Midgar, Sector 7, 0005 N.C.E.
The drops of rain fell like angels from the heavens as their wings gently brushed against the window, leaving their feathery streams of water astray. The sky was pouring down around him in three dimensions, separated from him only by a thin layer of cylindrical glass that extended up hundreds of feet to the spot where fate had more or less guided him to. He was isolated from everything and everyone; on the outside looking in.
The vibration within would not cease. It ate at his composure. He was painfully slowly being carried toward the fight of his life, and he could not, for the life of him, attain steadiness.Of all the times to lose your cool…
He wanted to pass it off as a fluke, or just some pent up anxiety, but he knew the real reason. She was still out there. She was out there waiting for him. She was his one remaining worldly attachment that ate away at him for the decision he'd made.
He'd died and survived too many times at this point. Normal life was beyond his reach. He was too far gone from anyone, yet she remained. Despite the enormous sacrifice he was determined to make to right his wrongs, he would still leave her with nothing but a broken promise. There was no way out of it. It was all just too much. He began to shut down.
By the time the elevator sluggishly jerked to a halt, rumbling like an ominous dirge, he was completely hollow. He would walk through the doors without batting an eye. He would become a machine; immune, invincible, the only way one could.
He would be dead before it began.
The doors slid open, revealing the huge penthouse office adorned with polished marble, gilded soft-light lamps mounted into the pillars that broke up the large plate-glass windows that ran through the center of each wall. A red velvet carpet cut through the center of the room, an open vein leading up to the heart, the source of the room at the other end.
On a raised platform was a great pinewood desk before a clear picture window. In front of the desk loomed darkness. Seven feet of silver haired, Nodachi-weilding darkness. He seemed to blend in with the pouring streams of rain that rattled against the window in sheets.
The red-haired warrior advanced slowly, respectfully. Out of the corner of his eye he could see multiple reflections of himself in the multidimensional marble surfaces. Melding images of his loose black and white fighting attire danced across the walls. His sword remained sheathed, blade up, at his side.
He calmly stepped within twenty feet of the man opposite him, then stopped, unwavering in his blank eye contact. Sephiroth's face broke into a smile.
"Formality. Nice touch."
Crono stared back, motionless. He chuckled.
"You know, I'm proud of you, Crono. You've finally realized it." Sephiroth spoke in a far-off voice, observing. "You've finally found the answer to what's been killing you this whole time."
"You've realized what you are. A man of no-mind; a man who has embraced death as a lover. You didn't even think about it, did you?" A moment passed. They stared each other down atop the dying city. Crono's eyes pulsed, he breathed.
"Samurai." Crono whispered. Sephiroth grinned from ear to ear.
"Yes. And do we know what they do best?" He slid the Masamune into view, out of the depths of his black leather coat. Crono drew, nodding slowly. Lightning flashed.
Like a swirl of concealing shadow, Sephiroth's coat flared out as he slashed, bearing down against Crono's guard, both hands driving the great Masamune. The sound of the blades cracking together shrieked out over the thunder, echoing off the cold, unfeeling walls. Crono slid a few inches back, digging his heels into the carpet, pushing out of the deadlock. He swayed back from a roundhouse kick, stepping around it as it came down, bending his knees low.
He launched into the air, leaning straight back until he was parallel to the ground, spinning in a corkscrew, whipping both legs into his adversary. He touched down and sprung aside, spinning his blade back to guard with a shout. Sephiroth stared back, amazed.
"That's something right there." He grinned. Crono hopped from foot to foot, ready to jump back in, deaf to his words. Again, Sephiroth spun with a swooping motion. Crono saw it from a mile away. He readied himself to roll with the crushing blow. It never came.
Sephiroth's wide feint became a jab, piercing his opponent's ribs with the steel hilt of the greatsword. The air exploded from Crono's lungs, doubling him over. Not wasting a second, Sephiroth kicked him viciously in the face, wound back, and cut down.
Crono rolled to the floor with a deep slash between his shoulder blades. His first mistake nearly cost him his life.
Don't think…just don't…
He wound his legs over his head, the circular force hurling him upward with a clearing slash. Sephiroth slipped out of range as Crono took to his feet. A considerable distance between them, the long Masamune took control, thrusting and slicing in short arcs, forcing the Samurai back, awkwardly up the stairs, yet unable to utilize an uphill advantage without getting in for the clinch.
He was blind to the desk behind him until he bumped into it, throwing himself off balance. Staggering not to fall prone, he held his katana diagonally across his body, desperately trying to hold off the coming advance. He could not.
His speed and agility were rendered irrelevant as he crumpled back under the hurricane assault that pinned him to the desk, the Masamune held inches from his face by his own blade. He couldn't muster any power from this position. He'd dropped the ball once, and Sephiroth had run with it. The great black edge pressed closer to his throat.
This happened before…city hall…
Unable to rake out Sephiroth's legs like Cloud's, he brought his feet straight up, extended his legs, and pulled them together full force. His booted heels slammed together at opposite ends of Sephiroth's temples.
Sephiroth staggered. Speed regained control. Crono snaked out of the pin that pressed him down, and jumped back onto the surface of the desk on one foot, kicking hard with the other, then snapping the same kick back to hit again in reverse. His dazed enemy plummeted down to the steps. Crono rebalanced and jumped high off the desk, sword bent back over his head.
He hung there, suspended over his prone enemy, ready to slice him in half. Time moved achingly slow in moments like this. Sephiroth stared him straight in the eye. He did not move to defend himself. Crono dropped closer, closer still, until…
Inches away from a fatal blow, Crono was ripped backward by a horrific force that blasted forth from Sephiroth's calmly outstretched hand. Rays of green and iridescent blue engulfed him, reversing his gravity with the impact of a car crash, and sending him sailing in the opposite direction. He felt like he'd hit a cement wall coming at him just as fast as he fell.
His mind a sheet of white, he spiraled over the desk toward the picture window. His body pushed through the plate glass like thick water, splintering broken shards into his arms, legs, torso. He was met with a sheet of chilling rain as he kept falling upward from the blast. Finally he peaked his ascent, the white numbness fading in his eyes.
The air left his lungs as his chest collided with the banister railing that fenced in the balcony and helipad area outside the President's Office. He gasped, but no breath came, as he slumped and slipped over the railing, taking in the city skyline hundreds of stories below the skyscraper and the plate.
He could feel the city. He felt as if he could fall into it safely, become it. It pulsed and vibrated, just as he did.
His hand caught the railing inadvertently as his body hit the side with a grim thump. He winced, the delirium he'd experienced on the beach returning to him in a rush, air sharply piercing his lungs. He hung there, an incongruous smile cracking on his void face. He understood.
He sheathed his dangling katana, untying the scabbard from his belt, and sticking it over the railing, tossing his grip to the other side of it, pulling himself up on the makeshift winch, stumbling back over the railing, rain permeating his clothes, soaking into him. The rain became warm, cleansing.
The door to the balcony slammed open as Sephiroth stormed out, Masamune brandished. His face no longer held sarcasm or humor.
"You don't get it, Crono. You can't win. You might have escaped death on technicalities, but I can do it regardless. I cannot be defeated. I am an immortal, an ancient."
Crono held his sheathed sword calmly. Sephiroth stormed toward him and the edge.
"You were supposed to side with me. We conquered death. We could have conquered everything. Isn't that what you believe, idiot? You're a waste. You can't even use your own power." He lifted the Masamune. "Draw your sword." He demanded flatly. "This is over. Now." Crono swayed a little in the breeze. Sephiroth's eyes narrowed.
You're a temporary setback…You will not escape death this time…
He cleaved downward.
Braced against the rail, Crono blocked the slash, holding both ends of his sheathed blade. The blow split clear through the scabbard, sending a strong enough force through to break the casing on the other side.
Crono slid off the end of the scabbard, jamming it over the tip of the Masamune which was pressed against his katana. He swayed to the side, holding the Masamune down. His sword arm looped over his Sephiroth's blade. He stepped forward, body behind the thrust.
The sound of suction gave as the katana cleared through Sephiroth's solar plexus and back, deep to the hilt. Crono released the blade. Sephiroth's eyes dimmed, mouth agape.
"That was…" He whispered, stepping back shakily. Crono smiled, hands at his sides, moving with the breeze. Sephiroth, staggering, slammed the Masamune against the ground. The end of the scabbard that had been wedged on broke into pieces. He turned to face his adversary.
"…so fucking stupid of you…" He hissed, slashing upward in a venomous rage that carried him up to his feet and then down, exhausted to his knees, facing the other way. The Masamune clattered to the ground between them.
On hands and knees Sephiroth began to drag himself, life rushing out of him. He needed to turn around. He needed to see Crono die. He needed to know he'd won. He collapsed on his side, unable to move.
I will escape this…
I am eternal…
I cannot die…
His shaking hands moved to the handle of Crono's blade, wrenching it, pulling it with the last of his might. It would not move.
No…I will overcome this…
He could remove it. He could still escape the wound. He just needed to remove it. He screamed out, bucking upward, tearing at it. His eyes opened at the climax of the agony.
He could see, surrounded in light, an angel's face. With a sad smile, she held the blade into him.
Parallel to the ground, blade running through him, he struggled to stay up.
"I gave you another chance at the life I took. I made it up to you! You can't do this…"
A tear formed in her eye as she held the blade in place. Eyes wide in horror, he opened his mouth to curse her, destroy her. His face began to lock up as he slid, in agonizing grotesque, down the length of the blade into cold blackness.
They'd left a sea of bodies in their wake. Young enlistees, men with families, all members of the state they were trying to defend. It was madness.
He braced against the wall, catching his breath. She joined him, wrapping her arms around his waist.
"How much more to go?"
"Thirty floors. We got most of them though…there can't be too many more…" He gasped.
"We have to get there…" She affirmed, reluctantly. "We have to help him." He nodded to her. He knew.
Gathering their wits, they started up the stairs. They nearly jumped when the voice of the enemy rang out over the loudspeaker.
"Get out of the building." It was a young, sinister voice.
"Who's that, Cloud?" He didn't know. He'd never met its embodiment before.
"Who are you?" He demanded, standing to tactical attention.
"It doesn't matter. This building is going to explode in minutes. Get out while you can, there's a helicopter flying in for you" They paused, looking at each other. Cloud grimaced.
"Where is Crono?"
"It's not important at this point. It will all be over in a few minutes. Whether or not you leave is your choice. Just remember that you have a son. You owe him something." The voice crackled, solemnly. A giveaway. It was one of Sephiroth's children. Cloud looked down.
"He's right, Cloud…"
This is not fair…
"Crono made his own decision, crazy at it was…"
No…not his fight…
"Truss needs us…our son needs us." She forced him to look at her. Red alarms began to sound.
Bitterly, Cloud tore himself away from the upward staircase. They began to sprint.
She could see him, engulfed in the bright spotlight, spackled by torrential rains. He was standing upright, leaning slightly against the railing, empty handed. She felt her heart skip.
God…you stayed alive for me…
"Cid…I need you to hold this steady, alright?" She could not contain her anxiety. The pilot sat up, taking the controls of the helicopter, minding his wounds. She messily readied a winch and a zipline, ready to drop down to the roof. She clipped her harness into place. Cid looked at her.
"Be careful kid, alright?" She smiled. Like a child.
"He made it, Cid…it's okay. It's over…" Lost in euphoric anxiousness, she jumped downward to the roof, letting the cable slack as she fell, unclipping herself.
He was there. Hands behind him loosely against the rail, one side of his face turned away, standing up gently, a dim smile on his face.
"I never stopped believing…" She shouted, running to him, fighting the rain. "Never…" She rushed into him, squeezing him around the chest, feeling the warmth amongst the freezing cold. He gently returned her embrace, lowering his head, his lips to her ear.
"I love you." He whispered. The train station. He remembered. She squeezed harder.
"I love you, too. Just…don't do that ever, ever again, okay? Please." She started to cry, the tension finally breaking. "I can't take losing you." She nearly pushed her self through him.
"Yuffie…" He whispered. She sniffed.
"Yeah?" He said nothing. She held on, then blinked. Something was in her eye. It was wet, but not water. It was hot. It burned. She pulled back, rubbing her eye furiously in the confusion.
He looked back at her, face paling, sadness in his eyes. The left side of his neck he'd turned away was split cleanly open. Blood had covered his neck, back, and was now pouring down his chest and left arm. It had spilled into her hair. She froze inside.
"No…" She whispered. His face trembled.
"I'm so sorry for all of this…" She couldn't hear him. She could only see blood. His blood. He was dying. He was going to leave her.
"You promised me…" She sobbed, stepping back. She felt like she was going to implode. Her head pounded. It wasn't real. It couldn't be real. She turned away from him, his garbled words swimming though sheets of rain and coming out as faint echoes in her mind. She saw the body of Sephiroth. Flat on it's back by the window, a samurai katana stained with blood at its side.
Her numb hands gripped the blade. She held it up, the helicopter spotlight now shining directly on her.
You ruined everything…
She sliced clean through the body of the enemy. Again. Again. She screamed for all she was worth. Her world was ending.
He watched the security feeds as they ran. All one hundred and thirty of them. Multiple cameras on seventy floors. Each one a scramble of soldiers and workers. Each one hanging onto their lives by a thread. So feeble. So fleeting.
Life mattered not. He was a freak accident byproduct of an evil man, through which he realized that life mattered not. It was all just death and sorrow. Attachments and loss. He could have been great. A great leader, a great son. He could have made his father proud, made the world shake. He never did. It was all pointless destruction.
He watched the lobby monitor painstakingly. It was littered with Midgar guards whom had fallen holding back Cloud, Tifa, and Crono. Crono who was upstairs maybe or maybe not fighting his father.
Come on…get out…
Cloud and Tifa Srife bolted out the lobby doors, holding on to each other for dear life. They headed for the lift off the plate. They were safe. The enemies were safe. His mother's friends were safe.
Dad…you were a fucking lunatic…
He concluded, pouring himself a glass of wine, spinning around in the control room chair. The red digital clock on the wall dropped into the single digits.
Sorry about all this, mom…you too, bro…
He smiled. The seconds dropped. 5. 4. 3. 2…
He raised his glass to the face of the clock in respect.
In the midst of her rage she could not hear the alarm, nor the signals of the base charge detonation. She could only feel like snap back into reality as she was thrown backwards from her feet, tumbling across the rooftop as it shook. The white spotlight blinded her. It looked like a stream of angels.
Nothing can tear you two apart…
She heard the whisper in her mind. Her vision cleared. She could hear someone screaming over a loudspeaker from above. She could feel herself crawling blind through the water. She was drowning.
She reached out. She swore she could feel him. A second blast lifted her off the ground. The spotlight jostled off focus. The helicopter pulled up slightly.
She landed, spitting out water as she rolled from the blast in the building below her. She stopped rolling, opening her eyes. He lay next to her, eyes shut, mouth hanging slightly open. The rain had washed away a great deal of the stain, yet the wound still flowed. She felt herself sink. She leaned forward, kissing him, tasting blood, tears raging out of her eyes. He moved, pushing her face back weakly.
"Go…get out of here…" She shook her head slowly. "Please…not for me. Don't…" He gasped. She held a finger to his lips.
"Shhh." She whispered in his ear. "You promised."
He was silent. She was right.
The building jerked. The floor below them collapsed. They began to slide toward the railing, grasping each other. Windows buckled. Supports blew. The top of the building slowly crumbled outward in the blaze. They could feel themselves roll off the railside. Beyond the realm of each other's eyes was a vast city, hundreds of stories below them.
She felt herself begin to pulse within. Her chest pressed against his, she could felt it inside him as well. Upside down, spinning in three hundred sixty degrees, she could feel it in the city, the planet as well. Everything was singing and screaming at the top of its voice. Colors, sounds, visions, beautiful and tragically sad surrounded them.
They would never have a family. They would never grow old together. Cloud would never forgive himself for letting Crono slip through the doors. Tifa and Lucca would forever be heartbroken over the loss of her best friends. Leon would live out the rest of his life in a confused sorrow over what became of him. Cid would never escape the nightmares of being inches away from them on the rooftop, but unable to pull them back. There would be no end to the tears that would be tasted.
Yet Cloud and Tifa would raise their son as best they could. Magus and Aeris would rest in peace. The survivors would all support each other in one form or another. They would bring the city together once again. The worlds would revert. Somehow, life would go on, an eternal mix of the beautiful and the tragic. Somehow, it would be okay.
They fell, eyes locked, for what seemed forever. It didn't matter. They couldn't feel their bodies anymore, falling like angels from the heavens, splashing against the street as raindrops, leaving their feathery streams of water astray.
They were perfect.
Part Thirty: Finale