Premonitions II-C: Crisis Core

BY : Hippo_and_Friends_with_Benefits
Category: Final Fantasy VII > General
Dragon prints: 728
Disclaimer: I do not own Final Fantasy VII, Crisis Core, it any characters therin. I am not making any money here.

Chapter 5: The Far West

October 7, 0000

I have already mentioned that I was born and raised on the Western Continent, but I had never been to the Western Peninsula, said continent's western extremity.

The Western Peninsula has two towns. One of them is Xing, located in the southern mountains. The other is Wutai, located on the northern plains. The towns are sworn enemies, and Wutai often invades Xing.

There was only one small mountain in Wutai territory called Mount Tamblin, and that's where we were heading. The Emperor had a fortress built there because, although it was a small mountain, it was possible to monitor the entire plains from there.

It was a full moon that night. I found myself in the forest, looking at the trees and shrubs that I had never seen before. There were fireflies everywhere, but I was told to watch out for Giant Wutai Hornets; one sting and that's the story of you.

I arrived at a stone path, where I soon spotted Zack and Angeal heading for the fort. I cloaked myself and followed them as best I could. I was mostly able to keep within a few yards.

"Fort Tamblin is straight ahead," Angeal said. He then stopped and turned to face Zack. "Let's hurry, B Unit is standing by."

Just then, three Wutai soldiers appeared on the road and presented their weapons.

"You two!" demanded the one in the middle. "Identify yourselves!"

"Just leave it to me!" Zack announced as he drew his sword.

With that, he charged the soldiers. He first circumvented the one on the left, stabbing him in the back. He then moved to the one on the right, stabbing him in the neck before he could attack. The last surviving soldier swung his weapon, but Zack was faster. He quickly swung his sword, decapitating the soldier.

"All right, next!" Zack shouted enthusiastically as he returned his sword to its rightful place.

"Calm down, Zack," ordered Angeal as he continued to walk.

"No can do," Zack responded. "The director is watching from somewhere, right? I have to make a good impression."

Angeal sighed, and stopped in his tracks.

"Zack," he asked, "Do you know about dumbapples?"

"No," replied Zack. "What is that?"

"Unbelievable," said Angeal as he put his hand to his mouth. "How can you not know about dumbapples? You'll never make First at that rate."

Angeal began to walk away.

"Whoa, wait!" Zack exclaimed as he ran after him. "What are dumbapples!?"

Suddenly, three more Wutai soldiers jumped out of the foliage behind Zack.

Zack quickly drew his sword and spun three hundred and sixty degrees, killing them all in one swipe.

And then, two more Wutai troops hopped out in front of him on the road.

"You bastards just keep coming!" Zack groaned.

He then stabbed each of them in the chest.

Finally, after leaping over the two dead soldiers, Zack finally caught up with Angeal.

"So Angeal!" he asked. "What's the deal with 'dumbapples?'"

"The official name is Banora White," Angeal replied. "The trees bear fruit at random times during the year. Because of that, the townspeople affectionately call them dumbapples." He then pointed to a treetop above. "The local farms had plenty of them to spare."

"Oh, really?" asked Zack. "So you stole them?"

"We were poor, Zack," Angeal defended.

"Nice excuse!" Zack dismissed.

"But even then," Angeal continued, I had my honor. The largest Banora White tree grew on a wealthy man's estate. It was rumored that those apples tasted the best. But I never stole from that tree, because the wealthy man's son was my friend."

"If he was a friend," suggested Zack as he placed his hands on his head, "you should've just asked for some!"

"Honor can be quite a burden at times," Angeal said.

"And what exactly does this have to do with me?" Zack asked.

"No story is not worth hearing," Angeal said as he folded his arms. He then turned, walked away, and began to laugh.

"What?" Zack protested. "That's it? Yeah, well, thanks a lot!"

As I followed the two SOLDIER members, I thought about Aerith and Durham. I liked both girls, and it was most obvious that they both liked me. I was still debating whom to ask out. Both of them were tied for the most outgoing personalities I had ever seen. Aerith seemed like the sweeter one, but I'll admit Durham was twice as hot. Remember, I was a sixteen-year-old virgin who had never even seen boobs yet.

Eventually, Fort Tamblin came into view. It was designed like a traditional Wutai Pagoda, but had lights on inside.

Angeal and Zack began to crouch.

"B Unit will set off an explosion," Angeal explained. "That's our cue."

"The diversion will allow us to infiltrate," Zack pointed out.

"Right," Angeal agreed. "I'll set the bomb inside the fortress. You'll charge the front gate, and..."

Zack immediately got excited and interrupted.

"Uh-huh, and? And? And? And?"

"Indulge yourself," Angeal sighed.

"You got it!" Zack exclaimed. That's what I do best!" He then turned to face the fortress. "Come on, B Unit," he whispered.

Meanwhile, Angeal did a weird thing. He pulled out his sword and briefly rested his head against it, almost as if he was showing some sort of affection. He then put the sword away.

"You know," Zack observed, "I've never actually seen you use that. Don't you think it's sort of a waste?"

"Use brings about wear, tear, and rust," Angeal replied. "And that's a real waste."

"You're serious, aren't you?" Zack asked him.

"Yeah," Angeal answered. "I can be pretty cheap."

"Yeah, no kidding," Zack agreed.

And then, I saw a flash of orange, heard a loud boom, and felt the ground slightly rumble. The bomb had gone off.

"Begin mission," ordered Angeal.

Zack wasted no time, jumping over the foliage and charging to the front of Fort Tamblin.

There, he stopped as he was greeted by ten Wutai soldiers.

"No one passes beyond this point!" announced the sergeant. "The enemy is but one man! Obliterate him!"

Six soldiers, who had been standing on the ground, charged him, while three on the wall roof began to open fire.

Zack pulled out his sword and dodged the gunfire with the greatest of ease, killing soldier after soldier until only the sergeant remained. Zack quickly decapitated him without hesitating, and dispatched the soldiers on the wall with lightning materia he had brought with him.

"All right!" Zack shouted victoriously. "Piece of cake!"

He then climbed up the wall, while I quietly slipped through the front door. I figured that anyone who noticed would simply blame the wind.

Inside, I saw Zack jump to the ground.

"Enemy attack!" shouted a Wutai troop. "It's SOLDIER! Don't let him get through!"

Three soldiers attacked him, and Zack quickly stabbed them one by one.

Suddenly, his cell phone went off. You would not expect to hear such a thing during an epic battle in an ancient fortress, but not only did Zack's phone ring, he answered it!

"Were you able to get inside the fortress?" Angeal asked.

"Piece of cake!" Zack replied. "I could have done it blindfolded!"

"Don't get too careless," Angeal warned. "I've heard that the Wutai keep a large monster for anti-SOLDIER purposes. It should be somewhere inside Fort Tamblin."

"If I take it out," Zack asked nonchalantly, "do you think I'll make First?"

"It depends on the quality of work," Angeal replied. "Your main duty is to draw the Wutai troops to you by running amok. Do that well, and the director will give you a favorable evaluation."

"Oh, that'll be easy!" Zack said. "Just leave it to me!"

He ended the call and proceeded into the fort. The first room was unoccupied, but the second room had three soldiers waiting for him. Zack quickly killed all three with one swipe.

In the third room, Zack was attacked by two soldiers and some odd-looking quadruped. He took care of the situation the smart way: he killed the two soldiers first, and took care of the creature as it was feeding on the soldier's corpses.

Zack continued to make his way through the fortress, turning corner after corner, even going through a rotating wall before killing three more troops.

He was a pain in the ass to keep up with.

And then, Zack's phone rang again. And, sure enough, he answered it. This time, I recognized the voice as Lazard's.

"This is Lazard," he said. "Enemy troops appear to be lurking in every corner. This fortress will not go down easily."

"It appears that way," Zack agreed. "I was just assaulted while I was checking a revolving wall."

"There may be similar traps set up at the other walls," Lazard warned. "Proceed with caution."

Zack hung up the phone and continued through the brick maze that was called Fort Tamblin. Four soldiers jumped from the wall to attack him, and Zack killed two per swipe.

Two more of those odd quadrupeds, which I later heard were called foulanders, also attacked him from the wall, but he killed them both in ten seconds flat.

I was half-wondering if those creatures could detect I was there.

In another room, Zack came to a tower. It was an old tower that looked somewhat like a pagoda.

"Soldier operative sighted!" shouted a soldier from the top of the tower. "He's under the tower!"

Two more foulanders charged Zack from behind.

"So that's where you are!" shouted another soldier next to the nasty creatures. "Thirty-eighth Tamblin unit, charge!"

The soldier in the tower jumped down. Zack killed him first, causing the Foulanders to go for the corpse instead. The remaining soldier fled the scene.

And then, Zack's cell phone rang for a third time. It was Lazard again.

"We have new intel," he announced. "Enemy troops have also been detected at the two towers within the fortress."

"Well, that makes sense," Zack said. "I just took out one of those towers."

"You'll have to look for the other tower," Lazard commanded. "Otherwise, the enemy can easily track your position."

Zack found the other tower a few minutes later.

"To think one SOLDIER operative did this much damage to us," said the soldier at the top of the tower. "It seems I can no longer sit back and watch."

The soldier jumped down, landed a few feet from Zack. I could see that he was wearing sergeant colors.

"You'll pay for what you did to my men!" The sergeant announced. "I'll make sure you never leave this place alive!"

"He's no match for three Wutai sergeants!" shouted another sergeant as he approached Zack, stopping a foot to his left. "Let's take him out!"

A third sergeant stopped at the same distance on Zack's other side.

"We'll show you the true power of Wutai!" he said.

All three of them aimed their firearms at Zack.

Zack, immediately realizing what was happening, ducked as the sergeants opened fire. A moment later, the three sergeants fell dead; they had shot each other.

And then, Lazard called again.

"Well done, Zack," Lazard complimented. "We have successfully occupied Fort Tamblin. I was really only expecting you to get their attention. Most impressive, I must say."

Zack sighed in relief, still hoping for his promotion.

"I'm very pleased with the results thus far," Lazard continued. "Proceed to the next objective."

Zack pushed his way through two wooden doors, and found himself in a spot where he could see a big red pagoda.

"Ah, this must be the central area," he said.

He made his way to the pagoda, where he saw what appeared to be the stone statue of a dragon.

"What's this?" Zack asked out loud.

"That is Wutai's guardian deity, Leviathan," replied a voice.

Zack jumped in surprise, and faced the voice's origins.

Three men in Samurai-like armor landed behind him.

"We are the Crescent, the Wutai army's elite unit," one of them said. "We appease the wrath of Leviathan, and smite the enemies of Wutai. Our beloved homeland has been brutally ravaged by Shinra."

Zack sighed. He knew he was being grilled.

"I heard that if we could process the mako here, it would help people live better lives," he defended. "But then you attacked us without even hearing us out!"

"What do you know of the pain we have suffered?" demanded one of the Crescents. "Shinra has continually brought fear and oppression to the innocent people of Wutai!"

Zack was silent. He didn't agree with everything the Shinra did (and neither did I), but they were his (and my) employer.

"I would like to ask you one last thing," the Crescent continued. "Are you satisfied in using your immense power to serve an evil organization like Shinra? Does it bring you joy to torture innocent people?"

"That's not what I..."

"If there is any remorse in your heart," the Crescent interrupted, "then atone for your actions by joining our cause!"

Zack was silenced by surprise; he had been expecting the Crescents to attack. So had I.

"Of course," the Crescent continued, "we cannot pay you much, but you can use your power in the name of justice!"

"Justice?" Zack replied. "Is that really the case? Is it so terrible to provide mako to people and make their lives better? I don't know. But I chose to serve Shinra. Whatever happens, I have to stand by that decision."

He then pulled his sword out, realizing that the Crescents were not going to let him walk away.

"I was foolish to think I could reason with villains," lamented the Crescent. "For those of us born and raised in Wutai, losing our land is the same as losing our lives. Hence, I must eliminate you, as my last duty to the land. You will now witness the wrath of the Wutai!"

At first I thought it was stupid of Zack to pull out his sword like that. As it turned out, it was that smartest thing he did. As the three Crescents advanced in him, Zack immediately killed two of them, and wounded the third one, the one who had been talking, in the leg, causing him to collapse to the ground.

Without further ado, Zack put his sword away and began to walk off.

"Why do you not finish me?" demanded the fallen Crescent. "I choose death before dishonor!"

"I don't know," Zack nonchalantly replied as he further distanced himself. "Not in the mood, I guess."

"Your mercy may prove fatal someday," warned the Crescent. "As long as we breathe, we will continue to target Shinra. I promise...one day, I will have your head."

"Fine," Zack sighed. "I'll be waiting."

The Crescent was silent after that; whether he had nothing more to say or he died from the wound, I never bothered to check.

Zack made his way towards the arena, keeping an eye out for any possible surprises.

Suddenly, the silence was broken by an innocent-sounding voice.

"One, avoid unnecessary training!" the voice said.

Zack stopped, wondering whom the voice belonged to.

"Two, protect Wutai at all costs!" the voice continued.

Zack scanned the area, trying to find the voice's origin.

"Three," the voice said, "ugly Shinra SOLDIER dudes must be punished!"

At that moment, the owner of the voice appeared in view. Zack wanted to laugh, and so did I.

The voice belonged to a girl. She looked somewhere between eight and eleven years old.

"Who are you?" Zack asked.

"The mighty Yuffie Kisaragi," the girl replied. "I'm Wutai's greatest warrior! If you wanna go further, you have to go through me!"

"A kid?" Zack sighed. "You shouldn't be playing here, it's dangerous! Go home to your parents."

In response, Yuffie ran behind Zack, who only turned to face her.

"You're the one who's going home!" she demanded. "If you insist on going any further, you'll have a fight on your hands!"

At that moment, both of us realized that she was playing.

"Oh man," he sighed sarcastically. "What am I supposed to do here?"

Yuffie started to pretend punch and kick.

"Whap! Pow! Bam!" she shouted. "Take that, bad guy!"

"Arrrgh! Nooo!" Zack shouted as he dropped to his knees, pretending to be injured. "You got me!"

"There!" Yuffie said triumphantly. "That'll teach you to mess with me! Once again, I've brought peace to Wutai!"

With that, she turned and ran off.

"Boy oh boy," Zack sighed. "You gotta admire that energy. Well, back to work, I guess."

He climbed the stairs and entered the arena. Inside, the arena was circular, and illuminated by pillars with flames. The floor was decorated with colorful tiles. In the center was a square with a giant kanji painted on it.

Zack stopped to scan the kanji. He recalled seeing it before, tattooed on the small of the back of a girl he went on several dates with. His face produced a look of horror when he recalled what it meant: "fight."

At that moment, dust began to come from the ceiling. As Zack instinctively jumped backward, what looked like some kind of vortex opened through the roof.

Moments later, two giant, armored creatures landed on the floor. One of them was purple and carried an ax. The other was green and carried a mace.

"You must be the anti-SOLDIER monsters I've been hearing about!" announced Zack as he drew his sword.

Of course, the creatures were non-verbal and did not respond. But it led Zack to realize one thing: the creatures were powerful; intelligence was a different matter. Zack thus darted in between the two ogres.

I almost couldn't watch; I thought it was a suicide run. But then I realized what Zack was doing. The purple creature attacked Zack with its ax; it missed, and decapitated the green creature instead. Zack then quickly saw his chance and stabbed the purple creature in the neck, which let out a hideous noise for a few seconds before dying.

Zack's cell began to ring, and he eagerly pulled it out, hoping it was Lazard telling him that he had been promoted to First.

"SOLDIER Second Class Zack, victorious once again!" he answered.

But it was not Lazard.

"Good work," Angeal complimented. "Now, get out of there quickly. There's only five minutes until detonation."

"Understood!" Zack acknowledged before hanging up. He then scanned the room. "Director Lazard, are you watching?" he casually asked. "Gotta move!"

He began to run towards the exit. When he was halfway there, another creature landed on the floor. This one was black, larger than the previous two, and was armed with a chain mace.

"No time to play!" Zack shouted as he turned one hundred and eighty degrees. He quickly jumped into the air, and stabbed the creature in the shoulder. It immediately collapsed to the ground, motionless and apparently dead.

I was skeptical, and so was Zack. He stepped in for a closer look, and, sure enough, the creature came back to life. It immediately smacked Zack, sending him into the wall.

I don't know what the impact did to Zack, but as he sat up, I could see something was wrong with him. He kept his sword pointed at the creature, but he didn't stand up. I though he might have paralyzed.

"Not good," he groaned.

The creature raised its arm for a final blow. Then, it suddenly dropped dead, for real this time. Zack probably thought it was a miracle.

Of course, I saw Angeal enter the room, sneak up behind the creature, and cut it down with his precious buster sword.

"That's one more you owe me," Angeal said. "You lost your focus."

"Uh, yeah?" replied Zack, realizing what had happened. "Oh, sorry if your sword got any wear, tear, or rust on it."

"You're a little more important than my sword," Angeal said as he put said sword back where it belonged. He then pointed to Zack. "But just a little."

Angeal helped Zack to his feet.

"Thanks," he said.

Angeal led Zack out of the fort. I used this time to take a few pictures; his mother would end up relieved that he was not shown to be in any danger.

I knew, though, that his chances of being promoted to First Class were as dead as my grandfather once he got cocky in there. He did have a lot more growing up to do.

Eventually, Zack saw whom he had been hoping to see on the path.

"Sorry to keep you waiting," Lazard apologized. "I'm not used to being on site."

"You didn't have to come," Angeal said.

"This operation will bring an end to the war," Lazard insisted. "I have to see it through personally." He then turned to Zack. "SOLDIER Second Class Zack."

"Sir!" Zack responded.

I know what he was thinking. He was hoping that he would announce that he made First.

"You performed your duties admirably at Fort Tamblin," Lazard continued. "I saw it with my own eyes. Frankly, my evaluation of you is..."

I can swear I saw a gleam in Zack's eye.

"You took out a lot of enemy units for us," Lazard said. "You exceeded my expectations. Keep up the good work, and perhaps the day you make First will not be far off."

Who knows the extent of disappointment that shot through his mind, but he kept it contained. Or, at least he hid it by doing squats. I don't know.

"You were right, Angeal," Lazard continued. "He is quite a promising prospect."

"This is just the beginning," Angeal chuckled.

"I can say this now," added Lazard, "but when you first came to me with the recommendation, I was hesitant. I thought for sure that all he was good for was doing squats."

On cue, Zack stopped squatting.

"Now, let's hurry," Angeal commanded. "Sephiroth is waiting."

"Sephiroth!?" Zack exclaimed in excitementThe SOLDIER hero? Wow! I get to meet a hero!"

Suddenly, three more enemies emerged from the foliage and began to attack Zack. I was baffled at first; these were not Wutai soldiers. They almost looked like...Genesis.

Whomever they were, Zack wasted no time in dispatching them.

"Zack!" Angeal suddenly called. "Come on!"

I turned to see more of these enemies attacking Angeal and Lazard.

"Take the director to a safe place!" Angeal commanded.

"Then contact Sephiroth," added Lazard.

"Zack is more than enough," Angeal insisted as he killed one of the enemies. "Now, go!"

"Follow me, Director!" Zack commanded as he led Lazard down a path through the woods. A few minutes later, they met up with a few Shinra soldiers.

"Thank goodness you're safe, Director Lazard," one of them said.

"I should be fine now, Zack," Lazard said as he turned to him. "Go and assist Angeal!"

"I know, I know!" Zack replied as he turned and ran in the opposite direction. Moments later, he was approaching where he had left the fighting.

"Angeal!" he called. "Angeal!"

But there was no answer. When Zack arrived, all he could see were two dead bodies that belonged to those weird soldiers.

He then came to the same conclusion that I did.

"What?" Zack exclaimed. "These guys aren't Wutai troops."

He didn't notice the dark red sphere that appeared above him; I quickly recognized it as a summon materia. I turned to run, but it was too late. Suddenly, the world around us looked as if it had been scorched.

"A summon?" exclaimed Zack. "Who called it out?"

And then, an orange, horned humanoid appeared. It was Ifrit.

The summon attack Zack with fire, while he used his sword. Ifrit was one of the weaker summons, and Zack had no trouble causing it to double. And then he made another mistake: he turned his back to it. Ifrit quickly surrounded Zack with fire. I thought he was done for for sure.

Moments later, I saw a flash of long, silver hair, followed by a long silver blade. It all happened too fast: the blade drove itself into Ifrit, causing it to explode in agony.

The original surroundings returned. Zack was unharmed. Standing mere feet from him was Sephiroth.

"Holy shit!" Zack exclaimed.

Ignoring him, Sephiroth took a knee and inspected the bodies. He pulled the helmet off of one of them, revealing a face he had recognized.

"Genesis," he said out loud.

"The missing SOLDIER First Class?" Zack asked.

Sephiroth then pulled the mask off of the other body; it revealed the exact same face.

"They're identical!" Zack exclaimed.

"A Genesis copy," Sephiroth muttered.

"Copy?" Zack asked. "A human copy?"

Sephiroth immediately turned to Zack, finally acknowledging him.

"Where is Angeal?" he inquired.

"I thought he was fighting around here," Zack replied.

Sephiroth grunted.

"So he's gone too."

Sephiroth they stood up and began to leave.

"What?" exclaimed Zack as he began to follow him. "Wait, what does that mean?"

"It means Angeal has betrayed us as well, Sephiroth replied.

"No way!" Zack dismissed. "I know what kind of guy Angeal is. And he'd never do that!"

Sephiroth stopped and turned around. He gave Zack a cold look. I almost wondered if he was going to kill him.

"Angeal wouldn't betray us!" Zack protested. "Never!"

"Come along," Sephiroth commanded. "Director Lazard is waiting."

At this point, I realized that the fighting was over for the day. I now needed to return to the town of Wutai and book a hotel for the night. So I followed the path back to the town. There were Wutai soldiers forming checkpoints along the way, but that didn't bother me; I was still invisible. I finally de-cloaked behind a tree at the edge of town. I then casually strolled to the nearest in and booked myself a room. The innkeeper gave me a suspicious look, but lent me a room just the same.

I went to my room and sat down on my bed. I then pulled out my phone. Nobody had called me, and I wasn't surprised. I really should have given my number more easily.

I then checked my emails; one reminded us all of the dress code.

A second email reminded us of our first softball game. I would be going to that one, as Durham's our catcher.

I also noticed one email from an address listed as Gainsborough, Aerith L. I clicked it to find no message, but an attachment instead. It appeared to be a video, so I clicked it and allowed it to load.

She was laying on her stomach over her comforter, barefoot and wearing a white tank top and black pajama bottoms. Behind her was a pillow that read "PRINCESS" on it.

"Hel-lo, Tobin!" she greeted. "PJ time in the Aerith household!" She then giggled. "This is just a friendly reminder that you need to get back here alive." She then pointed her finger. "If something happens to you out there, I'll never speak to you again!"

Then the video ended.

I sighed; of course, I had never told her about my cloaking bracelet. I think she would've had a peace of mind if she knew they couldn't attack what they couldn't see. Maybe I would tell her if we got closer.

I then realized that I also never gave her my number. I figured a text from me would give her a peace of mind as well.

There was a lot to think about other than girls, like what was up with Angeal. I didn't trust Sephiroth, so I doubted that he betrayed anyone. It was possible a Wutai trooper got him, or maybe the sting of a hornet struck him down.

In any case, I was too tired to overthink is. Following Zack Fair around was a lot more draining than it looked. I closed my eyes and lay my head back.

I passed out in seconds.

October 8, 0000

I woke up the next morning. My body was aching from all that chasing, and I smelled like shit. I quickly showered, dressed, and prepared to go home.

And then, noticed it: my cloaking band was gone!



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