AUTHOR'S NOTE: So. I was in a car accident.

I'm fine, I promise, but just to prove I have a good reason for why this hasn't been updated in so long (oh lord it's been 7 months holy balls I am so sorry).

If I did actually worry any of you I am really sorry. Hopefully you understand.

Thank you to Gry20, Bloodwitch Raven, Samantha and all the guest reviewers for reviewing the previous chapter.

This chapter is dedicated to najamuzen.

DISCLAIMER: Final Fantasy is owned by Square Enix. I own my OC Sakura.

Chapter 7 - Pathway

The five of us had been walking for a while, fighting the ever increasing hordes of manikins as we went. None of us knew exactly where this "Rift" place was, but as Laguna had said, following the manikins was our best option.

However, although Laguna's information had been exceedingly helpful, his sense of direction still left something to be desired.

"Hmm… Guess we go this way?" he was musing out loud.

I rolled my eyes. "Laguna, we literally just came from that way."

Laguna began to look embarrassed while Yuna giggled. "So we should be headed this way," she said, pointing in the opposite direction Laguna had been looking.

"Ah, right!" Laguna nodded, as if that had been his plan all along. "That's what I meant to say."

"You really are hopeless, aren't you?" Vaan grinned.

"I've been called worse," Laguna laughed good-naturedly. "Well then, shall we?"

I turned to check the last member of our group only to see her leaning against a nearby wall, frowning in the direction we'd just came in.

"Light?" I called out. "What's wrong?"

"Come on, that's not the right way," Vaan said to her. "We'll end up going in circles listening to Laguna."

Lightning ignored his quip and didn't shift her eyes from where she was staring. "We've got company," she said.

And sure enough, around the corner came Tifa with Kain close behind her.

"They're here!" we heard Tifa exclaim when she saw us, before she ran up to us.

I realised I hadn't seen Tifa since Light and I fought Kuja, so I smiled in relief as she joined our group, although we all laid a cautious hand on our weapons when Kain joined us.

"You two came all this way to catch up with us?" Laguna asked. "Would I be right in guessing you're here to send us off to dreamland?"

Kain didn't even look surprised to hear that we knew about it, only a little disappointed under his helmet. "Ah. So you've caught wind of my plan."

"And Tifa, you're in on it with him?" I asked, frowning.

"Well, not exactly," Tifa explained, wringing her hands behind her back. "I don't agree with what he's doing, putting everyone to sleep and all, but I didn't want him to have to do it alone. Friends don't abandon each other like that, you know?"

Kain looked down at Tifa with a fond smile, and I felt my guard drop slightly.

"But what are you all doing out here so far from Sanctuary?" Kain asked.

Vaan gave us all a quick glance before he explained the situation to Kain and Tifa.

"So you're going to stop the manikins?" Tifa asked.

"Yes," Yuna nodded. "We have to do something. If we don't stop them now, there'll be even more to fight later."

"I trust you know that you may well meet your ends?" Kain said with a voice of caution.

"Just as well as you do," Laguna replied, sounding more serious than I'd heard him before.

"We all want to win this thing," Vaan pointed out. "We're just going about it different ways."

"Guess so," Tifa agreed. "Well, you know what… I'll help too. We're trying to do the same thing after all."

Yuna nodded and smiled gratefully.

"Then let us go. The longer we talk, the greater their numbers grow."

We all turned to stare at Kain.

"Wait, 'us'? Meaning you too?" I asked, my eyebrows flying up to my hairline in surprise.

"If you fail your lives are wasted," Kain stated simply. "It's best I add to your numbers."

"Well, not gonna argue with that," Laguna shrugged, at least somewhat breaking the tension. "Better to have more help than less. But still…"

Laguna glanced over to Lightning, who had been silent this entire time.

Light caught his eye and grunted slightly, pushing herself off of the wall before continuing to walk along the route we were on. "Do what you want," she muttered as she passed us.

I glanced at Yuna before running after her, knowing the others would be following slightly behind us.

"Hey, are you alright?" I asked as I began to walk beside her.

"I'm fine," she snapped.

I raised an eyebrow in response and she sighed heavily. "Sorry. I'm not angry at you. I just hope none of you expect me to forgive Kain for what he's done."

"I don't," I quickly reassured her, "and I'm sure the others don't either. Even Kain himself probably doesn't think you'll forgive him. But if you think about it, if he hadn't started to look into all this and discovered about this cycle and all, we probably wouldn't be here heading to destroy this portal. We'd still be aimlessly fighting the manikins and getting nowhere."

"I…suppose that is true," Lightning nodded slowly before looking down at me again, a ghost of a smile on her face. "How do you always manage to see the positive in everything?"

"My older cousin, he's a bit of a grump. He gets it from his father. I guess I always tried to be the optimistic one of the group," I grinned.

Light chucked to herself. "Hey, Suki? You know how you told me that your people – the Al Bhed, right? – have their own language?"

"Um…yeah?" I replied, wondering where this had suddenly came from.

"Well, what would be a really good name to call Kain? In case I get frustrated with him later on so he won't know what I'm talking about."

I burst out laughing before actually thinking about her question. "Well…telgrayt is a good one! It gets the point across but I can sometimes still get away with saying it in front of my Uncle Cid."

Lightning grinned back and nodded. "Alright, telgrayt it is then. I'm not even going to ask what that translates to."

"Probably for the best," I admitted, silently praying that Yuna hadn't overheard us.

We'd continued traveling for a few hours when we stopped to rest. Lightning was talking to Kain and Tifa was on the lookout, leaving Vaan, Laguna, Yuna and I to our own devices.

"I wonder how the crystal's supposed to show itself…" Vaan was musing.

"If we had the time to adapt to Cosmos's powers, would things have been different?" Yuna asked.

"If time wasn't an issue, that may have worked," I nodded.

Laguna frowned. "But how would we have adapted? I mean, maybe I'm just not cut out for it."

I opened my mouth to reassure him but Vaan beat me. "Yeah, maybe not."

Yuna and I started to laugh while Laguna glared at Vaan. "You know, you really should watch your mouth."

"But," Vaan continued, "maybe things went wrong because our minds and Cosmos's mind became distant."

"Our minds became…distant?" Yuna frowned in confusion.

"We're too busy fighting the manikins," Vaan expanded. "We're nowhere near ready for Chaos."

"Hmm…you've got a point," Laguna nodded.

"Yeah, even our final objective is all about the manikins now," I pointed out.

"If we can destroy the door to the Rift, the next ones can share their minds with Cosmos," Vaan said quietly, kicking a small stone across the ground. "So in a way, what we're about to do is really important, and really close to the crystals."

"Hopefully what we do will make it easier for the others to get their crystals too," I added.

"You're actually making good sense Vaan," Laguna smiled. "Our enemy becomes Chaos only in the next conflict. Then we'll share Cosmos's will."

"Maybe you're right," Yuna smiled weakly, gently squeezing my hand. "I would like to believe that."

"Well, I guess it won't hurt anymore if we're wrong… So maybe we should believe," Laguna suggested.

Vaan nodded before stretching his arms over his head. "I'm gonna go take over from Tifa so she can rest for a bit."

We all nodded as he walked off and I turned to Yuna. "Are you okay?" I murmured to her, our fingers still laced together.

"Mmm…" she nodded. "I'm just worried about Tidus. He wasn't at Sanctuary when we were there…"

"I know, but our best bet to help him it to believe Cosmos is looking after him and for us to destroy the portal to the Rift. That way if Cosmos summons him in the next cycle then he'll be able to get his crystal."

Yuna nodded and smiled gratefully. I hugged her before looking up to see Tifa wandering over to Lightning and Kain. Hoping they'd talked out why Lightning was angry – and also wondering if Light had used that Al Bhed curse word I taught her – I stood up and walked over to them.

"There is another cycle, right?" Tifa was asking them.

"That I do not know myself," Kain replied. "It's not as though I saw proof." At that point he noticed me. "Sakura. Are you alright?"

"Yeah, I'm fine," I nodded. "I just… Yuna's worried about this cycle business too."

"But we don't even know if it's true," Lightning frowned at Kain. "And yet you went around knocking allies out?"

I sighed under my breath. So they hadn't sorted it out.

"There was hope in my actions. Well…not hope, but a gamble perhaps," Kain attempted to defend himself. "I took a risk to believe in a chance, rather than live as a pawn to disappear."

Tifa rested her hand on his arm. "You should have talked to us."

Kain looked down at her and smiled softly again. "If I did, no one would be asleep and everyone would be here."

Lightning sighed sharply. "I guess…you're right about that."

"So everyone else is as stubborn as us seven?" I deduced, causing the other three to smile.

"More or less," Tifa agreed with a grin.

"I could only knock them out alone… Protect them from our enemies…," Kain spoke with pain threaded through his voice before he looked up at us again. "But we are only able to attack the gate thanks to all of you."

"We haven't done anything yet," Lightning said. "If you want to take a chance, we need to first stop those manikins from appearing."

"And no way that's going to be easy," I murmured.

"Suki's right, but we have to try," Tifa said, "for the sake of the others as well as our own sake."

Everyone nodded as I glanced back over at Yuna. In her case she wouldn't even be thinking about herself; it would all be for others.

"We must be getting close," Tifa said after a while longer, and I could see why she was thinking that. The manikin hordes were getting larger and larger the further we went.

"You can almost…feel the evil here," Yuna shuddered.

"Manikin headquarters, huh?" Vaan sighed from his spot on the ground where he sat leaning against a pillar. "I wonder what it's like inside."

"You seem a little too calm about this," I said, crossing my arms over my chest and leaning on the pillar next to him.

"Well, it's not like I'm not worried," he replied. "Just…you know, we've never been there."

I laughed slightly. "Can't be scared if we don't know what it's like?"

"Well, I guess that's something," Tifa smiled.

"I suppose…" Yuna agreed, although she didn't sound so sure.

"There you go!" Vaan grinned, pleased he'd managed to make them at least slightly more optimistic.

"It doesn't seem as scary if there's something to look forward to," Tifa reasoned.

"And what exactly are you looking forward to?" I asked.

Tifa grinned again. "A good fight of course!"

I laughed, as did Yuna this time. "I guess I'll just pretend I'm looking forward to this too then," my cousin smiled.

"There's not a lot to really be looking forward to now, is there?" Laguna joined the conversation.

"This from Sir High Spirits?" Kain raised an eyebrow, and I burst out laughing at how fed up he sounded at Laguna's cheerfulness.

"Ah, touché!" Laguna replied with a grin. "But see, I'm trying to keep everyone positive. It's calculated." We were all rolling our eyes at him so he looked over to Lightning for some reason, as if she was going to have a different reaction. "Come on, it was just a joke!" he said to her. "No need to glare at me."

"Nobody's glaring," she replied, looking away.

"Yeah, that's just Light's face," I called out, taking a huge risk.

Yuna gasped, Vaan, Laguna and Tifa burst out laughing, Kain looked like he was trying to hold back laughter, and Lightning looked like she was going to kill me before her face softened slightly. "You're lucky I like you Suki," she warned, and I grinned meekly in response.

Everyone was smiling, and for a moment everything was calm.

But of course that couldn't last.

Sinister laughter filled the air before two enormous armoured figures appeared in front of us, one in blue and one in black. Kain's gaze fixed on the one in black and his hand clenched tightly around his lance.

"Searching for something?" the one in blue mocked. "Continue down this path, and there will be no return for you."

"Great, thanks for the tip," Tifa sneered. "We'll be sure to keep that in mind."

"Assuming you should survive," the one in blue laughed again.

"For the time being, you may indulge us in battle here," the one in black spoke for the first time. "By the time we're done, all will be over."

"What?" Kain said what we were all thinking.

"Surely you sensed something amiss?" the same man spoke again. "The manikins are all but gone from this place."

"What's going on?" Lightning asked.

"The manikin horde should be arriving at its destination as we speak," the one in black announced.

"Its destination?" Yuna said worriedly.

"Where's that?" Vaan added.

"So this is your game," Kain stated with venom.

I frowned. "Kain? What do you mean?"

"Even a goddess could not hope to defeat such overwhelming odds," the one in black continued, a shiver of fear running down my spine as I began to realise what he was talking about. "But she will have to do her best. The manikins march on Cosmos's throne."

"They what?!" Lightning cried out.

"Have you forgotten?" the armoured figure laughed cruelly. "Warriors robbed of their master disappear into the darkness. A true demise, from which there can be no hope of rescue or return."

Kain suddenly ran forward towards the two men in armour. "The rest of you go on ahead," he called back to us.

"Kain?" Tifa called in worry.

"What about Cosmos?" I asked.

"It's too late," Kain replied.

"Too late?!" Vaan protested, before Laguna placed his hand on his shoulder.

"Even if we went back now, we'd never make it in time," he explained. "Only thing we can do is trust our last line of defence to hold."

"You mean that one warrior guy?! On his own?!" my eyes widened.

"There's a limit to what one man can do," Kain admitted. "Every moment we waste is a blow against him. I'll hold them here while you destroy the portal. If you don't hurry, we'll fail at even that."

"But…are you sure?" Yuna asked, her worry clearly evident on her face.

"I can hold my own," Kain assured her. "When I've finished with them, I'll follow behind."

"See you on the other side," Lightning said, to which he nodded.

"Be careful Kain," I added, which he also nodded to.

"Come on, let's go!" Lightning said to the rest of us, before we ran, leaving Kain behind to face those men alone.

I prayed it wasn't the last time we saw him.

"Do you think Kain is alright?"

I looked over at Yuna who was staring up at the darkened sky and attempted to smile. "I'm sure he's fine. Like he said, he can hold his own. He's really strong. We've all seen him fight the manikins."

Yuna nodded, but once again didn't look entirely convinced.

"Speaking of manikins," Tifa said as she walked over to us with Lightning behind her, "we must be really close now. There are so many of them…"

We'd been making our way in the direction of the Rift for a fair while since we'd parted ways with Kain, and as Tifa said our encounters with the manikins were becoming more and more frequent. I was becoming increasingly grateful that we were all here together as a group, although I really wished Kain was with us.

"If we close the door to the Rift," Yuna began to speak, "we can restore calm in this world, and those sleeping can wake up and start fighting again."

"Those sleeping… You mean Chaos's warriors?" Lightning asked with a frown.

When Yuna's face turned red I answered for her. "More like one very specific warrior of Chaos."

Tifa and Lightning had both been caught up on the situation with Tidus, so they nodded in understanding.

"Yuna…maybe you should stay behind," Tifa suggested softly. "You have people you want to protect here. Your memories are from your homeworld. You won't forget him even if you slept."

"But I-" Yuna started to protest.

"You don't have to come," Lightning agreed. "If he matters to you, stay with him."

I raised an eyebrow but didn't say a word. Light was the last person I would've expected to say that.

Yuna looked down for a moment, as if she was considering it, before looking back up with determination in her eyes. "No, I should… I will do what I can do. I'll that Sir Jecht and Tidus can put an end to their duel in the future."

I smiled, proud of my cousin, as I squeezed her hand. "They'll be alright," I reassured her. "Those two are strong."

Yuna nodded. "Yes, I'll believe in them," she agreed. "And I'll walk my own path."

Lightning and Tifa looked at each other before smiling and nodded to Yuna, respecting her decision before they walked back over to the others. I started to follow them but realised Yuna hadn't moved. She still stood there, gazing up at the sky.

"This is the end of our time here," she murmured quietly. "The next will be yours. I wish I could have walked together with you, but there's no path for us to walk on yet. I'll make your path this time. Everything'll be okay, right Tidus?"

Yuna stood there for a few more moments before she took a deep breath and exhaled slowly, turning to me as she did so. I smiled and held my hand out for her. She took it and we walked after the others.

AN: The next chapter will be the last one! I hope you enjoyed this one. And if you are still reading this story, thank you!