|By : Hippo_and_Friends_with_Benefits|
Category: Final Fantasy VII > General
Views: 919 -:- Recommendations : 0 -:- Currently Reading : 0
|Disclaimer: I do not own Final Fantasy VII, Crisis Core, it any characters therin. I am not making any money here.|
Chapter 44: The Showdown
Hojo entered the board room on the sixty-sixth floor of the Shinra Building. He could see President Shinra at the head of the table, with Palmer, Scarlett, and Reeve on the left, and Rufus and Heidegger on the right. He was at their full attention.
"We have reports that Zack Fair has caught a ferry to the Southern Island," Heidegger began. "Plans are already underway to recapture him, but we need to know how dangerous he is."
"He is quite harmless," Hojo replied. "In the sense of contaminating anyone. He was placed in the tube in the Shinra Mansion within weeks of the Nibelheim incident. He didn't escape until a few days ago."
"Within weeks?" Scarlet inquired. "I thought he was put there immediately."
Hojo shook his head.
"We first had him on the Island Gulag," he explained. "He wasn't very cooperative, if you can put it that way."
"Wait a minute," President Shinra interjected. "You're saying Zack was taken to, and then from, the Island Gulag?"
"That is correct," Hojo replied.
"Nobody leaves the Island Gulag," Rufus protested.
"Except him," Hojo corrected. "The Island Gulag has everything but the capsules, which is why he was placed in the Shinra Mansion with Cloud."
President Shinra sat back in his chair and lit a cigar. "So Zack Fair knows where the Island Gulag is. Very unfortunate for him."
"I think we need a change of plans," Rufus added.
Darkness fell as Zack arrived at Banora. He parked the motorcycle in a safe spot where he hoped no Shinra troops or Genesis copies would find it. Cloud was still passed out, with no more progress than before. Zack would occasionally check to see whether he was still breathing.
Genesis always carries a dumbapple around, Zack thought to himself as he dismounted the motorcycle. I should have caught on quicker.
He scanned the remains of the town. In front of him was a huge chasm that was glowing green.
"It's so different now," he said aloud.
Behind him, Lazard landed, and seemed to be struggling to stand up. He seemed to be in pain.
But pain or not, he could prove useful.
"Could you watch over Cloud for me?" Zack requested.
"Certainly," Lazard agreed.
And then, further in the distance, Zack noticed a beam the was glowing green much more strongly than the canyon.
"What's that?" Zack asked.
He then took another look at the ailing men behind him.
"Don't worry about Cloud," Lazard assured him. "I promise I will protect him."
Zack turned to Cloud.
"Cloud, wait here, all right?" he commanded. "I'll be right back."
Zack made his way to the edge of of chasm, where the beam of light was emanating from brightly.
If I go down there, he thought, I probably can't come back up. So this is it. And if I have to die because of this, so be it.
Zack entered the chasm, and found himself in a somewhat familiar setting. It almost seemed like he was inside the factory again.
He then spotted a tunnel.
"Was this here before?" he asked aloud. "Where does it lead?"
The tunnel had lights on the side; he certainly was not the first person there. He continued down, preparing to draw his sword, as anything or anyone could be down there.
Eventually, he came to a wooden desk. What it had been doing there was beyond him. On it was a scrapbook, and a shelf with trophies.
Zack became curious, and opened the scrapbook. Inside was a newspaper clipping.
"'First Prize: Banora White Juice Processed Foods Category, National Agriculture Awards,'" he read aloud. "Wow. 'The idea to make this juice came from a Banora youth named Genesis.' Wow, just wow! 'Genesis's comments: I am very honored. Banora White juice tastes great, but the fruit itself is quite tasty as well. My dream is for my parents and me to serve the hero Sephiroth our apples one day. Since we are close in age, I would like to show him what I've accomplished in my life.'"
At that moment, Zack heard a hideous noise in the background.
"Genesis," he said as he put the scrapbook down and looked further into the tunnel. "Is there anything I can do to save him?"
He started down the tunnel, reaching a flight of stairs. At the bottom of the stairs, he found himself in a chamber where crystals seemed to be growing out of the ground. Streams of water were flowing through as well.
As Zack worked his way along the path, he saw what appeared to be some kind of tombstone. But it read:
"LOVELESS - Prologue: When the war of 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.
Further up the path, he encountered a second marker. This one read:
"LOVELESS - ACT I. The infinite mystery, the gift of the goddess is what the three men seek. But their fates are scattered by war. One becomes a hero, one wanders the land, the last is taken prisoner. But the three are still bound by a solemn oath to seek the answer together, once again."
After a few more yards, he spotted another stone. It read:
"LOVELESS - ACT II. Though the prisoner escapes, he is gravely wounded. His life is saved, however, by a woman of the opposing nation. He begins a life of seclusion with her, which seems to hold the promise of eternal bliss. But, as happiness grows, so does guilt of not fulfilling the oath to his friends."
Eventually, Zack arrived at the other end of the chamber. The chamber beyond had a yellow-greenish tint to its walls. Right at the entrance, there was yet another stone that read:
"LOVELESS - ACT III. As the war sends the world hurtling towards destruction, the prisoner departs with his newfound love and embarks on a new journey. He is guided by hope that the gift will bring bliss, and the oath that he swore to his friends, thought no oath is shared between the lovers. In their hearts they know they will meet again."
The next room was beyond amazing and I can barely describe it. There was a statue of a woman, holding what appeared to be materia. Behind the stature, roots grew from the ground, winding two hundred feet up. At the top was a glowing, pink orb.
"My soul," began a familiar voice, "corrupted by vengeance, hath endured torment to find the end of the journey in my own salvation."
As Zack approached the statue, he could see Genesis facing it.
Genesis, now looking even sicker, turned to face Zack. His hair was now completely white, as was his face, and even his eyes, except for his pupils.
"You're late," he announced.
"'Loveless' again?" Zack inquired.
"You have succeeded Angeal's spirit, and carry a part of Sephiroth within you," Genesis explained. "Thus, the three friends are united once again, and 'Loveless' is reenacted."
"No!" protested Zack. "Open your eyes, Genesis!"
"When the war of the beasts brings about the world's end," Genesis defiantly continued.
"I've come here to help you," Zack insisted as he put his hand on his heart.
I was hoping Zack would finished Genesis off; the man had completely lost it.
"The goddess descends from the sky," quoted Genesis as he pointed upward. "Wings of light and dark spread afar. She guides us to bliss, her gift everlasting."
The orb let out a blinding glow.
"What is that?" Zack asked.
"The gift of the goddess," Genesis replied. "A heavenly boon found only in Banora."
"I thought the cells were the gift!" Zack objected.
"There are various interpretations," Genesis replied.
"I don't understand," said Zack.
"To ponder the mystery is in itself a gift," declared Genesis as the orb grew brighter. "We will all join the lifestream. You are no exception. The planet has become my guardian."
With that, Genesis raised his sword to the ceiling. Moments later, energy began to flow into him with such force that he began to shout.
"Keep talking to me!" Zack shouted. "Don't let it take over! You're not a monster; you're one of us!"
Suddenly, Genesis yelled again, and his eyes began to glow a yellow-orange.
Alarmed, Zack drew his own sword.
"Damn you!" he shouted as he charged him.
As he did so, he was blinded by a white light. When the light subsided, Genesis was no longer human.
But you would never be able to tell that he was degrading. He was now ten yards tall. He was plated in armor. And he had one big-assed sword.
Genesis immediately struck at Zack with his sword, causing it to get stuck into the ground.
Seeing his chance, Zack, well aware that his sword would not penetrate Genesis' armor, began to cast Fira. It had no effect.
Genesis lifted his sword out of the ground and stabbed at Zack again. He missed, leaving the sword right back where it had been.
Suddenly, four creatures began to emerge from the sword. They were gray, and looked almost like the Grim Reaper. They were, in practice, mortal, and Zack was able to kill each one with one swipe.
Zack cast Thundaga on Genesis, but he was still unharmed.
"Fuck!" Zack cried. "This son of a bitch is immortal!"
Genesis withdrew his sword before driving it into the ground yet again. Four more wraiths emerged from the sword.
This time, Zack noticed something: the wraiths seemed to be coming from a jewel embedded in the sword.
He quickly dispatched the wraiths and aimed his sword at the large jewel.
Before Genesis could withdraw his sword, Zack drove his sword into the jewel.
It shattered, followed by another blinding flash of light.
And then, the light subsided.
The orb at the top of the roots was no longer glowing; it was empty and hollow.
But Zack's attention was focused on the entity nearby.
It was the original Genesis. He was now only six feet tall. His armor was gone. He was no longer degrading. He no longer had a wing. His hair was brown instead of white. He was how he had originally been.
"I'm normal again," he said.
"What a miracle," Zack replied sarcastically.
"Go on!" Genesis taunted. "Kill me! Kill me the exact same way your killed Sephiroth!"
"I didn't kill Sephiroth," Zack insisted. "A trooper finished him off."
"My soul," Genesis continued as he staggered toward Zack, "corrupted by vengeance, hath endured torment to find the end of the journey in my own salvation, and your eternal slumber."
"Does this mean you knew from the beginning?" Zack inquired.
In response, Genesis pointed his sword at Zack before charging him.
Zack dodged with the greatest of ease.
"Stand and fight, SOLDIER First Class Zack!" Genesis taunted as he turned around.
"Why is everyone always pushing things on me?" Zack sighed.
Zack drew his sword, but I could tell he didn't want this fight.
Genesis charged him again. He was determined, but weakened.
After only two strokes, Zack knocked Genesis' sword away, sending it flying through the air.
Both Zack and I saw Genesis stagger for a bit.
But Genesis saw something completely different.
He found himself surrounded by green energy-was that Lifestream? In any event, the statue began to glow. Moments later, it was replaced by an actual goddess. Genesis reached for her, but she was immediately consumed by the Lifestream. And then, Genesis felt himself falling.
Meanwhile, back in reality, the statue broke and fell, and Genesis collapsed to the ground.
Zack gazed at the fallen Genesis. Now was his chance to finish him off.
But he didn't do that. Instead, he walked over to him, picked him up, and carried him off.
I was beyond astounded to watch that, but I realized that it made sense. He was now harmless. It was the noble thing to do, as opposed to Zack just murdering Genesis and that's the end of the story.
By the time Zack got Genesis to the site, he could see Cloud, still passed out and propped up in a chair. Lazard sat on the ground beside him. He was relieved that they were apparently okay.
Zack gently set Genesis down and knelt by Lazard to thank him.
It was then that he noticed Lazard's labored breathing. A chalky white fluid was oozing out of his chest, and Zack realized right away that it was blood. Something had happened for sure.
"Shinra attacked us," Lazard uttered.
"Save your strength," Zack ordered.
In response, Lazard pointed his finger.
"I got some help," Lazard continued, "from him...over there."
Zack quickly looked to where Lazard had been pointing.
It was the same quadruped that appeared in the sector five church, shortly before the Nibelheim mission. It was dead, and laying on its side.
"It's you," Zack said.
Tears began to fill his eyes. The creature had been looking out for him the entire time. But he never knew until now.
As Zack was sobbing, Lazard's hand slumped to the ground.
"Director!" he cried as he ran to his side and knelt down.
Lazard remained still. He had died as well.
The grieving Zack pounded the grass. After calming down, he rose to his feet.
"Thank you," he said sadly.
He then glanced again at the fallen Genesis.
Taking pity on him, Zack picked three dumbapples. He kept one for himself, gave one to Genesis, and the third to Cloud.
"Ok, let's eat!" Zack commanded. "Sorry I'm not the real thing, but..."
Without finishing, Zack began eating his apple.
"Is it good?" Genesis groggily asked, without eating his own.
"Yeah," replied the surprised Zack.
"The gift of the goddess," Genesis said softly.
"This apple?" Zack asked.
Genesis weakly shook his head.
"Angeal," he clarified. "The dream came true."
Just then, out of the corner of his eye, Zack spotted a piece of paper under the paw of the dead quadruped. It seemed as if the creature had also been carrying a message.
He slowly walked over to it, and picked it up.
It was a letter.
And Zack quickly recognized the handwriting as Aerith's.
How are you? I wish I knew where you were. It's already been four years now. This is the eighty-ninth letter that I've sent to you, but I don't even know where to send them anymore. I really hope that this final letter that I am writing gets to you.
Zack, I have no idea what I did wrong to drive you away. I've tried to move on. I've dated. I've even been engaged once. But, each time, it failed. You were the first person I drove away, and I just want to know why, so I'll never do it again.
Was it something I said? Was I too needy or clingy? Was it because I talked about getting married right out of high school? Please, Zack, tell me.
What about all the good things we had? What about you taking me in when the Shinra was coming after me? What about the times we held each other when we each lost our best friends? What about all the fun dates? What about the times we had sex?
Sorry to ask so much. But this is my final letter, so I need to get all my questions out.
By the way, the flowers are selling very well. They make everyone so happy thanks to you, Zack!
Zack's mouth began to dry. He tilted his head slightly up.
"Four years?" he said in shock.
That couldn't be right, he thought. I've only been gone for two weeks!
"Zack?!" she exclaimed. "Zack Fair?!"
"That depends on who's asking," he said.
"It's me!" she announced. "Yuffie!"
"Yuffie?!" Zack asked, confused.
That girl who was always stealing? he thought.
"Kisaragi," she clarified.
That can't be her!
"You're her older sister?" Zack asked.
"No, I'm her!" Yuffie insisted.
"Yuffie Kisaragi's eleven years old," Zack dismissed.
"Is this a joke?" she giggled.
Zack shook his head.
"I'm fifteen!" Yuffie insisted. "I've got my boobs, got my butt..."
That was no prank. That really was Yuffie. All grown up. I was out for four years. I'm in my twenties now.
Unbeknownst to him, he dropped the dumbapple.
He then look straight up at the sky.
"What do you mean, final!?" he shouted at the top of his lungs.
Four years! Zack thought. Four long years! Shinra...there's going to be hell to pay!
And then, Zack felt himself calm slightly. He looked back down.
The letter implied that Aerith is single. Maybe...we can get back together.
"Aerith," he said, "wait for me."
He quickly walked over to the unconscious Cloud and lifted him over his shoulder.
"You're going to make it, too," he assured him. "You got that?"
He began to walk towards his buster sword. He stopped, and then turned to look at Genesis one last time. He extended him a simple nod. He then picked up his buster sword, and was off.
AN HOUR LATER...
Genesis continued to sit until he heard a helicopter land a few yards away from him.
"This must be an important matter if they are sending the two of us," he heard a first voice say.
"Apparently the subject will become our brother," said a second voice.
"Is that so?" asked the first voice. "But, will he accept his fate willingly?"
Genesis only had the strength to slightly lift his head. The two visitors seemed to be wearing some variation of a SOLDIER uniform. A moment later, he felt himself being lifted.
Even if the morrow is barren of promises, nothing shall forestall my return, Genesis thought as the two visitors carried him to the helicopter. To become the dew that quenches the land, to spare the sands, the seas, the skies, I offer thee this silent sacrifice.
Zack arrived in Costa del Sol to immediately encounter a familiar face approaching him.
"Yuffie?" he greeted.
"So you're not doubting it's me anymore?" she greeted back.
Zack shook his head. "I guess you could say I was kind of living under a rock."
"So I take it you're here to feast your eyes on all that ass on the beach?" she teased.
"Here to steal again?" Zack asked in the same tone of voice in retort. "Possibly from me?"
"No way," she insisted. "I'm going to the beach!"
Zack gave her a skeptical look, as she was the only girl in the area in street clothes instead of a bikini. She was wearing her green crop top sweater and undone khaki shorts.
"Where's your swimsuit, then?" he interrogated.
"Didn't bring one," Yuffie replied with a smirk. "I'm going to Costa del Luna since tan lines suck. Care to join me?"
"I'll pass," Zack dismissed.
"You don't want to go to a nude beach with a cutie like me?" she asked.
"I kind of need to get to Midgar," he replied.
"Have a booty call?" she giggled.
"To be perfectly frank," Zack replied, "I do."
Yuffie gave him a disappointed look.
"You know there's an ocean between you an Midgar, right?" she reminded him. "You can try and swim it if you want."
"What are you getting at?" he asked.
"I just happen to have two barge tickets to Junon," she replied. "Want them?"
"You mean you stole them?" Zack inquired.
"Maybe," she said with a smirk. "But does it matter?"
"I suppose not," he agreed. "So what's the bad news?"
"One date," Yuffie demanded.
Zack shook his head.
"That wouldn't work," he dismissed.
"Fine," she sighed, as she folded her arms and turned her back to him. "Just FYI, jellyfish stings take a week to fully heal. And you're not supposed to pee on 'em!"
Zack then realized he was beaten. Not that he had to follow through, of course. If she wasn't trustworthy, he didn't have to be.
"Fine!" he sighed. "One date."
"You got yourself a deal," Yuffie giggled as she turned around again and handed Zack the boarding passes. And then, she spotted the passed-out Cloud, who was face down. "Oh my God!" she gasped. "Is that a dead body?!"
"President Shinra needs a kidney," he lied. "This is a perfect match."
"Damn!" Yuffie exclaimed. "Well, get it to Midgar, then. Don't forget, you owe me a date!"
A moment later, Yuffie was gone.
Zack gazed at the tickets and smiled.
She thought I had died or cut her off, so she had to move on, he thought. No one can blame her. I'll explain everything when I see her. I know she'll forgive me.
The journal's almost over, by the way. I'll shortly deal with Zack's arrival on the Eastern Continent.
Have a Kleenex handy.
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