|Shards of Memory - Table of Contents|
Cloud leapt up, swinging the Buster Sword over his shoulder. With a smirk, Sephiroth dove down, the Masamune swinging out. The two clashed in a shower of sparks, katana and broadsword clanging loudly. Sephiroth knocked the Buster Sword aside and landed a punch on Cloud's jaw, knocking him back down. Cloud landed on his back on the platform below, and rolled away and to his feet as Sephiroth descended, the Masamune held out. The swing missed, and Sephiroth turned with the momentum, landing on his feet and spinning around. The Masamune cleaved the air, beams of white energy flying out of the blade. Cloud lifted the Buster Sword in front of his body, the energy waves dispersing on the steel. Sephiroth charged forward in their wake. The Masamune hooked over Cloud's sword, the sharpened edge of the blade gleaming in front of Cloud's eyes. With a flick of the wrist, Sephiroth spun around and swung the Masamune forward over his shoulder, sending Cloud through the air.
The air left Cloud's lungs in a rush as he slammed into one of the rocks floating around the area. He clawed at the top with his free hand, trying to pull himself up. Behind him, Sephiroth swung and sent a wave of energy into Cloud's back. Cloud let out a cry and let go, falling into empty air. Cloud turned his head as he fell and stabbed with the Buster Sword, embedding it in the side of a floating rock. Small bits of stone flew past Cloud's face as he hung onto the handle of sword, and he looked down to see the swirling abyss of the Lifestream circling below him.
"Is this all the strength you can muster, Cloud?" Sephiroth asked, appearing on the stone above him. Cloud looked back with a scowl. "I'm disappointed. I'm not nearly as strong as I was during our last encounter, yet you seem to be struggling," Sephiroth lectured. "Perhaps the weight of the torment you've endured at my hands is distracting you."
"The only torment I'm enduring," Cloud growled, a hand letting go of the Buster Sword and coming to his waist. "Is the sound of your voice!" Cloud's hand came up, a bolt of lightning firing out of the Materia orb in his palm. Sephiroth's head jerked back with a cry of surprise, the blast catching him in the face. Cloud planted his feet on the stone and pushed, pulling the Buster Sword out of the stone and flipping through the air to land on a lower platform. Above him Sephiroth leapt up, the Masamune held over his head. Cloud twirled the Buster Sword and slammed his hand onto the blade near the hilt. The Thunder Materia slipped into one of the two holes on the sword, a green sheen lighting up on the blade momentarily as the orb locked into place. Cloud leapt onto a side platform, and without hesitation launched himself further up.
The two warriors locked blades again, sparks of electricity shooting along the Buster Sword's edge. Cloud swung, knocking Sephiroth back and cleaving the Buster Sword down. A green band of energy flew through the air, slamming into Sephiroth's chest. Cloud landed on a platform while Sephiroth spun backwards, righting himself in a flurry of black feathers.
"Is that better!" Cloud shouted, swinging the Buster Sword out. Sephiroth made a face and held up his hand, black tendrils snaking along his arm. Four converged in his palm, wrapping around each other and forming a glowing, deep violet orb of energy.
"Ignorant traitor," Sephiroth sneered, the orb pulsing in his hand. The column of green spirit energy circling them flashed brightly, bands of power lashing out from the sides. Cloud staggered and fell to his knees, looking up at Sephiroth. Silver hair whipped out behind him, green eyes glittering in the light of the Lifestream. "Know your place!" A flurry of bright orange and red meteors erupted out of Sephiroth's hand, curving in the air and flying towards Cloud. Cloud leapt to another floating platform, several meteors slamming into his former perch in his wake. White and gray stone shattered, the rubble falling into the glowing white and green vortex below. Cloud leapt again, landing on a larger platform. He looked up to see Sephiroth diving towards him, Masamune drawn over his shoulder.
Cloud swung up the Buster Sword to intercept the attack, the swords slashing at each other and being deflected. Floating in the air, Sephiroth swung around and brought the katana forward again from behind Cloud. The sudden movement was too fast for Cloud to counter, and he only had time to turn his head as Sephiroth slashed. Steel met flesh and carved through it, a long red band of blood appearing through the tear in his clothing. With a smirk, Sephiroth flipped and slammed a boot into the back of Cloud's head, pitching him forward. Cloud fell through the air, the Buster Sword slipping from his grasp as he fell over the edge of the platform and landed heavily on the central platform below. A few feet in front of him, the Buster Sword clanged to the ground.
Cloud lifted his head and pushed himself to his knees, stumbling to his feet as he scrambled for his weapon. With a wince, he hefted it up and turned to see Sephiroth slowly descend behind him, a few stray feathers falling in his wake. With a loud cry, Cloud charged forward, swinging the Buster Sword. Sparks of electricity flashed again and again as the two clashed, Sephiroth blocking and dodging every blow. The Buster Sword lit up in a bright blue glow, and Cloud jumped back and charged forward. Sephiroth deflected the blow upward, and Cloud leapt up with the motion of the sword, planting his feet on Sephiroth's chest and jumping up, spinning the Buster Sword overhead and cleaving it down. Sephiroth looked up and held up a hand. A flurry of dark energy orbs burst from his palm, circling in the air and swarming around Cloud as he descended. With an explosion of dark energy, Cloud's dive was halted and he was sent flying through the air, rolling backwards and flipped onto his feet on a platform. There was a rush of air behind Cloud's neck, and with a smirk Sephiroth cleaved the Masamune over his back a second time, knocking Cloud forward to a second rock.
"Fighting, struggling so hard," Sephiroth taunted, looking down as Cloud slowly pushed himself to his hands and knees. "What a futile gesture. Accept your fate, Cloud. You fight in vain."
"Shut…up," Cloud said, using the Buster Sword to push himself into a standing position. "I'm not listening…"
"You can't help yourself," Sephiroth lectured, "so how can you expect to help your friends?" At the last word, Sephiroth dove forward, swinging the Masamune from the side. Cloud gasped as the katana slid over his throat, Sephiroth's free hand clutching the hands on the Buster Sword's hilt.
"So ignorant, no naïve…" Sephiroth whispered. "I wonder how hard you would fight if you knew the truth…shall we find out, Cloud?"
"W-what?" Cloud croaked up. The steel against his flesh drew closer as Sephiroth lowered his head to Cloud's ear.
"You believe the Crystals to be the key to restoring your friends and our world…nothing could be further from the truth. Before you die, Cloud, allow me to enlighten you. Face the ultimate truth, and know despair as you realize all you have accomplished means nothing." Sephiroth continued whispering, a smirk on his lips. As he spoke, Cloud's eyes widened, until Sephiroth drew his head back.
"You're lying," Cloud hissed, turning his head slightly to look at Sephiroth.
"Am I?" Sephiroth asked, eyes gleaming darkly. "A pity for you, you'll never have a chance to find out." With that, Sephiroth twisted Cloud's arm, and with a flip tossed him into the air. His wing flexed and he flew up, the Masamune glowing bright violet. Sephiroth swung the katana back and forth through the air, bands of dark purple light in the Masamune's wake as it sliced into Cloud's flesh again and again, bands of red blood appearing on his arms and chest. Sephiroth drew the sword back for a moment, and then swung an eighth time. Cloud lifted the Buster Sword to block the attack, but the force was too great. The Masamune let out a shockwave of energy as it knocked the Buster Sword out of Cloud's grasp, sending the broadsword spinning up through the air to stick into the underside of a floating platform.
Cloud fell to the central platform, landing heavily on his stomach. Blood poured from his wounds, smearing on the stone below. Cloud lifted his head, blood falling down his face from a small cut on his cheek, and once again pushed himself onto his hands and knees. The tears and cuts in his clothing were stained with blood. With a cough and a moan, Cloud slowly crawled to the edge of the platform, his gloves weakly grasping at the stone. He reached one of the dark blue stones lining the edge of the platform, and reached out his hand to pull himself up. There was a sound of movement behind him, and Cloud saw a shadow fall over him.
Cloud's head wrenched back in a shriek of agony as the Masamune burst through his chest, the tip of the blade dripping blood. He shuddered and collapsed on the blue stone, hands hanging over the edge, head lying sideways. Blue eyes focused on the blurring image of Sephiroth behind him, the Masamun's blade gleaming in his grasp. With a sneer, Sephiroth drew his arms back and lifted, hauling Cloud into the air on the sword. Cloud lifted his hands to clutch at the blade's tip, struggling desperately. Feet kicked at empty air, seeking something to push off of and finding nothing.
"She didn't struggle nearly as much as you are," Sephiroth said coldly, stretching out his arm. Cloud looked down as his feet moved forward to hang over the swirling abyss of the Lifestream, blinding white light shining up at him. "You cannot imagine the depths of the hatred I have for you. All of your friends have interfered, but none of them are as persistent or pathetic as you. Aerith at least accepted her death with grace, but you? You've never done anything right your entire life, and now you show you can't even die properly." Sephiroth spun, swinging the Masamune overhead. Cloud flew off the blade's hilt and spun through the air. His hip and arm slammed into a floating stone, knocking him back down to a second. Cloud lay motionless as Sephiroth slowly levitated in front of him, black wing outstretched to its full length.
"I could finish you here," Sephiroth taunted, watching Cloud's arms move weakly. "But you don't deserve death, Cloud. You deserve far worse for the humiliation you've made me endure." Sephiroth reached down and grabbed the collar of Cloud's clothing, hauling him to eye level. "You will remain when our world is remade, my obedient servant to carry forth my will, and my wrath. Your friends will die at your own hand, and then I shall revive them for you to slay again. And then you shall watch as I kill them before your eyes, to be revived again. You will spend an eternity at my side, helpless as you watch them die over and over. And you will come to beg me for the blissful release of your own death. A death that I assure you will never come."
Sephiroth flung Cloud away to a lower rock. Cloud coughed as he landed, blood dripping from his mouth. He reached out with a single hand and pulled himself forward, streaks of red in his wake. Sephiroth jumped down to stand behind him, watching as Cloud slowly crawled away.
"Still trying to fight…still struggling," Sephiroth sneered, carefully running the Masamune's edge along Cloud's back. Cloud pulled himself to the edge of the platform, collapsing with his arms and head hanging off the side, hands swaying. Cloud blinked twice, his vision blurred. "You see? There is nowhere left to run. The long journey ends here." Sephiroth allowed a smile to cross his face. "Farewell, Cloud. Do you have anything to say with the last breath you'll take of your own will?" Cloud's head turned slightly, and his lips moved. "Pardon?" Sephiroth asked. Cloud coughed again, spit out a clot of blood, and lifted bright blue eyes to stare up.
"You…" he whispered, "should have killed me when you had the chance." Sephiroth let out a snort and lifted the Masamune over his head, gripping the handle with both hands and cleaving it down.
As Sephiroth swung, Cloud gritted his teeth and stretched out the arm dangling over the edge of the platform. With a small metallic click as his glove wrapped around the handle, Cloud grabbed the Buster Sword stuck in the bottom of the platform, and pulled. He let out a loud cry, stone shattering as the sword erupted from its place and cracking under his stomach. Cloud spun with the momentum, rising up to his knees and grabbing the Buster Sword's handle with both hands. The Masamune and Buster Sword rang loudly in the air as Cloud intercepted the attack, a shockwave of energy bursting from the contact point. Sephiroth's eyes widened. With a second cry, Cloud knocked the katana aside and swung his fist up, punching Sephiroth in the jaw. Caught off-guard, Sephiroth stumbled back, staring at Cloud in a combination of shock and rage. The stone under Cloud's knees crumbled, and he fell down, flipping in the air to land on his feet on the central platform floating below.
"Impossible," Sephiroth breathed, staring on as Cloud stumbled slightly but remained standing. A shaking hand reached to his waist, pulling out the second Materia orb from his pouch and slamming it into the Buster Sword's second slot. A flash of bright green energy lit up over Cloud as the Cure spell took effect, filling him with new energy. Breathing heavily, Cloud lifted his head to look up at Sephiroth, his face stained with dirt, sweat and blood.
"Always gloating…always mocking…always trying to play with my head, make me doubt myself," Cloud said, his voice growing louder with every word, drawing more energy from them than the Materia in his sword. "One of these days, you'll know better and kill me when you get the chance. But today…that chance is gone! It's over, Sephiroth!" Sephiroth's eyes gleamed, his hand shaking slightly.
"True, I've let you live beyond your time…an error long overdue for correction!" Sephiroth all but snarled, drawing the Masamune over his shoulder and diving down, hair and cloak waving in the air behind him. Cloud closed his eyes and lowered his head. A bright blue-green aura lit up over the Buster Sword, and he hefted it over his head. With two quick twirls of his weapon, Cloud coiled his legs and leapt, wisps of blue energy in his wake. The Masamune glowed deep violet, and Sephiroth swung as the two came close. With a shout, Cloud sliced the air, knocking the sword aside, and with a second slash sent it spinning through the air, vanishing beyond the swirls of the Lifestream surrounding the area. Disarmed, Sephiroth watched as the bright blue and green aura over Cloud's weapon grew brighter.
Cloud slashed over and over, attacking Sephiroth again and again. Sephiroth recoiled with each strike, black feathers flying through the air. Cloud was relentless, swinging the Buster Sword tirelessly, bands of green energy cutting the air in its wake as it cut through Sephiroth. With an upward blow, Cloud knocked Sephiroth backwards and leapt up, holding the Buster Sword both hands. Floating on his back, Sephiroth let out a sharp gasp as the blade lit up in a blinding flash of white, light emanating from the tip. Cloud swung the sword back over his head, blond bangs fluttering.
"This is it!"
Cloud descended, spinning in the air. The Buster Sword cleaved down the length of Sephiroth's body, leaving a glowing white scar in the air and on his clothing. Cloud fell to the central stone platform below, landing in a crouch with the Buster Sword held out in front of him. He held still for a moment, breathing heavily. A single black feathered floated down in front of him, and Cloud looked up. Above him, Sephiroth was hunched over, clutching his chest with a hand. Violet and black smoke rose from his body, his wing losing feathers in a trail through the air as he floated backwards.
"This…is not over…" Sephiroth whispered, glaring down at Cloud. "As long as…the Emperor's plan…" Sephiroth smirked and chuckled lowly. "Remember what I told you, Cloud. Until next we meet…" Sephiroth closed his eyes, his wing stretching out and wrapping around him. With a flash of violet light and a flurry of feathers, the former hero vanished, a single bright white feather emerging from the light and falling into the abyss of the Lifestream. Cloud let out a breath and fell onto his hands and knees. A few sparkles of light drifted into his field of vision. With a flash of green light, a glowing round Materia orb appeared over his head. Cloud looked up and held out a hand.
"The…White Materia…" he said. The Crystal glowed brightly and slowly lowered into his palm. Cloud gripped it tightly and smiled. "Aerith…Tifa…I did it…" Cloud slumped down, curling his arm closer to clutch the Crystal to his body. "I just…" Cloud's eyes darted up to the Buster Sword, and he reached for it, fingers tracing over the two Materia orbs set into the blade near the hilt. "Cure…" Cloud whispered, laying two fingers over the Materia. With a low sigh, Cloud closed his eyes and went limp, the Crystal sliding from his grasp and rolling to lightly knock against the top of his head.
Terra flew forward, swinging out her arm to send a band of energy towards Kefka. Kefka made a face and leapt into the air, flying over the catwalk overhead. A trail of pointed red fireballs was left behind him, turning whistling through the air like arrows. Terra lifted her hands, projecting a barrier. The fireballs slammed into the barrier and reflected to the sides, exploding against the walls. Terra leapt up to fly after Kefka, blue energy crackling along her arms. Kefka dove down an airshaft, snapping his hands out behind him and sending out four blue orbs swirling towards Terra. Terra narrowed her eyes and projected another barrier over her body, surging forward faster. The four orbs exploded in flashes of light, knocking Terra off-balance slightly as she flew but not harming her.
"Stop running!" Terra called, slowing to a stop as she noticed Kefka was gone. A high-pitched cackle echoed back to her.
"Stop running!" Kefka taunted, crying in falsetto. Terra looked around, trying to decipher where the voice was coming from. The low white lights in this section of the tower dimmed and brightened, pulsing in unison. "Where would be the fun in that?" Terra tried to calm herself and closed her eyes. Concentrating, Terra spread out her senses, trying to see if she could detect Kefka's presence. "This is how it works. I run, you chase, I hurt you, you scream, I laugh, you die. This isn't complicated!" Kefka shouted. Terra opened her eyes suddenly, turning to the left and holding out her hands. Kefka emerged from the shadows, arms held back with orbs of flame in his grasp.
A large shard of ice fired from Terra's palms as Kefka flung his fireballs towards her. The projectiles slammed together, the ice shard melting and diffusing the fireballs. Terra flew forward, slashing her claws through the air. Kefka dropped down, snapping his hand up and sending a jolt of lightning at her. Terra let out a scream as she was hit, doubling over as Kefka laughed and flew away. With a scowl, Terra dove down and followed. Kefka turned as she chased him, waving his hands back and forth to send out another flurry of exploding blue orbs. Terra dodged the spells narrowly, gaining speed. The metal catwalks and glass capsules of the factory opened into an open area, white spotlights shining on the ground. Terra stopped in the air and looked around. Tall spires of dirt rose around her, red smoke billowing from them, glowing yellow stars of energy circling them in random formations. Kefka had led her out to the tower's summit.
"Enjoy the view, gonna be the last thing you ever see!" Kefka called, flying up and circling one of the spires of dirt. "Ya know what they say, go out with a smile!"
"That shouldn't be a problem for you!" Terra shot back, floating up. Kefka circled back around one of the spires, a sneer on his face and an orb of golden light in his palm. With a cry, Kefka fired a beam of light at Terra. Terra dodged, the light piercing a lower section of the tower and exploding violently. Terra lifted her hands and fired a large blast of pure magic at Kefka. Kefka dodged to the side with a scowl. The spire near him shook slightly and collapsed, dirt and steel rubble falling to the lower sections of the tower. A jagged, broken pipe end emerged from the spire's base, spewing dark red smoke into the air. Terra turned her head and flung her arm out, sending a band of energy out. Two more spires were severed, more red smoke filling the air. Kefka watched the two spires fall, then turned back to Terra. In her place, a cloud of crimson smoke filled the air.
"Hey!" Kefka snapped, spinning in place. Terra had vanished into the increasingly large field of red. "This isn't fun!" Kefka said, thrashing his arms. "Hey! HEY!" Kefka flung out his hands, randomly launching orbs of fire and ice through the smoke. "Come on out!"
"What's wrong?" Terra's voice whispered from the smoke. Kefka turned at the sound. "Is it only funny when you do it?"
"Exactly!" Kefka snarled. "Stop hiding and get out here so I can destroy you!" There was a rush of air, and Kefka had only enough time to lift an eyebrow before Terra slashed her claws down his back, tearing his cloak to ribbons and gouging four deep gashes in his skin. Kefka let out a shrill shriek and fell forward, landing on a platform at the base of a spire and rolling head over heels. He skidded to a stop and whipped his head up. As Terra watched, Kefka pushed himself to his feet, his cape bearing four slashes down the middle. He growled and reached a hand around to gingerly touch the four wounds Terra had given.
"Alright…alright," Kefka said lowly. "Fine, okay…you wanna play huh?" Kefka stretched out his hands in front of him and cracked his knuckles. "Okay, you violent little brat…" Kefka lifted his head to look up at Terra, grinning maniacally. "Let's play!" Kefka jumped out and flung out a flurry of fireballs. Terra lifted a barrier and dove down, one hand projecting the barrier while the other charged an orb of white light. Terra pulled up as Kefka dove after her, flinging out five orbs of pure energy. The orbs slammed into Kefka's back, knocking him into the ground. His white and red make-up smeared with dirt, Kefka looked up at Terra, licking his lips.
"You're starting to piss me off!" he screeched. Kefka snapped up his hands, sending a blast of pure magical energy upward, orange shockwaves appearing in the air behind it. Terra moved to the side, when the orb suddenly changed course and picked up speed. She was hit full in the chest, flipping backwards through the air through a cloud of crimson smoke and hitting the back of a spire. Terra coughed as some dirt rained onto her head. There was a dark chuckle, and she tilted her head up. Kefka rose up from behind one of the broken spires in front of her, a bright red aura covering his body. Terra slammed her claws into the rock behind her and pushed off, launching herself towards him. Kefka lashed out a hand, sending a blue pulse of magic out. Terra flew over it, flipping forward and grabbing the edge of the pipe. Kefka flung out another blast of magic, and Terra flipped over it, somersaulting over Kefka's head and raking her claws down his back. Kefka let out another scream and dropped to his feet as Terra continued her attack, turning as she fell behind him and slashing at the back of Kefka's legs.
With a cry of surprise, Kefka stumbled forward and pitched into the entrance of the pipe in front of him. Terra's head snapped up at the sounds echoing up the pipe – a mixture of a scream and a cackle. The sounds died down slowly, and with a long creak, the smoke pouring from the pipe ceased. Terra hovered over the edge, looking down. The pipe's inside quickly became shadowed, allowing virtually no visibility. Terra waited, but the only sounds were her own breathing and the dull, steady clanking of machinery from inside the tower.
"I did it…" Terra breathed, descending and landing. "The Crystal…where-"
There was a muffled explosion, and Terra's head whirled around, purple and pink hair dancing along her back. With a blast of red smoke and magical energy, a pair of metal doors farther down the tower exploded. Breathing heavily, Kefka stumbled out of the doors, head held down. He took a few steps out of the tower and stood up straight. With a loud snarl of rage, his clothing tore, four bright lavender wings bursting from his back in a flurry of feathers. Beneath them sprouted two smaller, dark purple wings. The ruins of Kefka's robes fell to the ground around him, leaving him bare save for the torn remnants of his cloak wrapped around his waist. Kefka turned and flew into the air, wings flapping furiously.
"I'M GONNA KILL YOU, YOU VIOLENT LITTLE BITCH!" Kefka screeched, eyes bulging. Two rays of golden light shot out of his palms. Terra flew about, narrowly dodging the assault. Beams of energy lanced into the tower around her, missing her by inches as Kefka flew after her. "Run run, or you'll be well done!" A spire pouring smoke into the air exploded as Terra flew around it, rubble flying through the air. Kefka's berserk onslaught continued, firing beams of light randomly now. Terra stopped behind a still standing spire, panting. "What's wrong!" Kefka shouted, charging up a larger orb of power. "I thought we were having fun! The last time I had this much fun was burning that pathetic little hamlet Mobliz! Just wish now I'd thought to go back and take a second sweep to make sure I didn't miss the little brats the first time. Might have saved me a big pain in the ass!"
Terra's breath caught, her eyes wide. The spire behind her shattered, and Terra turned her head to see Kefka floating in the air behind her. Terra had a flash of revelation, and it sickened her. Kefka's make-up was nearly gone, run off in the course of their fighting, only a few patches of white and red left around his eyes. With his normal face showing for the first time she could recall, Terra got a good look at what Kefka looked like under the clownish façade. For a moment, Terra thought that in another life, the man might have been considered handsome. She pushed away the repulsive thought quickly. It was easy, considering that the face in question was drawn back in a sinister leer.
"Peek-a-boo," Kefka snickered, drawing back a hand and summoning an orb of light. "Time to die!" Kefka snapped his hand forward, when Terra lunged up at him. Yellow claws wrapped around Kefka's hand, blue eyes blazing. "Now now, don't make this harder than it has to be!" Kefka sneered, conjuring another orb in his other hand. Terra's claw seized his wrist, the nails digging into the skin. Blue energy lit up Terra's arms. Kefka looked at her with a scowl. "It was more fun when you were running!"
"No," Terra whispered, narrowing her eyes. "No more running." Terra twisted, seizing Kefka's hand and flinging him through the air. With a cry, Terra brought her hands together and shot a large shard of ice into Kefka's chest, knocking him further back. She closed her eyes and spun, sparks of electricity gathering along her arms.
"Mobliz…my friends…my family…I'll protect all of them."
"I can protect everything!" Terra stopped spinning and raised her arms over her head. Kefka turned in the air slowly, his grin vanishing as Terra came into view. With a shriek, Terra flung out her arms, white blades of energy slicing the air. Kefka made a face, his wings drooping.
The blades slammed into Kefka, blowing his wings and robe out behind him. With a scream, Kefka's head snapped back, feathers being torn away. The white bands flew past him, spread out and circled back around, bombarding him from all directions. Kefka's body was consumed in an explosion of pure energy, Terra watching from the air a distance away. The smoke cleared to reveal Kefka hanging limply in the air, slumped over. He was breathing heavily, his eyes half-opened. He looked up and pointed at Terra, licking his lips. Wisps of purple and black smoke began to rise up from his body. Kefka looked at the arm being held out and gasped, shaking his head.
"No…no no no no no," he moaned, bringing his other hand up to see the same dissolution happening. "No way, not yet! Come on! I was just getting into it!" he protested, tilting his head up to look at Terra, his mouth hanging open. She floated closer as Kefka's wings began to dissolve in particles of red and violet energy. "Not now…" he muttered, holding his arms up to the side, looking between them in horror. "This…this…this bites!"
"It's over, Kefka," Terra whispered. Kefka let out a small chuckle as his wings finished vanishing, the energy particles now coming from his body.
"No kidding," he replied, letting his head drop back down. "Heh…heh heh heh…well…if I gotta go…" Kefka's body began to fade away, turning transparent. His shoulders shook, and he let out a cackle. "I'm going out with a bang!" Kefka drew his hands back, a large orb of gold light appearing over his head. Terra turned and flew away as Kefka flung his arms out. The golden orb flashed, blinked, and vanished in a puff of smoke. Terra stopped and turned back as Kefka made a face. "Damn…" he muttered, his arms falling to the side. "Well…was worth a shot!" With a flash of light, Kefka vanished, a final few light orbs floating away to the sound of his last laugh. Terra lifted her head to watch them float away for a moment before they too vanished.
"I did it," she whispered. "I beat him…alone…" There was a rush of wind, and Terra looked around. The flow of smoke from the tower spires had subsided. The remaining clouds of red smoke hanging in the air began to swirl, condensing together in front of Terra. As she watched, the vortex flashed bright red, and a beam of bright red light shone up into the sky. When the light died down, the red smoke had vanished, allowing the sun overhead to shine through over the tower. Hovering in the air in front of Terra was a small red and black stone.
"The Crystal!" she cried. The stone floated towards her, and Terra cupped her hands and held them out. The Crystal levitated over her hands, and Terra closed her eyes. A powerful voice reverberated from inside the Crystal, echoing in her mind.
"Well done, my daughter."
Terra opened her eyes to the once familiar black void she had once entered liberally when speaking telepathically to other Espers. In front of her stood her father, Maduin. Terra had seen him many times in the past in this place. He had always been an intimidating presence to her. Long silver-green hair, piercing yellow eyes, darkly tanned skin and a muscular body clad only in a purple loincloth with a sash looping over the right shoulder – Maduin was about as "human" as Espers came, and that was saying quite a bit. He was slightly taller than normal humans though, dwarfing all of Terra's friends by at least a foot. As she always did in this place of thoughts, Terra appeared to her father in her Esper form.
"You have thwarted Kefka a second time," Maduin said. "It pained me to watch you fight alone, as it pained me to have my hand forced into serving his. I am sorry."
"Don't be," Terra replied, shaking her head. "I came to terms with myself in a way I never had under your guidance. I understand, now. And I'm not nearly as afraid as I once was…" Terra lifted a hand to her chest. "I controlled it fully without your help. Even if I couldn't change back."
"The change was irreversible only because you willed it to be so forcefully," Maduin said. "You called upon too much energy too quickly, and with no outlet your powers festered. Your battle with Kefka, even if you were not to find my Magicite now, would have allowed you to turn back with your powers exhausted." Maduin reached up to finger the small red pendant around his neck. "The blood of generations of Esper gatekeepers flows through you, Terra. And nothing, not even the loss of your powers and the Warring Triad, will change that. Magic or no, you have and will always be capable of extraordinary things."
"Thank you…now is the time to prove it too," Terra replied. "We're not done this war yet."
"Indeed. Chaos awaits. I shall be there to guide you." Maduin held out a hand, and Terra placed hers over it. "I shall lend you my power, though I doubt you will need it. Terra…my daughter…know that even in oblivion, my spirit shall always endure, and will always be watching. When the time comes to combine the power of the Crystals, call upon their strength as your own. Together, the ten Crystals shall bind Chaos and seal his powers. When the God of Discord is brought to his knees, use the light within you to destroy him once and for all!"
"I will…together, the ten of us united…Chaos will be defeated."
Terra opened her eyes, the void of space rushing away. She looked down at the Crystal in her hands, then at herself. Though she was floating in the air, she was human again, her sword and cloak and dress back as she remembered. Terra reached up and fingered one of her bangs – pale blond. With a smile, Terra looked down at the Crystal, then lower to the red pendant hanging around her neck.
"Thank you, father," she whispered. With a red flash, the Crystal projected a beam of energy ou. The beam split into two and traced an oval in the air below. A glowing green portal appeared rippling in the air below on a small walkway, and the Crystal began to dissolve into particles of bright red energy. Terra watched as they flowed into the pendant around her neck. When they had finished, the pendant flashed scarlet for a moment, light gleaming off its surface, then went back to its normal dark red color. Terra nodded and lowered her arms. Trusting the Crystal, she floated down to land on solid ground and pushed through the portal. She fell slightly upon exiting, landing on her feet. Terra looked around and gasped. "Cloud!" Terra ran up and knelt beside him.
"H-how'd you get here?" Cloud muttered, looking up at her with a single open eye. Terra draped an arm over her shoulders and stood, bringing Cloud to his feet.
"The Crystal," she said. "Kefka is gone."
"Good," Cloud nodded, bringing up his hand to show her the Materia orb in his grasp. "I got mine, too."
"We did it," Terra whispered, smiling. "We beat them. It's almost over, Cloud! We can go home soon."
"Great," he said, turning his head to spit, blood dribbling on his lip slightly.
"Here," Terra said, holding her hands over his chest. Cloud looked down at her, her hands glowing blue. New strength filled his body, his wounds glowing and closing on his back and limbs.
"Thanks," Cloud muttered. "Not gonna do the full job though…I could use some normal rest."
"Yes," Terra agreed. "We have to…" she stopped, realizing she didn't know how to finish her sentence. "Cloud?"
"Yeah?" he said, taking his arms from her shoulders to stand on his own.
"Where do we go now?" Terra asked. Cloud thought, reaching down to pick up the Buster Sword.
"We have to find Cosmos," he answered. "But I don't know where she could be."
"Me neither," Terra said, looking away. "How do we find her?" A flash of light caught their eyes, and they looked down. Cloud held the Crystal in his hands up, bright green light pulsing inside it.
"You know, don't you?" he whispered, focusing on the low hum coming from it. "Yeah…let's go." Cloud stepped towards the portal.
"You know where to go?" Terra repeated.
"Nope," Cloud shook his head and stopped. "But we'll find her. The Crystal knows the way. Trust me."
"Okay…let's go." Terra nodded, stepping past him. Cloud looked down at the Crystal again, the green glow a bit less bright than a moment ago.
"I thought…I could almost hear you," he thought, half-expecting the Crystal to answer him. It didn't. "If you're there…you'd know the way, wouldn't you? Somehow you always knew where to go…" Cloud lifted his head and tucked the Crystal into the pouch on his waist, followed by extracting and stowing away the two orbs in the Buster Sword's blade. "Alright then." Cloud returned the sword to his back. "Lead on."
Blue eyes darted to the side at the flash of red in the corner of his eyes. His two companions jumped to their feet and ran to the edge of the cliff, one of them letting out a low whistle.
"Look at that!" he said. The man sitting against the cliff face rose to his feet, grabbing his weapon and swinging it to rest on his shoulders. A large column of red light was visible on the horizon, stretching into the air from beyond a mountain range.
"What do you think is it?" the second asked, turning to him as he walked up behind them. The man was silent, and the asker turned back to the column of light.
"Maybe someone else got their Crystal!" the first cheered. The man turned and walked away into the cave mouth behind them. "H-hey!" the two turned as he walked. "Where are you going?"
"To find out what that was," came the muttered reply. The second turned to grab his weapons from the ground as the other chased after him.
"Wait for us!"
|Shards of Memory - Table of Contents|