XXIII. Acceptance.

When did it become so common to find him and just start a nice talk with Kuja? It was so frighteningly normal that Zidane still cringed at the thought, not that this wasn't nice, but still, they both spent so much time together now that it seemed like those days of constant struggle and hatred never existed.

How could he forget? How could he forgive? This would become a very dark and terrible secret once they returned their home. Maybe he'd lose friends if they ever knew that he still helped Kuja, no doubt about it, but he had to assume the consequences of his decisions.

When they lingered on the replica of the Crystal World, the older brother seemed to carry all of their worries within himself, since Zidane didn't wish them to notch his mood. He needed to be energetic and sharp as possible if he wanted to contribute to their victory over Chaos.

Kuja laid his slender body against the glimmer of a great crystal prism, not tiredly, but rather deliberate, as he contemplated his younger counterpart with sober eyes. "What if I tell you that there's a chance that many of us will achieve nothing at the end of the path?"

"What are you talking about? We were both pretty clear about our last whereabouts… Oh, you must be talking about the others, right?"

"We're confident that I make it along you after the Iifa Tree incident, and I may live just a for short while after… but…"

Oh no, he knew that frown, that soft darkened look on his eyes.

"You saw something when Ultimecia forced you inside Terra's mind, didn't you?"

"She's dead."


He bit his lower lip as he stared to his feet. "Terra is meant to die, once Kefka does. They're both connected by magic. He's the God of Magic, and she's a creature essentially formed by that element. She can't survive if he disappears."

"… Wouldn't she know?"

"She… I don't know how much of her original memories are back. But I can sense that aching hopelessness growing inside her soul. The harder she fights, the tougher it gets for her to accept it."

It devastated him to know. That girl who fought so hard for so long, would it only lead her to her early death? This wasn't fair. Among all people, Terra was the least deserving of that dreadful fate. It angered him to know that he couldn't do anything to refrain it. He was useless.

You decided to ask. Maybe this was harder for him than it was for Zidane. "And what about you? Have you accepted it?"

Kuja looked at the brother again and rose one eyebrow. "Are you talking about her? Or… are you talking about me?"

His statements probably made things even worse for Zidane.

"I… I guess both." The young man lied. He'd do anything to avoid that topic. "Honestly, I don't know if I can believe in that yet. Terra is the sweetest and strongest girl, and I refuse to believe that she has to go like that. It isn't fair. Kefka is the only bastard who needs to get punished, and she doesn't need to get dragged down because of some jester's homicidal wishes."

"… Yes, you're right." Again, that sad smile.

"Hey! I know what're you thinking about, but you're not Kefka. And I'm not Terra either. I want to be with you because of my own accord. And you're… at least not as insane as that clown. So, don't try to talk me about abandoning my resolve."

"You know that I won't last long once it's all over." The white mage didn't want to appear preoccupied but it was so damned obvious when he was feeling bad. Zidane knelt next to the older sibling and put his hand on the armored knee.

"Who knows. Maybe not. All we know is that you're not supposed to… uh… well, my point is that I don't think that you have to die right away."

"Don't you dare saying that you won't allow me to die, Zidane." There was a iniquitous look in his eyes. "If you truly care about me, then don't interfere with my life. If you try to keep me alive against my wishes I will die cursing you, and it'll haunt you until the day of your demise. I swear." His pearl teeth showed as a warning gesture.

The boy needed to take that seriously. It was Kuja, after all.


"So, Cloud, you basically want to return and see just how many people of your planet survived the whole mess Sephiroth put you through? Sounds like a gloomy sight of the future."

"… It's the best I can expect. Better than having no future at all."

"And what about you, Terra? What's the first thing you'll do when you go back home?"

"I, uh… I'm not really sure. But I'll go to see all my friends, and I'll go to see the smiling faces of the children. They're all waiting for me so we can be a family again."

"You mean, it's like a foster home or something?"

"Not quite. All the children lost their parents, and two of the oldest are waiting for a baby… I'm the only adult they have."

It was a funny fact, because she didn't look much like an adult. But she was mature enough.

"Talking about gloom…"

"You want to share, Tidus?"

"Me? No, not now. But… I guess going back home would be nice. I don't know about my old man…" The always excited young man seemed a little down this time. Momentarily he recovered his wide smile. "But first things first! I'll play Blitzball 'til my body can't take it anymore!"

"Sounds like a plan… What will you do, Squall?"

"… I made a promise to someone."

"Aww, here's our romantic knight!" Bartz teased.

"Cut the crap." The teenage mustered.

"And you, Zidane? What're you gonna do?"

"Get some sleep." The thief grinned. Then looked back at Kuja, standing lonely and quiet from the whole group. "I'm gonna fix some things for this guy and then I'll get back to my princess." When he said the word princess, his friend teased in the same manner he previously did with Squall. "Bartz, can't you get yourself a girlfriend or whatever, so you can stop shaming us for not being singles?"

"Ow, that hurt!"

She was found seeking for his company, alone again. They entered to a rather strange deserted place, amidst rivers of fire. They were closing to the final battle, and the air was thick, almost toxic and it tired them quite easily on the road.

They had to rest once again, and restore their health for the toughest of fights. They found a large cave below the mountain, and once she was assured that she didn't need to care for another of her comrades, the girl slipped away to find Kuja standing at the entrance of the cave.

The silver haired man was staring at the cascade of bright magma, thoughtful rather than watchful for the approach of new enemies. The hot air blowing for every violent wave of lava, she deemed the heat rather unbearable. She didn't know how could he withstand it without taking care of his hair. His hair would burn, if not ruined.

"Kuja? I know that it's still hard to get along… but it's okay if you go in." Terra placed her hand on his unmoving shoulder.

"… Your resolve was quite touching. No wonder why you're such a motherly shape in this crew of numbskulls."

He wanted to talk, and she didn't have any reason to take that from him. Besides, the sight was quite beautiful if she decided to ignore the extreme heat. Hopefully they wouldn't get any closer to the magma.

"You know? I never thought that I was maternal at all." She answered. "I simply responded to the idea of protecting people from danger. But that's what mothers mostly do."

"Only good mothers." He completed, staring back at the girl. His eyes were reflecting the orange light of the wild. "I've seen parents turning their backs to their children with the faintest flame of avarice and cowardice. You're just one of the few good souls that miraculously can escape from the circle of grief. You even do it for children who aren't your own."

"… I thought it was just natural. I… remember, no, I mean, I want to believe that I remember a loving mother who once took care of me." Without realizing it you smiled at the thought. "I know it's hard for you to understand, but, at least once, wouldn't you have liked to be under the wing of a loving parent?"

"I wasn't born helpless. By instinct I reject the idea of childish dependence. Besides, may I repeat, I was born an adult."

"I see..." Terra felt silly for forgetting that. "… I'm sorry if I ask you something weird, but were you never curious about it? Didn't you ever wanted to be a real child?"

"As I said, I naturally reject the idea of childish dependence. If the thought of having spawn from my own blood makes me cringe, why would I even wish to become one of those tiny creatures? It's… disgusting."

"I thought that you could realize, but even now you're still clueless." The look on his eyes hardened. "No matter how much of an adult you think you are: You behave like a spoiled little kid."

"… What?" He seemed very upset, and somehow she perfectly saw it coming. "Don't you dare referring to me like that again!"

"But you're growing up." She giggled, taking a taunting approach. He didn't have any intention of harming her for those words. "It makes me glad. You're becoming an adult. A child has a hard time comprehending complex feelings, and with growth and development, the child begins to understand, little by little."

He still frowned to the girl. "… Interesting metaphor. But not much alluring."

"Nice thing you've been growing up rather fast."

"I still see no sense in your little words." He grunted. "If you're trying to tell me something, I haven't caught the thread."

"I mean, you're very immature for your age."

"If I didn't know you already, I'd say you're trying to pick up a fight with me by saying such bull."

"Well, that's precisely part of the attitude of which I was talking about." She continued, walking past him. Maybe she was actually trying to enter into an argument. "It's a bit funny how you're in denial for these parts of yourself. And… I should stop calling you a kid before I get you angrier."

"What else did you expect?" Kuja muttered, growing impatient. "The more you try to decipher me, the more you change me. It has to stop."

His thin hand was over her shoulder, it felt strangely heavier than usual.

"Maybe. But if you think ignorance is a bliss—"

"You have no idea what kind of joy does ignorance breeds." He interrupted, almost forcing her to shut up. "It keeps you safe from all hurt. And sometimes knowledge itself can lead to your own despair."

"You're starting to talk about destruction again, Kuja." His hand truly felt heavy, so she took it and imprisoned it within her fingers. She could barely stare into his blue iris because of the burning shine they reflected. "Look, we all know what's awaiting us up that mountain, but we're not going there willing to give our lives. We don't want to die, so we force ourselves to win that battle."

"I wasn't talking about the war. Assuming that you win against Chaos… we don't when did time froze our bodies, or in which place we'll be. We don't know if we won against our enemies. We don't know if we're safe. We don't know if we're even alive. Have you ever thought about it?"

His whispers triggered a hidden uncertainty in Terra, something that she buried too well, too long ago. It was a wicked little devil crawling up again to her heart.

"… Is that what is been worrying you all this time?" She dropped her gaze down and took a deep breath, without savoring the toxic air of the volcano. "I can't blame you for being so sick worried about it though. I can't help it but to also think about it. Maybe some of us are going to die when we get back to our real worlds… but the only thing we can hope to do is to, at least, survive until the war is over."

"What if you were to die?"

Her heart stopped. What was she trying to hide so badly? She smiled, even when it looked hurt. And the hold of his fingers on hers was tightening.

"I don't wish to sound too overconfident, but I don't think that I'm going to die. I just have too many things worth living. I said that I wasn't going to let myself die, so, no matter what happens, I'll keep that on mind."

Without saying else, she sat on the ground placing her knees against her chest, right next to his legs while he stood still. However, their hands were still entwined. She felt so ill in the stomach and her head was staring to throb like a racing heart.

Then he let out one monotone murmur. "If only it was that easy, my sweet girl."

And she cried: "… Don't pretend that I don't know, Kuja. I'm not so clueless. I know what will happen once everything is over. Don't tease me with your empathy…"


"I know. I know I can die…" Her knees were getting wet below her face. "But there's so much to lose if I die. I can't give up… Even if I disappear… I just want to make it in time to see everyone at least one last time." Her hand gripping on his so tightly it could cut his blood. "It scares me to die… Just look at me. I can't stop shaking. I'm hopeless. I can't stop thinking about death. What will happen to my body? What will happen to my soul? I can't answer these questions. I'm not even ready to know these answers… I'm just too scared, Kuja."

She finally did it. After all this time, she acknowledged what was coming for her, the final hour.

The slim arm surrounded her shoulder while the other hand was still there for her to hold. She didn't know she was crying so bitterly and loud until she heard him shush in her ear. Even if they were in front of an active raging volcano, the only warmth she truly felt was that what his embrace gave to her.

He was being so incredibly kind to her right now, and she was just hopelessly crying on her knees and also cleaned herself on one of his sleeves—so much more than he could take—.

"Are you prepared to face it?" He purred, the soft waving of his lips caressed her ear.

"… I'd like to say yes, but I'd just be stupid and dishonest." She wiped the tears with her own hand. "I don't want to die, Kuja. I don't want to lose everything. But the only thing I can do is to accept it, because I wanted to save the world so badly, I wanted to save my friends so badly… I thought that I could deal with death, but I was frightened all along. I have no escape."

"No matter how brave is the hero, for death is the eternal unknown of the universe. And nothing scares us as much as the unknown."

"Have you ever feared death?"

"… I don't know anymore."

It was his response what made her grasp silence for a while. He invited her to think calmly. And he was doing right, otherwise, Terra wouldn't know how to take it, her own announced death. Maybe she'd go on a rampage, maybe she'd try to stop it whatever the cost was, but the true thing was that death was definite. It mattered not if she was heroic or vile, or if she was loved or hated; death would come under neutral judgment.

Those were the harshest thoughts that crossed her mind. But was her life worth living? Yes, it was. And it was good even with the tiny moments of happiness and love; they were enough. She wouldn't die without knowing those important emotions, and it was good enough.

"I recalled memories of my past. Just a little before I came to this war. Now I remember. We defeated Kefka… Maybe… I did manage to help building a better world for the children." She said, resting her left cheek on her knee. "I'm glad. My death won't be in vain."

Then he pulled away from her. She let go of his hand, and she was feeling well enough to stand up again on her own.

His voice recovered the monotone sound. "Just in a few hours we'll be facing Chaos. The thrill is sending chills through my spine."

"Me too." Terra nodded, staring at the gigantic waves of fire. "Kuja, what would happen if anyone of us… was struck down by Chaos?"

"Possibly we shall rest in the Void. But even if just one of us remained and yet managed to kill Chaos, I believe it would break the curse and set everyone else free to go home."

He gave hope. But it still sounded like a great trial.

"… You said they were thirteen cycles, right? Is it possible that there are other warriors resting in the Void?"

"Yes. Only if they were struck down by unnatural conditions, or course. That was the purpose of the manikins. They were made to hold Cosmos' warriors to the Void permanently, or at least until the war was terminated. They would not be revived for the next cycle."

"But… if we didn't win in this cycle, what would happen to us?"

"I don't know for sure. Cosmos is dead. I am basically expelled from Chaos' side. It is unlikely that there'll be another cycle of war… at least as we know it. That's why the Goddess thought this was your last chance to finish it. If we were killed now, we'd probably be trapped inside the Void forever…"

So, it was all or nothing now. No back-up plans, no second chance, nothing at all. One way you'd face death, other way, you'd simply cease to live. Why were they forced to risk everything in one battle? It was all unfair for everyone.

However, before walking back to her friends, he took her hand and pulled her against him again. She couldn't deny she felt surprised, even a little worried for the amount of strength he used, so she fought back. He placed one hand behind her neck and stared at her with pitiful eyes.

"I was going to give you a farewell kiss. Is there a problem?"

"… Last time, you asked permission to kiss me. Keep it that way, please." She pushed him away.

Something within her broke. She didn't want it like that. It wouldn't be the first time he played with her, but this time it truly hurt. He needed to learn more yet. To be sad and hopeless didn't mean she wanted this kind of comfort.

"Forgive me."

A/N: Sorry for the sudden hiatus, I kinda started working on a different spanish fanfic and I got excited about it.

Hopefully I will update this fanfic early next January. Wish me luck.