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20 September 2013 @ 11:35 pm
Chapter 18 Version 1  
The discarded original chapter 18. I didn't like how random Galian's appearance was, I wanted it more suspenseful.

Title: Journey Chapter 18
Pages 6

The Crater floor was rough terrain. A knee-high smog hindered their safety, forcing them to walk cautiously. This didn’t stop them from tripping over unseen rocks jutting from the floor, though. Yuffie stumbled over at one point and was almost lost in the thick mist.

The distance to the center was far, and as they traveled lower and lower along the bedrock they lost sight of the central impact site. But the column of Mako remained visible, a mystical reminder of their destination. Their route took them through rock eruptions and around obelisks, across an ominous territory darker than the claustrophobic confines of the mountain tunnels.

“Look,” Yuffie hissed.

There was no need to point. Ahead of them was another cloaked figure, trudging along the edge of the rocky trail. But as they approached, the figure went over without a sound. They rushed to the edge. There was nothing to see.

“This is officially creepy,” Yuffie commented, taking a step back from the edge.

“Then let’s end it quickly,” Cloud said in a low voice, eyeing the path ahead of them.

They had only continued walking for a minute before Cloud, Red and Vincent all looked up curiously. Something had caught their attentions.

“What is it?” Cait asked.

Cid looked up, too, about to ask the same when he heard it. Actually, he felt it first: The familiar disturbances in the airwaves, the vibration of smooth machinery at work. Then it flew into view, high above them.

“My baby!” he exclaimed achingly. Everyone looked at him. “That’s my baby, the Highwind,” he told them defiantly, as though they should have known. He watched her pass overhead and out of view; a fleeting glimpse. “Shinra bastards confiscated her from me. I haven’t seen her in ages…”

“You made that?” Yuffie sounded incredulous. “I know you’re the plane guy, but that was a freakin’ flying fortress.”

Cid stared after his aircraft longingly. “Took me years,” he reminisced.

“Then Shinra are here,” Cloud surmised. “We have to hurry.”

All Cid could think about from then on was his airship. How had they been treating her? He knew the Shinra crew was absolutely fucking useless because they often consulted him on her operations and performance issues (of which she had none, he’d tell them. None!). They didn’t understand her quirks, and he told them as much. He also told them where to shove their questions.

He was so lost in his thoughts he didn’t pay any attention to their route until they came to a bridge carved of rock. The wind streaming across it brought him back to reality with a forceful push. It was a really strong wind. Although how such a gale could kick up in a crater he didn’t know.

“Hey,” Cait pointed, once they had crossed.

On the other side, following the rocky path above them listlessly, were at least a dozen cloaked figures.

“Why are they all converging in the Crater?” Yuffie pondered aloud. “Where’re they all coming from?”

“It’s Sephiroth’s doing, somehow,” Red answered. His good eye traveled to the tattoo on his shoulder.

The scene became weirder still as the figures began falling like flies, or walking straight off the edge of the rocky trail. When the team neared, none were alive. They trod around them, confused as to why these cloaked figures all met the same, strange end. When Cid looked back, the ones they had passed where gone. They had vanished.

Cloud stopped abruptly, his body tensed.

There, with his back towards them, stood the long, silver-haired ex-general.

Sephiroth,” Cloud hissed. There was a venom in his voice Cid had never heard before. “This is the end for you.”

The murdered did not turn around. For some reason this sent a chill through Cid.

“You’re right,” Sephiroth said – but his voice didn’t come directly from him. It echoed all around them, from the very air. “This is the end of this body’s usefulness.”

Cid’s brow furrowed as he tried to comprehend what the madman meant, but in the blink of an eye Sephiroth disappeared.

Darkness fell over them.

“Whuh- where did he go?” Yuffie quavered, weapon in hand, looking about nervously.

Cid grabbed his spear. He didn’t like this one bit. Beside him, Vincent had poised his gun, his eyes narrow and searching. His talons flexed at the ready.

“Our purpose… is to deliver the Black Materia…”

Cid swung around, but Sephiroth wasn’t there. “What the fuck is goin’ on?” The pilot demanded.

“Those who carry Jenova cells…”

Meeting Vincent’s eye, Cid frowned seriously, bewildered. The murdering bastard was toying with them, watching them squirm. Red was growling lowly. His keen senses couldn’t pinpoint Sephiroth either.

Abruptly, Vincent twisted his gun with the speed only a Turk could exhibit and aimed high. Cid had barely turned his eyes to look when something rushed at them. He was pushed hard, hearing the clean slice of a blade cut through the air millimeters away from his ear, and the cry of someone else slamming into the ground. The pilot hit the floor hard, but his momentum carried him to the edge. He tumbled over – but caught himself just in time. He clung to the cutting rock, ignoring the pain blossoming through his body.

Before and above him, stood on the walkway where the rest of the group lay, was Sephiroth. His green eyes turned to regard them arrogantly. Like insects.

Cid glared at him, but he didn’t even notice and walked away without a word. The pilot turned his attention to his teammates. They were moving, but they had all been knocked hard. No one appeared seriously harmed which was… lucky. Incredibly lucky. Vincent was the first to stumble to his feet. His crimson eyes burned on their attacker, his flawless features twisted in slight pain.

Cloud rose to his feet. Sephiroth stopped walking and paused, looking over his shoulder at the blond. He closed his eyes and smiled. No, he smirked. A cold, heartless, amused smirk. Then he turned and raised his sword, signaling his battle intentions. Cloud responded with his own, his teeth gritted, his brow set angrily.

The rest of the team quickly climbed to their feet. Vincent grabbed Cid’s hand and hauled him back onto the rocky trail effortlessly, but then winced and clutched his side. Sephiroth had damaged someone after all.

The fight they anticipated was not what they expected, at all. Sephiroth didn’t rush them. No. From where he stood his form writhed and grew, mutating into a towering abomination; a creature more alien than anything found on Gaia. Just like the monster in the Ancient City.

Red leapt first, fangs bared, tail ablaze. Cid dove to the side a split second later to miss a sweeping appendage from the monster, landing in unison with Yuffie. They both jumped into the fight, cutting with their weapons.

The creature was strong. It hissed and lunged at Cloud, clawing at him with its strange limbs. It missed the blond, but as it recoiled it swung around and batted Cait and Red from the air, throwing them far away and dangerously close to the edge of the path. Cid saw an opening and rammed his spear into its navel – or flank – or hell, even its face for all he knew. It was a disgusting jumble of organic matter. Anatomy be damned.

Motion caught his attention from the corner of his eye. Something swiped for him – only to explode in a shower of bullets, blood and tissue. Cid glanced at Vincent evacuating his empty shells, about to catch his eye and offer a thankful nod, but his intention changed in an instant.

“Behind you!” He yelled.

Too late. Vincent had barely begun to leap away when a clawed appendage slammed into him. A spray of blood flew into the air as the talon impaled his shoulder, sending him flying. Cid watched in horror as he disappeared over the edge.

Acting quickly, Cid jumped and thrust his weapon down, slicing off the dangerous limb. It fell heavily to the floor and writhed, but before he could do anything else he was knocked hard from behind and flung forward. His face hit the rough ground and took off the skin of his left cheek. Fucking ow…

“Cid!” Yuffie landed beside him and crouched down, her eyes on the creature as Cid climbed back to his feet.

The pilot was about to mention Vincent’s dilemma, but no sooner had he opened his mouth did the air literally rumble with the sound of an inhuman roar. Cid and Yuffie spun around wildly, anticipating something else wanting to join their fight.

There – behind them. Cid gaped. Another monster, smaller than Sephiroth’s freaky manifestation, hauled itself from over the edge of the rocky path. Its yellow eyes glowed, but Cid could only assume it was fixated on their fight, drawn by the violence and bloodshed. It gave a deep, menacing growl and charged towards them.

Shit! As if one monster wasn’t bad enough. Cid turned his weapon on it, but Yuffie grabbed his bicep, tugging him back.

“Cid, no –!”

The pilot was thrown off balance by her tone and her pulling. The second monster thundered towards them and it was all Cid could do to throw both himself and the young girl from harm’s way. He snapped his neck around to watch as the new addition to the fight stormed straight for the Sephiroth monster. Cid watched in bewildered fascination as they fought, animal rage against alien power. The smaller beast tore and slashed with razor sharp claws, shredding the flesh from the larger monster. It barely seemed to register equally damaging blows from the alien’s powerful limbs.

To Cid’s surprise Cloud and Red continued to slaughter the first creature, as though the extra monster was an asset in the fight (which… it kind of was at that moment). Vaguely, Cid felt Yuffie getting to her feet beside him, but he was too dumbfounded to move.

The smaller beast leapt from the crushing grip of the other monster’s limbs, landing nimbly away from immediate attack reach. In the few seconds it took for the Sephiroth creature to advance after it, the beast had jumped into the air. In the next rapid few seconds it launched a volley of fireballs from its claws in quick succession, which burst on the flesh of the larger monster and seared it badly. It howled in pain, lashing out at everything.

Cid was forced to find his feet and avoid the dangerous tentacles. He dodged to safety, just in time to turn back and watch as the alien monster collapsed in a writhing, angry mess to the floor. Cloud thrust his sword into its melted flesh and ripped it open, finishing it.

But to Cid’s eyes the battle wasn’t over. “Cloud, look out!” He yelled, convinced the smaller beast was aggressively edging up behind the blond. Cid raced across their distance, his heart in his throat – so sure the monster was about to gut its second victim – spear aimed –

Cloud spun around. “Cid – no!”

The clashing of sword deflecting spear sliced through the air. But Cloud’s reaction wasn’t quick enough and Cid’s weapon niched the beast’s left shoulder, drawing blood.

“Cid, don’t!”

The pilot skidded to a stop and frowned hard at their leader, confused as hell. The beast growled softly, clutching its shoulder. It half-turned from him, like it was… ashamed?

“What the fuck?” Cid both exclaimed and demanded, throwing Cloud a ‘tell me what the hell now’ face.

Red drew up alongside the pilot’s side. “That’s no enemy, Cid.” He turned his eye on the crouching form of the monster. “Have you control of it?”

Cid could have been wrong, but after a few moments the creature gave a single, small nod. In the next second a dark ball of energy enveloped it suddenly, swirling like nothing Cid had ever witnessed. When it dispersed, the beast was gone, and in its place was Vincent.

Cid stared.

“You haven’t healed properly,” Red said from his side, approaching the now human gunman. “You should have waited.”

Still clutching his shoulder, Vincent said nothing. His eyes flickered to Cid’s.

The pilot could feel the weight of Cloud’s gaze on him, along with the vague sense of the other team members eyeing his reaction (or lack of). He blinked and tore his gaze from Vincent, a sign that Cloud seemed to understand as Cid’s acceptance to the new information, for he turned away slowly and went over to the remains of the monster. There was something else there.

But the pilot couldn’t register what the object was. His mind was looping on what his eyes had just shown him, but his brain was trying to convince him otherwise. People don’t turn into monsters… That’s a physical impossibility. It’s… impossible…

Like sleeping for nearly thirty years?

Humans simply can’t transform. The body isn’t configured that way.

Maybe… maybe monsters can transform into humans… Is Vincent… a monster?

Someone spoke, dragging Cid back to reality. He blinked and looked up. Cloud was holding the Black Materia, examining it carefully. Vincent was watching him, his expression a mask. Blood still dripped from his shoulder, from the wound Cid had inflicted. Shit, he had attacked Vincent…

He could feel the study of Red’s eye on him from his side, watching him still, even as everyone else turned their attention to Cloud now the last clueless member of the team knew the true extent of their companion’s ‘condition’. It made sense now. All the strange mentions, the dangerous aura that Vincent exhibited when he was angry… inside, he was hiding a beast. A monster. Cid’s mind wouldn’t stop replaying it.

Cloud said something to the group, and it took some effort on Cid’s part to rejoin the situation.

“… wasn’t the real Sephiroth,” Cloud said, gazing at the materia in his hand. “It was something else… But the real Sephiroth is close.”

“What’ve we been fighting then?” Yuffie demanded, a slight lilt of disbelief in her tone.

“I’ll explain later,” Cloud tuned his blue eyes on her. “Right now, we need to defeat Sephiroth –”


The team looked back in unison at the trail they had come from. Moving towards them were none other than Tifa and Barret, leaping across a gap in the rock to join them on the path. They stopped beside Cait Sith, bending double to catch their breaths. They still sounded sick.

“We had to come,” Tifa gasped for air. She gave a cough. “We followed you. I know we won’t be good in a fight, but if this is the fight we don’t want to miss it.” She swallowed and continued. “Sephiroth killed my family, too. I want to be a part of his defeat.”

“What she said,” Barret gestured with his head and then fell into a coughing fit.

Cloud stepped closed a few feet, watching them. “At least we’re all together for it,” he said, to no one and everyone. He looked down at the materia in his hand. “I can’t risk taking this any further. Sephiroth is just up ahead. I sense it. But someone has to stay back with the Black Materia.” He looked at Barret, the sicker of the two. “Will you?”

The dark man eyed the materia indecisively, slowly gaining his breath back. “If I can’t fight, I can at least be useful.” He held out a large hand and Cloud gave him the orb. “Damn… pressure’s on now.” Tifa put a reassuring hand on his arm.

Cloud regarded everyone else. “If we’re ready, let’s go.”

There were one or two resolved nods. Cloud gave Barret the same gesture before he turned and led the group back along the rocky path, leaving the dark man to watch their departure. Cid gave him a mock salute, to which he received back a humored grin.

After a few minutes along the trail they lost sight of the last battle sight and their team mate as the terrain became even harder to walk along. Cid, having been lost in thoughts, sprained his ankle when his boot slid abruptly from an angled rock slab, and spent the next few seconds cursing up a storm (to which Yuffie had a few reprimands for him). He fell silent when the pain merged into the rest of his bodily aches and his mind wandered back to Vincent.

Vincent. Monster.

Vincent? Monster?

Monster Vincent?

His eyes glanced to the pale gunman. Who’d have thought such a pretty package could contain something so shocking? Did he have to battle with something like that all day every day? Is that what Cloud really meant when he warned Cid that day in the inn? Vincent isn’t like them…

No shit.

Cid was pulled from his thoughts by a surprised noise from Yuffie. He looked up – only to squint against the glare of a bright, white light. It surrounded them, intensifying so strongly Cid was forced to shut his eyes and shield them.

When he opened them, he was met with a rather surprising sight.