamber was closing.

Seconds later, Vergil turned away, as Somar cried out in pain. Vergil stood by, as he heard the sounds of bones crunching, and Somar's cries dying. After a few seconds, the only thing heard, was the sound of the bell chimes.

Vergil breathed deeply, before swiping his sword in the air, sheathing it.

"So he decided to come after all."

-Fifth Tier-

"I think my legs are startin' to hurt from going up and down these stairs," muttered Sazh.

The group was walking down a stairway and descending down to the next floor. They had tried looking for the next Menhirrim that would help them get to the top.

"It's funny, because you were just talkin' about how there weren't any on the bottom," Snow commented.

Sazh scoffed. "Yeah. Me and my big mouth."

They all made it to the central walkway. To their relief, in the far right end of the walkway was the statue that they were looking for.

"Found it!" cheered Vanille.

The group approached the statue, hoping to activate it. However, that hope disappeared when a loud screech entered into their ears.

The seven l'Cie looked to their left to see Dahaka rising come the upper floors. From the bottom of its tail, they saw a large pearl glowing in a light blue hue. Then it whipped its tail at them, and it fired a large Blizzaga spell.

Snow led the teens away from the blast, while Fang, Light, and Nero jumped away. Sazh barely managed to run frantically away from the point of impact.

The pilot looked at the frozen wall behind him, and then sent an annoyed glance at the Viper.

The chocobo chick chirped angrily, as he hollered, "HEY! Pick on someone your own size-"

He was cut off, as the three Menhirrim appeared before them in a flash of light.

"Whoa! M- my bad."

Two of the warrior statues charged towards the fal'Cie, with weapons raised. One Menhirrim struck the fal'Cie, causing it to recoil away from the statue. Howling at the figures, Dahaka swung its tail at two of the statues. Both Menhirrim were forced to the wall of the section. They fell down a few feet, before disappearing in a blue flash.

The last statue charged energy into its weapon, and swung a wave beam towards the fal'Cie. The energy wave connected, and sliced off the rest of Dahaka's tail, leaving only one pearl remaining.

Hissing at both the statue and the l'Cie, Dahaka flew away from them, heading to the top of the tower.

Seeing that the danger had passed, Hope sighed in relief.

"That was close... I guess they saved us again."

The Menhirrim faced the seven travelers, and spoke to them in its language.

Vanille listened to the living statue. "They want to help us," she translated.

The statue then pointed at its fellow statue, which was a few feet away from the group.

"It says, "Show the Proof of Sparda to my brother, for he shall lead you to the Apex of this tower. There, the Tyrant waits.""

The Grandson of Sparda tensed, when he heard her. Apex was another word for the top. And waiting for him at the top, was Vergil.

Then, the Menhirrim disappeared in another flash.

"It's gone..." Vanille spoke.

Snow walked towards the statue. "Well, at least the path's open, now. That's good right?"

Nero nodded, as he walked past Snow, and towards the statue. He stood in front of it, and reached for Dante's Amulet. After pulling the trinket away from his neck, he held it up in his Bringer hand. He lifted his arm, and showed it to the statue. After a few seconds, the Perfect Amulet began to glow in a red hue.

Seeing this, the Menhirrim gripped its stone club, and impaled it down to the floor. A spark of magic hit the ground, with caused the ground to shake. Bells chimed nearby, as the tower began to spin again. The group fell to their knees, trying not to be thrown off of the walkway.

Nearby, they could see that the rails on the Fifth and Sixth Tiers had connected to the main rail.

Putting the amulet over his neck again, Nero walked back to the group. "So now what?"

"Now, we backtrack, and get on that elevator," Fang explained.

-Sixth Tier-

The elevator ascended onto the floor, before the rail ended. Its gears slowed to a stop. The hatch opened, and the seven travelers exited the elevator.

Sazh looked up at the ceiling, but saw none. He could see the light of the sun, as a large hole brought small amounts of sunlight down.

"Not too far from the top, now," observed the pilot.

"Not too far from Oerba, too!" added Vanille happily.

Nero, however, was nervous. The closer they were to the top, the closer they were to Vergil.

"Guys, hold on," Lightning warned suddenly.

As they group walked towards an opening, a gruesome sight was placed before them. The corpses of three Vampire Cie'th were on the floor. They were all eviscerated, as limbs were spread out across the floor.

What caught their attention, however, was the bloody mess in front of them.

Hope, covered his mouth at the sight. Two halves of what seemed like a human body was on both sides of the opening.

Nero crouched over the body, while everyone else cringed. Lightning took a few steps forward, followed by Fang. Both women did not get too close to the body, however.

"What is it?" Fang asked.

"Or better yet, who?" Lightning added.

The devil hunter examined the body closely. As he did, he began to recognize the blood stained uniform, and ultimately, to who it belonged to. He could not recognize the face, for it was bruised and scarred beyond repair. Also, the other half of the face was missing.

Nero stood up. "This thing right here? It's Leunam."

Sazh blinked. "Leunam? As in the old man?"

Nero nodded in response.

"But how'd he end up like this?" Snow inquired.

"Beats me. All I know is that whatever happened to him must have been pretty painful," Nero added.

Vanille frowned. "How terrible."

"Trust me, Vanille. He more than deserved a painful death," Lightning assured with a small tone of venom.

Nero then looked ahead. In another room was an elevator.

Hope walked beside him, and saw the elevator. "That leads to the top right?"

"Yeah. It does..."

He led the group, as they approached the elevator. However, before ascending the ramp, Nero stopped. Noticing his action, the others decided to do the same.

"Somethin' on your mind, Pretty Boy?" Fang asked.

Nero glanced up at the ceiling. "He's... He's up there."

Knowing whom he was referring to, the group went silent.

"C'mon," Snow urged, as he pounded his fists together. "We're all here, man. Together, your old man won't know what hit him."

Nero, closed his eyes slowly, taking in a deep breath.

"Look guys... I'm glad that you came all this way with me. You have no idea how relieved I am to know that you guys have my back.

His eyes opened, revealing a firm and determined gaze. "But there's one thing I want to say..."

Quickly turning to face them, retracted his Devil Bringer backwards, and shot it forward with the palm extended. This summoned a Spectral Bringer that pushed the other l'Cie into the wall.

Recovering from the shock, Lightning looked up, and saw Nero walking towards the elevator. He looked back at the group, with a sad look on his face.

"I'm sorry."

Nero then pulled the lever, and the hatch began to close.

As it did, the hybrid took one last look at his friends. In each and every one of their faces, he saw mixed expressions of shock and hurt.

Nero took a deep, shameful breath as the elevator ascended.

"I really am sorry... But this is something I have to do on my own..."

-The Cloven Spire-

Nero waited patiently, as the elevator stopped. Getting out of it, he took notice of his surroundings. The area he was in was exposed to the outside. The sky was still reddish-orange, for the sun was still rising. In the middle of the area was a raised platform that was held by the spires that surrounded the tower. Below the platform was a small narrow walkway, that had a deep, dark chasm below it.

Nero kept his eyes forward, as he descended the ramp. He walked a few meters along the area's outline, before stopping.

Standing a few feet away, was his father, Vergil, looking out into distance.

Neither said anything to the other for a few seconds, before Vergil spoke.

"You came... As expected."

Nero said nothing, waiting for him to finish speaking.

"However... Did you believe that I would not sense the energy coming from the other l'Cie?"

Nero frowned. "That was all thanks to that old man. If he hadn't left his pawn there, I would've gotten here sooner. But since that was the case, the others found out that I left, and followed me."

"Why did you not send them back?"

Nero smiled to himself. "We're all pretty stubborn."

"... I see." Vergil finally turned to face his son.

"So answer this. Did you kill the old man?" Nero wondered.

Vergil shook his head. "Unfortunately, no. Somar attempted to poison me, but it was weak. When he tried to run, to tower shook, and crushed him while he was in the middle of the doorway."

"But he was just another means to an end, right? Like Dante?"

The Dark Slayer chose to ignore the question. "Have fully considered my offer?"

The boy frowned, and looked at the man again. "Your offer. The one where you and I save ourselves, and leave my friends to rot, right?"

"That is correct, to a certain extent."

Sighing, Nero's hands dropped to the side. "So you seriously want to go through with this?"

"Yes," Vergil confirmed. "I have yet to perform the task myself. I waited for you, so that I may receive an answer. It is rather fitting, is it not? Father and son. Defeating the fal'Cie curse together."

The Son of Sparda's word only annoyed Nero further. Looking a way, he looked into the distance, where the sun was rising.

Thinking to himself, a thought came to the young man's mind. "What's gonna happen to my friends?"

Vergil lifted his head, his gaze piercing. "There is nothing that can be done for them. Their fate is sealed."

"How do you know that?" Nero responded.

"Despite their positions as l'Cie, they are still only humans. Therefore, they lack any true potential to change anything. You and I, however, have the blood of demons. Our heritage grants us the right to change the way of things. It is our birth right."

"But then, couldn't I just as easily change their fates as well, since it's my "birth right" to change things?" Nero countered.

Vergil shook his head. "It is pointless, my son. Why must you persist in aiding them?"

Nero's head snapped towards him. "Because I care about them, damn it!"

Sighing in frustration, Vergil gave a harsh glare at Nero. "Enough... Answer me. What is decision? Will you join me, or not?"

Nero laughed to himself. "I think... We both know what my answer will be."

The former knight reached for his sword, and unsheathed it. He then leveled it, and pointed the Red Queen towards his the Dark Slayer.

"Here's my answer. Take your offer, and shove it"

Hearing this, Vergil scowled as he sent a menacing glare at his son. "You fool... You would pass this opportunity? One that may never appear again?"

"That's right," Nero answered. "I don't need your help to get rid of this curse. Me and my friends are capable of finding out how to do it ourselves."

His father scoffed. "Need I remind you that your decision is also at the expense of your fellow l'Cie?"

Nero shook his head. "Nope. It ain't happenin'. You'll be dead before you can even try."

The Son of Sparda grew even more frustrated. "I do not understand... Why do you foolishly risk your own well being for them? They mean nothing to you!"

"That's where you're wrong," Nero interjected. "See, we all have each others back. Even though I chose not to include them into this fight, I know that they would risk their necks for the people we care about."

"That's what you do in a family. That's what they are to me. My family."

The Dark Slayer growled. "Foolish boy! I AM YOUR FAMILY!"

"NO YOU'RE NOT!" shouted Nero. "See, that's your problem. You think that just because you found out that I'm your son, that you can go around telling me what to do! Well news flash, asshole. You don't! My friends have done more for me in a MONTH, than what you could ever do in a lifetime!"

"I said it before, and I'll say it again. You and I share blood. But that's it. Nothing's changed between you and me. I'm still going to kill you, and take vengeance, for my fiancée's murder!"

The Son of Sparda's glare became fiercer, as he gripped Yamato's scabbard tightly. "Foolish boy. You would die for them? Even if you managed to leave this planet, they would return to a world that considers them their enemy. They do not belong anywhere!"

"I don't care! Whether I'm there or not, they will make it. After all their suffering, they deserve a chance to live! A chance to live out their lives in piece! They deserve a second chance."

"And this... This is my second chance."

Nero got into a fighting stance, and readied his blade. "So in case you didn't hear me before, then maybe you'll understand this..."

Nero lifted his Devil Bringer, and raised his middle finger towards his father. "Bite me."

Vergil raised his head, looking at the Pulse l'Cie in disdain. "So you have resigned to your fate, I see..."

The Grandson of Sparda shrugged. "Looks like it."

After standing there for a few seconds, Vergil then crouched slowly, reaching for the hilt of Yamato.

"So be it... Die with the rest of your so-called "family!""

At the same time, both warriors clashed their swords against each other.

Their duel began once more.

Ch. 32: Vengeance

As Lightning and the others hurry after their friend, Nero and Vergil's duel begins. Will he be able to defeat Vergil? Can the seven l'Cie unite to defeat this powerful foe? Or will their journey together have an early end?

AN: Now, I wanna discuss some details on my planned revisions for the beginnings of this fic.

I've been told that Nero is a bit Dante-esque in the beginning, and I agree with this criticism. Therefore, I'm completely REWRITING the beginning.

Think of it like a Director's Cut.

There seem to be various inconsistencies, such as the entry to Cocoon. I mean, a shooting star landing in Bodhum would be noticeable by anyone. And I feel that Nero did not truly interact as much as he could with the characters in the beginning. Also, in the Vestige, he should have had second thoughts on the two teens to stay back, but realize that he had no other choice. Finally, the whole "killing humans" factor. He should have at least thought about it before going through with it.

Nero will also have a more detailed intro, involving more characters from the DMC shop, as well as showing how Kyrie's loss has affected his behavior.

I'm going to add more details, such as Lightning vs the soldiers on the train, Nero vs the broken warmech, etc. I'm also giving Nero more interactions with the characters in the 13 Days before the Purge, and introducing Leunam properly. I will also be expanding upon his character a bit more.

So yeah, those are some things I intend to change. I will probably do them when I finish this fic, or when I'm not busy doing anything. I'll probably upload them all at once.

Also, I am announcing that in the future, I may ( and that's a BIG may) do a Xenosaga and Star Wars crossover and. I have it planned out a bit, but I need to put it in paper. So stay tuned for that.

Another fic I want to do is a Legend of Zelda Wind Waker and an Ed Edd n Eddy crossover. All I can say is that it's a childhood dream of mine that I would like to see.

As for Asura's Wrath Reborn... I may need a co-author to help me with the fic. So if you're a fan of that fic, and wanna help give me ideas, message me.

That's all I can think of for now...

Until we meet again... READ & REVIEW!