Premonitions II-C: Crisis Core

BY : Hippo_and_Friends_with_Benefits
Category: Final Fantasy VII > General
Dragon prints: 708
Disclaimer: I do not own Final Fantasy VII, Crisis Core, it any characters therin. I am not making any money here.

Chapter 32: The Mountain

September 23, 0002

In the morning, I woke up before Tifa. I relieved myself, showered, and brushed my teeth. I then dressed and stared into the mirror.

This is the day, I thought. No, I was not planning on an engagement in the nude. I was planning on Sephiroth turning traitor. I was fearing for Zack's safety, and, considerably worse, for Tifa's. It really hit me when I realized that I didn't really have a plan for when that moment arrived.

And suddenly, I heard a pounding on the door.

"Tobin!" called Tifa. "You in there?"

"I'll be right out," I called back.

"You better not be taking a dump!" she warned. "You know how the men in the family stink up the bathroom!"

I sighed.

I was really starting to miss Cissnei.

LATER...

Zack and Cloud were sitting in their hotel room, awaiting instructions from Sephiroth, when the former's cell phone buzzed from a text.

It was from Aerith.

"I shaved this morning. Completely," the text read.

"Lol you don't have a beard," Zack texted back.

"Down there xoxo," it read.

"Homesick already?" Cloud teased from behind.

"Cloud!" Zack exclaimed as he quickly put his phone away. "How much did you see?!"

"Everything," Cloud replied with a grin. "Why would she do that for, anyway?"

"Lots of girls do that," Zack replied. He then sighed. "It's a comfort thing. You really need a significant other."

"No thanks," Cloud replied. "My mom wants me to date an older girl. One who will 'take care of me.'"

"Remember what I told you, if something happens to me," he reminded him. "You mom will be happy." He stood up. "I guess you already have an idea what her lady parts look like."

Before Cloud could respond, was then a knock on the door, and moments later, Sephiroth appeared.

"Locker room talk, gentlemen?" he inquired.

Cloud and Zack have him a sheepish look.

OUTSIDE...

"If I knew this was going to happen, I would've made mountain climbing off limits," sighed Uncle Brian as the four visitors assembled outside.

"I was so nervous, I couldn't get any sleep," I heard Cloud mumble.

"Late again," said the other trooper, presumably referring to the guide.

"Once the guide gets here," Sephiroth said, "we're heading out."

"Listen to me, Sephiroth," began Uncle Brian. "In case something happens..."

"Trust me," Sephiroth interjected.

"I'll be all right, dad!" Tifa assured him as she approached the group. "I have two men from SOLDIER with me."

Uncle Brian sighed. He was so worried for her physical safety that he did not even object to the fact that she was wearing that cowgirl outfit again.

"I'm Tifa," she greeted. "Nice to meet you!"

"Tifa!" Zack exclaimed. "You're our guide?"

"At your service!" she replied. "Nobody is a better guide than me in this town."

"But it's too dangerous!" Zack protested. "We can't get you involved in something like this

"She'll be fine, if you protect her," Sephiroth assured him.

"Mr. Sephiroth!" called a man holding a digital camera. "Please let me take one picture for a memento! Tifa, can you ask him for me too?"

Zack and Tifa got in the picture. Sephiroth did so, most certainly against his wishes.

"Cheeeeese!" said the cameraman as he took the picture.

Sephiroth immediately got the hell out of there.

"Great, thank you!" said the cameraman. "I'll give each of you a copy once I get it developed!"

The five of them then began their trek through the mountain. Several feet in, a bat-like creature attacked, and Zack knocked it out cold with the butt of his sword.

Cloud went over to examine it.

"Stay back, it's just knocked out," Zack warned. "It could wake up and start chowing down on you!"

"You could've just chopped its head off," Tifa said. "Just because I'm a girl doesn't mean I'm squeamish."

Zack looked at his sword and smiled.

"Use brings about wear, tear, and rust," he explained, echoing Angeal. "So usually, I just hit it with the blunt side."

Soon after that, they got to the rope bridge. The same rope bridge that Tifa fell off of when Aunt Claire died.

"It gets harder from here!" Tifa warned. "Follow me!"

Tifa led the way.

Now, you'd have to admit that five people on a decaying rope bridge was not the brightest of ideas. But, in any event, the bridge began to collapse.

"Uh... the bridge!" Tifa shouted.

Of course, that didn't do dick. The bridge collapsed, and the five of them disappeared below.

Fearing mainly for Tifa, I ran down the nearest path, hoping some of them were okay.

I found one dead body a few yards away. It belonged to the one of the troopers. Fearing, again for Tifa's sake, that it might have been Cloud, I slowly pulled his mask off.

When I did, I wanted to break down and cry.

It was Logan; my friend from high school. He had moved, and I had never found out what had happened to him. As it turned out, he had become a Shinra trooper, and had just now been killed on a mission. It was the first tragedy of the Nibelheim mission.

I could waste no time, of course. Tifa's fate was yet to be revealed to me. I continued until I saw the others.

They had all survived.

"Everyone seems to be all right," Sephiroth said as he dusted himself off. "Can we get back to where we were?"

"These caves are intertwined," Tifa explained. "Just like an ant farm. Oh, and Sephiroth? There seems to be one person missing."

"It may sound cold," Sephiroth replied, "but we've got no time to search for him. We can't go back now, so we must go on. We'll travel together from here."

I wanted to pick up a rock and hurl it at him. Logan deserved better.

The next highlight was when we passed through a cave where the walls were all sorts of colors.

"What's this?" Zack asked.

"A mysteriously colored cave," Tifa replied.

"It must be the mako energy," Sephiroth said. "This mountain is especially abundant in it. That's why the mako reactor was built here."

Soon after, they came across a strange looking fountain.

"And what's this?" Zack asked.

"A mako fountain," Sephiroth replied. "It's a miracle of nature."

"It's so beautiful," Tifa commented as she approached it. "If the mako reactor continues to suck up the energy, this fountain will dry up too."

"Materia," Sephiroth said as he joined Tifa at the fountain. "When you condense mako energy, materia is produced. It's very rare to be able to see materia in its natural state."

"By the way," Zack said, "why is it that when you use materia you can also use magic too?"

"You were in SOLDIER and didn't even know that?" Sephiroth inquired in an annoyed tone of voice. "The knowledge and wisdom of the Ancients is held in the materia. Anyone with this knowledge can freely use the powers of the land and the planet. That knowledge interacts between ourselves and the planet calling up magic, or so they say."

"Magic," said Zack. "A mysterious power."

Just then, Sephiroth began to cackle again, the same way he did at the town enterance the other day.

"Did I say something funny?" Zack asked.

"A man once told me never to use an unscientific term such as mysterious power!" Sephiroth replied. "It shouldn't even be called 'magic!' I still remember how angry he was."

"Who was that?" Zack asked, even though he knew it could only be one person.

"Hojo of Shinra," Sephiroth answered. "An inexperienced man assigned to take over the work of a great scientist. He was a walking mass of complexes."

My cousin, meanwhile, was still mesmerized by the natural feature.

"A mako fountain," she said to herself. "So this is where the knowledge of the Ancients is."

Eventually, the survivors made it to the Nibelheim Reactor.

"We finally made it," Tifa announced. "We sure took the long way, though."

"Thank you for guiding us," Sephiroth said politely.

"Tifa," Zack commanded, "you wait here."

My cousin was anything but happy about that.

"I want to go inside and look, too!" Tifa pleaded.

"This is a top-secret facility," Sephiroth replied. "Non-Shinra personnel are not permitted inside. Only authorized people are allowed in. This place is full of Shinra's industrial secrets."

"But..." Tifa protested.

Sephiroth then turned to Cloud.

"Keep the young lady safe," he commanded.

With that, Sephiroth walked into the reactor, followed by Zack. Tifa tried to go in, but Cloud blocked her entrance.

"Better take real good care of me, then!" she said sarcastically as she stomped her foot.

Cloud nodded.

"Can you even talk?" she asked.

Cloud shook his head.

INSIDE THE REACTOR...

Zack walked ahead of Sephiroth, up a flight of stairs surrounded by twelve pods. At the top of those stairs was a double door with a rather familiar name above it.

"Jenova...interesting," he said to himself. "The door is sealed, of course."

He turned to descend the statues, and remembered what Sephiroth had said about his mother.

"Jenova?!" he exclaimed as he practically spun around.

Very interestingly, Sephiroth was less than moved by the name above the door. He seemed more interested in one of the pods at the base of the stairs.

"This is the cause of the malfunction," Sephiroth announced. "This section is broken." He then noticed his companion descending the stairs. "Zack, go seal the valve."

Zack did as he was told.

"Why did it break?" Sephiroth asked. He paused as he examined the contents inside. "Now I see, Hojo," he continued. "But, even doing this, will never put you on the same level as Professor Gast."

Professor Gast was, basically, the person who died and made Hojo head of the science department. I've only seen him in pictures. He had this big-assed mustache, and these really weird looking ears that stood out for some reason. I can't describe them, but the only other person who has ears like that is Aerith.

Anyway, Zack returned to where Sephiroth was.

"This is a system that condenses and freezes the mako energy," Sephiroth explained. "That is, when it's working correctly. Now, what does mako energy become when it's further condensed?"

"It becomes a materia," Zack replied.

"Right, normally," Sephiroth confirmed. "But Hojo put something else in there. "Take a look. Look through the window."

Zack looked through the window. Inside, he saw something that was human. I emphasize on the word was, because it seemed no longer human by the time.

"What is that?" Zack inquired.

"You average SOLDIER members are mako-infused humans," Sephiroth explained. "You're enhanced, but you're still human. But then, what are those things? Their mako energy levels are exponentially higher than yours."

"Are they...monsters?" Zack asked.

Sephiroth walked over to the base of the stairs.

"Yes," he answered. "The Shinra scientist Hojo was the one who created them." He then turned to face Zack. "Abominations spawned by mako energy. That's what monsters are."

And then, Zack said something he really shouldn't have said.

"You said 'average' member. What about you?"

Sephiroth stood for a few seconds, doing nothing. Then, suddenly, he stepped back, turned around, and began to clutch his head.

Zack quickly rushed to him and placed a hand on his shoulder.

"Hey, Sephiroth!"

But the damage was done.

Sephiroth threw his hand off, walked a few feet away, and clutched his head again.

"Could it be that I...was created the same way? Am I the same as these monsters?"

Zack ran to him.

"I knew," Sephiroth continued, "ever since I was a child, I was not like the others. I knew mine was a special existence. But this...this was not what I meant."

Suddenly, one of the pods burst, and a moment later, one of the creatures was on the floor.

As it started to get up, Zack struck it in the head with the butt of his sword, knocking it unconscious. He then put the poor monster back in its pod and sealed it.

He then returned his attention to the other monster.

"Am I a human being?" Sephiroth asked as he gazed into his trembling hands, never expecting an immediate answer.

But he got one.

"No such luck," called a familiar voice. "You are a monster."

A fireball suddenly came down on Sephiroth, which he quickly countered.

Zack took refuge on the floor.

Moments later, Genesis, the real Genesis, landed on the stairs.

"Sephiroth," he greeted. "You were the greatest monster created by the Jenova Project."

"Genesis!" exclaimed Zack. "So you are alive!"

"I suppose I am," he said as he touched his face, "if you can call this living."

It was then that I noticed that Genesis was looking sick. His hair was white now. His complexion was whiter, too.

"What is the Jenova Project?" Sephiroth demanded.

"The Jenova Project," Genesis replied, "was the term used for all experiments relating to the use of Jenova's cells."

"My mother's cells?" Sephiroth asked.

"Poor little Sephiroth," Genesis taunted. "You've never actually met your mother. You've only been told her name, no? I don't know what images you've conjured up in your head, but-"

"Genesis, no!" cried Zack.

"Jenova was excavated from a two thousand-year-old rock layer," Genesis continued. "She's a monster."

Sephiroth gasped in shock

"Sephiroth," Genesis pleaded, "I need your help. My body is continuing to degrade."

Sephiroth did not dignify that with response.

"SOLDIER First Class Sephiroth!" Shouted Genesis. "Jenova Project G gave birth to Angeal and monsters like myself. Jenova Project S..."

"S?" Zack interjected as he sat up.

"It used the remains of countless failed experiments to create a perfect monster," Genesis finished.

"What do you want of me?" Sephiroth demanded.

"Your traits cannot be copied unto others," Genesis explained. "Your genes can't be diffused. Therefore, your body cannot degrade."

As Genesis raised his head, I could see his veins visible in his neck.

"Share your cells with me," Genesis continued as he presented a dumbapple. "My friend, your desire is the bringer of life, the gift of the goddess."

Sephiroth ignored it; instead, he looked at the door at the top of the stairs. The name "Jenova" was still above it.

Finally, he spoke.

"Whether your words are lies created to deceive me, or the truth that I have sought all my life, it makes no difference."

With that, he smacked the dumbapple out of Genesis' hand.

"You will rot," Sephiroth grunted as he walked out of the reactor.

"I see," Genesis observed. "Perfect monster, indeed. When the war of the beasts brings about the world's end The goddess descends from the sky Wings of light and dark spread afar She guides us to bliss, her gift everlasting."

Genesis then began to follow Sephiroth outside.

"No!" cried Zack as he sprang to his feet. "Stop!"

When Zack got outside, he could see two Genesis copies and a large armored creature. Cloud was laying on the ground. Tifa was putting up her fists.

"Damn it," Zack muttered as he drew his sword.

He quickly charged the intruders and killed them one by one. He then scanned the area. There was no sign of Genesis or Sephiroth. What he did see was Tifa huddled over the fallen Cloud.

"He tried to protect me," she said.

"I know," Zack said. "Tifa, stay close to me."

She nodded, and helped Cloud to his feet.

The three of them slowly began to make their way back to Nibelheim.

"I'm sorry," Zack began. "I know you weren't expecting all of this."

"No worries," Tifa assured him. "My life's all about the unexpected."

"So how do you know so much about the mountain?" Zack asked.

"When my mom died, I ran away here," she replied. "I almost got killed. Afterward, I kept sneaking back here until I knew every path. I can take you all the way to Rocket Town if you like."

"You seem like the bravest one here," Zack observed. "And how old are you?"

"Fifteen," Tifa answered. "So, yeah, I still live at home. I take it the Shinra gave you a nice place?"

"You got it," Zack replied. "I'm living there with my girlfriend."

"You have a girlfriend?" Tifa asked. "Good. I prefer hanging out with guys who have girlfriends."

"Why's that?" Zack laughed.

"So they won't try to get into my pants," Tifa replied.

"Hey," Zack began, "how did you know the Shinra spoils us rotten?"

In response, Tifa hung her head. "My best friend wanted to join SOLDIER," she answered sadly. "He told me everything he found out. That's why...I asked you who was coming when we first met."

"Ahhh," Zack said. "I see."

"I haven't seen him in two years," she said.

"Miss him?" asked Zack as the Shinra Mansion came into view.

"Very much so," Tifa replied. "Very much so."

As they reached the center of Nibelheim, Zack scanned the town.

"Where did Sephiroth go?" Zack asked.

"Something the matter?" asked Tifa as she rested Cloud against a wall.

"Sorry, I can't tell you," Zack informed her.

"I'm not surprised," she said. "I'll ask around town about Sephiroth."

"Thanks, Tifa," Zack said.

AN HOUR LATER...

Cloud awoke in the hotel room. Remembering what had happened, he quickly sat up with a gasp.

"Tifa's safe," Zack assured him. "Don't worry."

"If only I were SOLDIER...Zack?" Cloud sighed.

Zack promptly thought about the events of the day.

"SOLDIER is like a den of monsters," he warned him. "Don't go inside."

"What happened?" Cloud asked.

"I don't know, man," Zack replied as he lay back. "I thought I knew, but..." And then, something crossed his mind. "By the way, do you know Tifa?"

Cloud squeezed his knees, knowing there was no hiding it.

"Sort of," he answered.

"Talked to her?" Zack pressed as he sat up again.

"No," Cloud dismissed as he stared at the door.

"I'm sensing some issues here," Zack deduced. "Should you do something?"

"Not really," Cloud answered. "I'd rather her not know I'm here." He paused. "If you must pry, I tried to join SOLDIER to impress her."

"Really?" Zack inquired. "You like her."

Cloud silently gave one nod.

"Then why don't you ask her out?" Zack asked. Then it hit him. "It was you she was looking for, wasn't it?"

"Probably," Cloud replied.

"That means she likes you, too!" Zack said enthusiastically.

"Probably," Cloud repeated.

"Dude, date her!" Zack insisted. "She obviously likes you."

"It's kind of complicated," Cloud explained.

"My girlfriend's complicated," Zack admitted. "And I'm a dead man if she ever finds out I told you that!"

"Her dad hates me," Cloud dismissed.

"She's fifteen," Zack assured him. "I think she can think for herself. Trust me on this one."

"Are you going to tell me your girlfriend's dad hates you, too?"

"She doesn't have a dad," Zack replied. "She was adopted by a young widow."

"Does your mom like her?" Cloud asked.

"My parents like her," Zack said. "I take it your mom doesn't like Tifa?"

Cloud said nothing and lowered his head.

"I'm one to talk," said Zack as he stood up and walked over toward his sword. "I'm with SOLDIER, so...fighting's all I do. Sorting things out is someone else's job. What's going on? Who's the enemy? It makes no difference to me!"

He picked up the sword and aimed it at the bed. He then lowered it.

"Hey, Zack?" Cloud began. "You know, I've never seen you use that."

Zack closed his eyes.

"Use brings about wear, tear, and rust. And that's a real waste," he remembered Angeal saying. "You're a little more important than my sword. But just a little."

"This is a symbol of my dreams and honor," saod Zack as he stared at the sword. "No, it's more. That's right, I had almost forgotten. Thank you, Cloud."

"Huh?"

"Right!" said Zack before putting his sword down.

He did a few squats and then went to his bed.

"I'm gonna crash!" he announced. "Night!"

A FEW HOURS LATER...

Zack awoke, and went downstairs to find Tifa in the lobby.

"Sephiroth is apparently at Shinra Manor," she announced.

"That big mansion?" he asked.

"Yes," she answered. "Shinra has owned it for a long time."

"What could he be doing in there?" Zack asked rhetorically.

"Maybe he's practicing social distancing?" Tifa suggested. "To prevent the spread of a pandemic?"

"That would a responsible thing to do," Zack said.

"It would be very responsible," Tifa agreed. "And hard at the same time. What would I be supposed to be doing? Sitting around reading fan fiction all day?"

"I doubt that's the reason he's there, Zack said. "It got...interesting inside the reactor."

"Top secret Shinra stuff?" she suggested.

"More or less," Zack replied.

"Please let me know how that trooper's doing," Tifa requested. "You can at least tell me that, right?"

"Of course, Zack answered.

Tifa smiled and left the inn. Outside, on the way back to her house, she saw another familiar face sitting on a bench. She smiled, and sat down next to him.

"Zangan!" Tifa greeted.

"Hello, Tifa," he greeted back. "You seem well."

She hesitated.

"You're not mad at my outfit, are you?" she then asked, looking down at her exposed midriff.

"You're a teenage girl," Zangan replied. "Who am I to judge?" He paused. "But I know you wore it for him."

Tifa began to blush.

"How can you tell?"

Zangan laughed.

"Do you remember why you first came to me for training?"

"Because Johnny was always trying to get into my pants?" she replied.

"That helped with that," Zangan confirmed. "But that wasn't the main reason."

Tifa gave him a solemn look. She knew, but she didn't exactly want to remember it.

"Because I wanted to go to Midgar," she replied. "To maybe join SOLDIER myself." She took a breath. "So I could be near him."

"And you were hoping he would come this time," Zangan inferred.

"Yes," Tifa replied as she lowered her head. "But he didn't." She closed her eyes, and a tear fell from her left eye. "It was foolish on my part to automatically figure that he would be here. Maybe I should forget the whole thing. He's probably been assigned somewhere far away. Maybe he's even found a girlfriend."

"You don't need to forget about Cloud," Zangan assured her. "He's the main reason you call me master."

Tifa sighed, and nestled her head on Zangan's shoulder.

"I'd rather call you another word," she said. "One that starts with a G."

"You can't let that be a distraction," Zangan said.

Tifa then sat up.

"You might want to go home and change before your father catches you wearing that again," Zangan suggested. "But I'll let you in on a secret. I'm contracted to train your cousin Tobin next year when he arrives in Xing. If it's okay with your father, you can join us."

"Don't count on it," Tifa laughed as she stood up. "But if it is, it's a yes on my part."

She pecked him on the cheek and walked back to her house.

A moment later, Zack appeared from around the corner.

"You heard," Zangan said.

"Zangan?!" Zack exclaimed.

"Have we met?" Zangan asked.

Zack shook his head.

"I've just heard about you," he said. "Listen, I won't let anything bad happen to Tifa. You have my word."

"Tifa's fifteen years old," Zangan replied. "I don't feel I'm in any position to decide for her." He paused, and lowered his head. "I felt the same way about Claire."

"Claire?" asked Zack.

"Claire was my daughter and...Tifa's mother," Zangan clarified.

"So Tifa's your grand-"

"She's my student," Zangan interjected. "That's how it needs to be viewed right now."

Zack scratched his head as his phone began to ring.

"Go ahead and take that," Zangan permitted as he got up off the bench and began to walk away. "I'll be around."

Zack shrugged and answered the phone.

"Hell-lloooo?" greeted a familiar soprano.

"Aerith?" Zack greeted back.

"I finally got through!" she happily exclaimed.

At that exact moment, to the north, Zack could see Sephiroth roaming around the front of the Shinra Mansion.

"Yeah," he continued, "uh, listen, now's not the best time. I'll call you later."

"No, no, you don't have to," replied the obviously disappointed Aerith.

"Okay," Zack quickly said. "I'll come visit."

"I'll be here," she said casually.

"I'll see you, I promise," he tried to assure her.

But Aerith hung up the phone.

Zack lowered his head.

"Aerith," he sighed, "wait for me just a little while longer."

He then turned to see Cloud standing a few yards away.

"Aw shit," Zack groaned. "I how much did you hear?"

"Everything," Cloud replied.

"I need to check every direction," Zack sighed.

"How can you be embarrassed?" Cloud asked. "I already know she shaved her private parts."

Zack blushed, realizing that Cloud would not let that go.

"Listen," Cloud continued, "I don't think this is going to go as bad as we expected."

"What do you mean?" Zack asked.

"I don't think Sephiroth is thinking about abandoning Shinra anymore," Cloud answered. "He's pacing around, questioning his own existence. He's been shattered inside. So call your girlfriend back."

Zack scratched his head.

"I dunno," he said. "I really don't want to get distracted."

"Dude," Cloud pressed, "call her. The reactor will still be here tomorrow. So will Sephiroth."

"All right," Zack conceded. "I'll call my girlfriend. But you have to reveal yourself to Tifa before we leave."

Cloud lowered his head. "Deal, I guess." He then looked at Zack. "Go to the room. I'll give you some privacy."

"Thanks!" Zack said.

He immediately retreated to the hotel room and called Aerith, who answered after one ring.

"You called back!" she exclaimed happily.

"Yeah," Zack said sheepishly. "Well, the mission will still be here tomorrow."

"How's Sephiroth?" she asked skeptically.

"Completely broken down," Zack replied.

"What happened?" Aerith asked.

"Psychological trauma," he answered. "He's been rendered completely harmless. I'll let you know when I can come home."

He could almost feel Aerith smile from the other side.

"I miss you," she said.

"I miss you more," he said back.

"My vagina misses you most of all," she giggled.

"I'll be home soon," Zack promised.

"Don't leave your girlfriend hanging!" she exclaimed.

"I won't," Zack promised. "This mission's due for a happy ending."

He was wrong. Very wrong.



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