Far beyond the northern reaches of the sandsea there stood a raptor at the gates of darkness silhouetted by his black skin. A strange subterranean existence he had never imagined throughout all of Ivalice, even after seeing only half of this intrinsic magical plane in all its strength and foibles. The Yensa Sandsea, split into two vast territories known as Nan and Ogir was an infinitely terrifying place full of wyrms, flying beasts and the Urutan-Yensa who were a fiercely territorial race of crustacean-like people that vengefully attacked any intruders within their reach. The sand flowed like the waters of the sea leaving no trace behind of any footsteps as travellers unwary would remain lost within the shifting tides of dunes. Cyrus stood beside him, silver-tipped wings turning white beneath the desert sun as a hot breeze flowed up behind them, dust scorching off from the cave entrance they now stood in front of as the wind licked across the great knife upon the raptor's back, the size of himself glinting rust upon two names carved into it. Joseph and LaShawndra. They now stood within the rocky cliffs not more than ten miles from the sea itself. It was a strange sight he would have loved to see from above, the roaring ocean versus the mockery of the sands trying to emulate it. The two cautiously stepped in on foot together, seeing odd crystalline structures glint from all around their heads in both green and purple constructs, with the odd mixture of a yellow quartz here or there. The sand was loose beneath their feet, and somewhat warm after shifting itself downwards into a slope from the outside making it treacherous to navigate as they dug their claws in nervously to keep certain of their footing. It was only five minutes later that they found themselves staring upon a large grey platform carved out of stone, with two slots in the very middle of it almost like a key to be inserted in. "Here we are," said Roy. "Will I be able to come with you?" asked Cyrus. "Probably...you don' mind bein' underground do you Cyrus?" "Considering my wings are but a memory I do not think I have anything to worry about." "Awww don' put yourself down man, ah hate when you do that." "Sorry...hm, well, let's not beat about the bush and see if our key really works on this." "Place your bets now everybody." He brought out the strange long cross-lengthed spectacles from his satchel whilst pushing his fingers in through both lens which were never meant to have glass inside of them. Walking forwards cautiously for anything to come at him he knelt onto the engraved platform and inserted the very lengths of the spectacles inside the socket slots, turning it as if it were a large key in itself. Sure enough, it was as the floor began rumbling beneath his feet. The slots opened outwards as Roy removed the key from it and walked briskly back to where Cyrus stood. The platform slowly untwisted itself into two larger circled slabs on top of each other, grinding menacingly across the other by a sheer scraping noise that briefly deafened the cavern by its earthen echoes. The hole revealed itself once they fully pulled back, seventeen feet wide unscrewed back into the large-slotted rim of the pit's entrance down beneath their feet as they gazed upon the abyss. A staircase carved from rock dwindling down into a spiral of almost blinding green crystalline structures as Roy smirked. "...welp, ah won that bet." "You were never a gambling man to begin with." "Heheh, nope. Alrigh' let's do this." The staircase was wide enough for both, Roy stepping first with Cyrus behind him as they cautiously took each step, making sure none of them had turned loose or simply rotted away by the passage of time. Emerald light bathed them as they reached the very bottom, slowly circumnavigating the giant hole after only nine minutes of gentle footsteps. The very bottom of the hole lead them towards a yawning passage, darkness and nothing more past the green light where dragons had carved their claws and testaments within these walls. Giant scrapes across brittle quartz capturing what little light there was as the raptor brought out his omni-tool, flickering it to light the way forwards with perfect circular white broken up by shadowed rocks. The cavern passage before them was the width of five chocobos spread out, as Roy kept a close eye on any sharp movements just in case, with Cyrus ever constantly behind him. They did not dare question what monstrous beast of forsaken earth had gouged into the walls scoring deep two-feet holes upon the ends of ragged strata.
Once they had taken a good six minutes walking through in silence with Roy's light before them, they found a much greater sight to behold far beneath the sandsea. A grand ginormous cavern large enough to house an entire town of strange architecture that almost certainly looked alien. At least to Roy as he saw the strange constructed walkways in the shape of cubes, totems sculpted like birds screaming down upon him the size of small planes as well as what appeared to be actual moving platforms, glimmering with arcane green lines pulsating along through them. He even saw strange thin pipelines riveting through above his head also glowing green, stepping up towards the central area along a stone-sculpted walk with the infinite abyss underneath them. The sounds of the ocean were near, rumbling across the walls as they felt themselves beneath the sea level as they gazed upon the brobdignagian hall around them. The central region of the place was a large stone square that the platforms occasionally levitated to as they slowly drifted back and forth, with four other doorways around them. Only one of the floating platforms was active, to their right. Shimmering green hexagons enveloped his footsteps as they echoed across the hall amidst the dull roar of the sea and the mysterious platforms hovering across the chasm rifts. A strange yet subtle mixture of sound and colour that unnerved both him and Cyrus. A giant door of at least thirty feet tall stood directly before them, glistening with solid silver of an impassable glory. A podium stood before him, large enough to fold his arms onto entirely as he gasped with hushed tones. "Whut IS this place?" "I do not know," answered Cyrus, "but this magic is much more intrinsic than that which we have seen." "Then it gonna get a whole lot more intrinsic, first we gotta figure out where to go." "What did that tome say that you found?" "It said...'to seek thuh answers of your truth, you must first find thuh key that cannot see', that wuz of course thuh so-called spectacles. It then said 'across thuh cavern you must pursue, three grimoires now anew. Combine our stories into one, then you shall form your truth to be sung'." "Sun? As in, the sky?" "No more lahk singin' sung, but that don't make any sense." "Just whimsical rhetoric of an archaic age, ignore it. We shall soon see the truth for ourselves, now where should we go first?" "...well not that way for starters." Pointing straight in front of them at the north, the great door almost mocking them for being witness to it. He noticed two doorways to the west and one upon the east which currently had its own platform hovering towards it that they hopped carefully onto, large enough to take him and Cyrus across the abyss. The first doorway was of simple oak, placed into the rock wall like it had been lifted from an old cottage somewhere with a single wooden doorknob painted yellow. He carefully opened it as Cyrus cautiously bent his head underneath the doorframe, finding another hallway extend out before them of cubular shapes upon the walls constantly dwindling their lined grooves into a circle within. The corridor looked almost endless, fading into the darkness beyond as Roy held onto Cyrus' reins from behind him to keep him close. Despite turning on his omni-tool once more, the darkness simply swallowed the light completely to become almost physically overwhelming as slowly the light began to recede completely from their vision. The world suddenly much larger than it actually was as a great sense of vertigo started to overcome them, as if they were walking along the edge of a cliff at the dead of night, forever cautious of their footing as storms rumbled past Roy's hearing. A door softly opened before him, one he almost instantly recognised as a door from elementary school as it swept open to reveal a long grey corridor of clear windows to his right, and classroom doors on his left. What was even stranger to him was that the world had turned enormous from around him as if he had been reduced to the height of a child. Cyrus quivered his tailfeathers but said nothing as he watched in silent awe at his surroundings. "Ah know this place," spoke Roy softly. "You do?" "Yeah...th-this...this wuz mah old school back when ah wuz little, but everythin's...much bigger." "What? School, your school was in a forest?" "Whu-...forest? Naw man, look, it's one big corridor fulla doors an' windows." "...you cannot see this forest before you? It's clear as day, I know this place...I remember that scent of the nest...hohhh..."
A wistful look came over Cyrus' face, smiling softly with sweet bliss upon his beak as he felt the summer rays upon his back, the soft grass bristling underneath his feet as he remembered that day. The smell of budding chicks and flowers budding he always associated to that perfect little glade as he began to chirrup rather cutely, regressing back to his childhood. Roy felt a sense of great anxiety that all associated with school, as well as the stale scent of not enough disinfectant used in the halls as several adult voices came to him. "From where I am standing it looks very clear to me-" "Are you a police officer, or are you a headmaster sir?" "With all due respect I-" "Whyzit dat anybody say 'wi' all due respect' they don' mean any o' that!?" "You have four words against one, now by that probability alone-" "My son is NOT a thief, I will not stand for this outrage!" "There is no need to be so defensive mister-" "NO THERE IZZA DAMN REASON, WHEN YOU AIN' GOT NO REASON!" "YOU are accusing my son that he stole something without any actual proof, and if you have NO PROOF of what he did, I-" "As opposed to four separate testimonies INCLUDING the one whose money was stolen, mister MacGregor?!" "I can prove it. I will prove it by one way I know how and you will surely rue the day you ever DARED try to accuse my son of being a thief. How DARE you." He stopped as he turned a corner. The headmaster's office now before him alongside the corridor with four huge large seats laid out alongside it. A backpack was sitting on one of them, which Roy recognised instantly as his own from childhood, red with folded epaulettes mimicking a stylish warrior samurai's armour. Voices came from within the slightly-open headmaster's door as his father and mother came through. "Roy...I need your absolute trust, I want you to trust in me-" "Lon' as you tell us thuh truth we ain' gonna be upset atchu." "Look me in the eye. It's alright, I'm not angry, I am angry at the headmaster but not you. But I want you to tell me, just look me in the eye, and tell me...did you steal that boy's money?" He heard his own voice as he pulled out a book, his own school textbook adorned by stickers of samurai knights and wild cowboys shooting across the page journal, with one or two stickers viciously removed with the outline of locomotives from them. Far from the age of nine years old he found himself within the book, an image transfixed struggling to maintain dignity in the midst of fear and outrage, bawling from his cheeks as he saw the scene play. "Ah...didn't DO IT, d-daddy! Th-those three took that kid's money, ah saw 'em do it!" "Is that the truth?" "YES DADDY AHM NOT LYIN', AH AIN' LYIN', B-BOBBY'S TRYNA PUT THE BLAME ON ME!" "Why would he blame you?" "Cuz ah told 'em to stop! Ah didn' wanna fight 'em but ah told 'em to give it back or ah'd tell on 'em! Ah did, b-but they don' believe me c-cuz there three of them lyin' an' only of me, s'not FAIR!" "And the boy who was stolen from?" "He scared o' Bobby, everybody hate Bobby, he always tryin' to throw hisself aroun' he told Jimmy, he threatened him cuz that's whut he do! AH DIDN'T DO IT DADDY, AH DIDN'T DO IT!" "Alright, I believe you. I believe you are telling me the truth and so does your mother. Do you know why?" His parents came into focus shining with eyes of trust, the male with solid black scales, the female with blue streaks that slithered from her eyes to her snout like two broken rivers as his mother spoke. "Ah seen a lotta liars back home where ah grew up, they always got a tell about 'em, lahk how they never look you in thuh eye or they don' have that...that part o' their voice that you only git when you's start tellin' thuh truth...ah know when you's tell me thuh truth Roy. Yer eyes always turn so brigh'...an' focused, just lahk yer daddy's does. Both o' you's can ain' never meet sumbody's gaze that good when you's start lyin'." The scenery changed, his father in postal uniform pointing with accusation at the headmaster as if he were an attorney in court. The headmaster, a rather pallid-looking cougar balked from the sheer roar of defiance, his mother beside him grinning in her humble blue muumuu dress, patterned with white streaks like sand. Three boys brought, struggling to defend as words spilled out from sheer weight of authority upon them, crying and pointing at each other with vile accusation. A young raptor became exonerated of accusations as his father's words echoed to him. "You can never hide the truth, Roy. No matter how harsh some people may be, truth will always come out one day whether it's by the good conscience of others, or the law studious enough to pursue it." He found himself back in the great hall, holding the schoolbook now in his hands as the podium gently began to glow indicating what it wanted. The book in turn seemed to reach out to it as he placed it down on the plinth, the book opening by its own will until it stopped on a page with a question and three answers to it as Cyrus peered over his shoulder from behind him.
_How do we first learn of Truth?
- By the laws of our society
- By the lessons of our heritage
- By the understanding of our souls_
"...wh-whut? Whut thuh-" "What does it say?" asked Cyrus. "Ah...ah don't get it, it's tryin' to be philosophical it's asking me how ah first learn about truth but...ah mean technically they're all right!" "And yet you can only pick one of them?" "Ah guess." "What is it asking you exactly?" "How do we first learn of truth? Bah thuh laws of society, thuh lessons of our heritage, or thuh understanding of our souls?" The chocobo cocked his head in ponderment trying to think this one through, looking around himself as if hoping for an inspiration as he gave his thoughts on the matter adding: "Well...society may not always be correct." "But whut if it is? Ah mean, mah society wuz don't steal, don't kill-" "We are not talking about what is right or wrong, we are talking about what is true or false. Think about it, what is true in your society?" "Um...there are countries that exist, we have a presidential system-" "Ah, politics, but do they not always change?" "True...an' just because society tells me on TV or on newspapers doesn't always means it's true." "Then you must not rely perfectly on society as a truth seer, but as a reflection of itself. Is that not correct?" "...man, nobody gonna believe me ahm talkin' about thuh perception of society's information with a goddamn chocobo." "I can see and hear can't I? I know well enough how the world works." "Righ'...whut abou' heritage? Actually, naw...ah think ah get it." "Really?" "Yeah...naw ah believe it's this one." "Are you certain of that Roy?" "...society an' families change...ah feel that you can only truly understand whut is truth if you just try to understand whut you is." He chose the third answer pressing his finger onto the word "souls" as the sentence glowered partially before the book sealed itself completely onto the firm podium, almost magnetised made impossible to remove. He saw a diagram reveal itself on the page, a mirror slowly drawn to fruition with immaculate silver-crusted frame and glass polished to a sheen. But it gave nothing more as the next platform, one of two towards the west began awakening to move slowly over the pit. Waiting for their chance, Roy hopped on along with Cyrus as they found their next door in the shape of a much more modern solid-looking rectangular door, with iron-cross panelling to look rather elegant. Opening by its long black handle reminiscent of a witch's staff, he found himself in yet another corridor, this time turning to the left sharply after seventeen steps precisely. The walls were layered by some strange mineral quality that shimmered with light nonexistent yet powerfully smooth to the touch that his hand almost slipped straight off
The corridor took a sharp turn to the left, and almost instantly Roy found himself being blinded by a piercing white light, with an instant cold overwhelming him as the sounds of blizzard morn swept through him. Forced to shield his eyes, the room he found before him was coated with snow from end to end, almost blistering his scales from such frigidness as he gasped harshly. "J-j-jesus f-f-fuck!" "What's wrong?!" asked Cyrus. "C-c-cold, m-m-man f-fucking freezin' a-all of a s-s-sudden." "Cold? Why?" "Y-y-y-you don' s-s-see thuh d-damn snow?!" "I...am not seeing any snow Roy, I see a town before me." "Wh-whut?!" "...we haven't seen the same place as each other in the last room haven't we?" "W-w-well ahm c-certainly feelin' it." "Just stick close to me, I'll keep you warm if need be." "A-a-alrigh'...th-thank you." They looked at each other oddly with a nervous smirk of uncertainty before making their way through, the raptor struggling to keep warm as Cyrus pulled him closely with his feathers. Sighing with a little body heat from his chocobo helping matters, the two walked on through a clear path between stone walls and snowdrifts between each of their visions. Cyrus felt the hustle and bustle, despite the empty street winding its way up towards a hill basked in sunset, bare windows and empty rooms casting unease upon him. Roy felt the ice slither down his neck, the crunching snow beneath his cold feet as he struggled to resist flinching from every step he took. He knew that cold wind, that harsh howling furore that came through from the mountains. The path went up towards a small hill, artificial and yet so reminiscent of its landscape as if someone had actually sculpted a hill from the earth underneath the world itself. Each step they took, Roy heard a young voice fluttering through his mind's eye hearing himself argue back. "You don't agree with the things I have done, mister Roy?" "No, ah do not. A kid like you's got no place behind a bloody dagger." "I do not need a dagger, for the wind is my ally always in punishing them." "Whutever, this is NOT okay." "Even if the ones I slay twist words into law, to abuse those different from them?" "When laws are governed by thuh unjust, that's a sign fer rebellion an' fightin' thuh man head on, not backstabbing in thuh street an' slinkin' around like sum coward." "Hehehee...conscience doth make cowards of us all." "Sometimes cowardice is thuh only method of survival, especially if one chooses to be an assassin. Why did you become one?" "Because in some places, a decree is just as dangerous as a sword, and far easier to hide." "True, but just as a decree can be used against me lahk a sword, a decree is not a weapon, an' therefore if someone is unarmed, ah won't kill them. No matter whut." "But if law does not work, then what else is there left? There is only your heart to follow...and mine shall take me to darkness in order to bring light." "If that is yer path, an' yer clearly TOO capable of doin' it...then ah got no reason to stop you...but I'll change things mah own way, an' I'll prove to you that somehow, someway, justice can be brought fair an' square without poisons an' daggers." He reached the top of the hill, focusing on the voices in order to shut out the cold scorching through his skin as he staggered onwards, with Cyrus behind him pushing on to keep him steady. At the top of the snowy hill, was a book bound in black. A blood-red handprint of a human imprinted upon its front as he opened it cautiously. He saw a memory shift through its pages, another world far beyond Ivalice's reach as the image of a small reptilian child stared up at him. A girl he most clearly knew, blindfolded wearing a black robe with white swirls around the chest not unlike a kimono, her two small curved horns on her head like a bull with ringed adornments attached to the tips, the tiniest feathers dancing on the breeze hanging off of them. Her voice came through loud and clear echoing from the past. "Do you know what the song of the mountain is?" "No...whut is it?" "Come...I will show you mister Roy. I will help you understand what justice truly is, when I shall sing it to you." "But...ah know whut justice is." "No...you don't." The book swallowed his vision almost entirely as he felt himself relive back through what she had meant, a dancing breeze of petal blossoms, storms rising turning leaves into wild ruthless daggers. Scars opened minutely upon his skin as he reminisced, claws streaked across the forest floor as sunlight danced faintly across their bodies staring each other down. He watched his great knife swing up high as the light blinded everything, shimmering as the girl's words left him with a smirk and a giggle. "I only hope, that you never have to make that choice again." Finding themselves back within the central hall again, Roy had the book firmly in his hands as he placed it down on the podium on top of the previous book, the black tome flipping itself open to ask yet another question to him.
_How does one define Truth?
- The definition of our existence
- The acceptance of our reality
- The comprehension of our souls_
"Awwww come on, thuh fuck ah don' need another one of these!" "What is it now?" asked Cyrus. "Just another damn philosophy question askin' me how ah define truth but...none of these answers make any sense to me even, this is more obtuse than thuh last one!" "Well how WOULD you define truth then?" "...um...d-don't do this to me Cyrus ah got this book doin' that to me enough already." "Well that's what it's asking you isn't it? Ignore the choices it's given you and think to yourself, how do you define truth?" The raptor pondered to himself scratching his chin fervently, struggling to compose a definition. First he went to basics by the actual dictionary definition, which in itself did not help. Then he tried to break down what each answer actually meant going by the definitions precisely. He understood them to mean different viewpoints, but then started to worry on what viewpoint would actually be his. Not even certain of his own choice, he cautiously bit his lip and pressed down upon "acceptance" feeling a better vibe towards it than the other two. With that the tome flicked its pages towards another illustration, a large circular band of gold shining like a bracelet as it remained firmly sealed tight against the podium, not an inch out of place to be moved by his hand as the last platform activated. They looked to each other before stepping on towards the third door, this one of raw iron and hard steel almost cold and indifferent, austere and out of place within Ivalice as it slowly slid into the wall robotically. Greeting them beyond the door was a giant chasm, dark and crumbling clearly widening out before them as Cyrus sneered with distaste, the length of forty feet and the width of twenty broken through both walls. Above them however were the green glowing pipelines streaking thinly across the ceiling as it gave Roy an idea. "Now what do we do?!" asked Cyrus frustrated. "Ah dunno 'bout you, but ah know whut ahm gonna do." "Pardon?" "...Cyrus...ah think ah have to go this one alone." "Wh-what?! But, how can you-" "Don' worry, just you head on back to thuh central hall an' wait for me, ahll be back there soon probably." "But how can you possibly traverse this chasm?!" The raptor chuckled as he pulled out something from his large satchel originally for carrying books. A strange gauntlet with a mechanised rotor where three hooks twisted in front of each other, the chocobo looking oddly at it as Roy's fingers had already slipped neatly into the silver knuckle-shaped guard that also doubled as the trigger. "What is that?" "S'called a skyhook," replied Roy, "never had to use it cuz magnetised rails don' exist really in Ivalice...but that one up there looks magnetised as hell." "What is magnetised? Where did you get that?!" "Ohhh just a city in thuh sky ah went to for a few hours or sumthin'...then ah left cuz uhhhhh don't wanna get involved in that shit, wuz a little TOO big for mah taste." "What city in the sky, Bhujerba?" "Naw naw, sumplace else...as for whut magnetised means well, ahll show you. WULD!" With a gustful leap he blasted himself upwards with the power of wind before latching hard onto the railing with his hook mechanism, the gauntlet magnetising perfectly to it as he suddenly shot forwards across the chasm. Streaking over the abyss within the space of seconds, he firmly dislodged himself by throwing his weight as the hook twisted off from the rails, before he landed powerfully onto the other side with a cloud of dust sweeping from all around his body. "ARE YOU ALRIIIIGHT?!" shouted Cyrus across the gap. "YEAH!" cried Roy. "AHM GOOD, JUS' GET YO' ASS BACK TO THUH CENTRAL HALL AH GOT THIS!" "ALRIGHT! BE CAREFUL WITH THAT THING, DON'T WANT YOU TO LOSE YOUR HAND OR SOMETHING!" "NO WORRIES!"
Slipping the skyhook back into his satchel, he walked to the unseen corridor beyond the chasm seeing Cyrus turn back. The moment they lost sight of each other, he was completely overwhelmed by a sudden smog that swept through the place as he passed through the small hallway. A foul acrid smoke almost burning in his lungs with great fire and the sickening scent of meat, choking as he tried to blast it all away with a burst of wind storming through the place. No such luck, the fog impenetrable as he kept walking with cautious footsteps. Struggling to keep his eyes open against it, he watched his feet in order to not fall into any stray potholes or pits this place might put for him. But eventually the mist cleared, and soon he wished that it had not. The smell stayed with him, forcing him to cover his nose or else vomit from the burning flesh that could plainly be seen amidst the wreckage. It almost looked as if he was in a warzone, torn through with ruined tents, wooden soldiers' cabins and an almighty dominating castle rising up before him in the background. The sky was pregnant with rain, potent with ominous thunder that burned through his ears as he walked upon the ashen soil, in the midst of rotting remnants and burning vehicles. Trucks, cars and jeeps upended and twisted from the firestorm that had come through this place, barbed wire fences ripped completely into gnarled torturous lengths. In the midst of destruction and chaos, he thought he heard a voice sweet yet feisty. It made him smile and somewhat lessen the horrific scenes of war as a path amidst the burning soot cleared out before him. "Are you seriously leaving?!" "Ah have to...there's sumthin' ah gotta do before ah can go live peacefully." "But...but how...how important must this be to...leave me for so long?!" "...it's about mah parents." "......I see. I...I understand then. I don't like it, and by oath I want to stop you badly bu-" "You could...ah mean you got a lotta muscle ah know you could." "But I know...I know I can see in your eyes that you are in pain and you need that conflict to resolve your issues. I don't want you to go." "Ah don't wanna go either." "Then stay with me Roy! We can live out here, Daventry is...we have a house here, we have a home and we can live a new life, a life that you and me can share." "Ah want that life Lizbeth. Ah need it, ah don' have anythin' back home, not anymore...frankly even after thuh A.R.M.E gave me that offer to put me in any home or college ah wanted to-" "But?" "...there's just sumthin' ah don't trust about that General Guston. Just...he don' have thuh eyes of honesty." Through the path he walked which lead towards a deep valley. A winding path that headed down the side of a cliff, towards a river beneath a long wide bridge off in the distance where a giant old cargo train had become completely mangled, broken and worthless at the foot of the ravine as the path of dirt followed through into the carriages. He felt hesitation run through him, burning with bristling fear at the sight of the iron horse but he steadied his nerves sighing deeply to wake up his senses as he walked into the cold steel wreckage. The voice of Lizbeth came through which gave him hope, confidence as he cautiously walked downwards through the interior of the filth-ridden train, which oddly enough was completely devoid of any cargo, or people. "You will...come back, won't you?" "Of course ah will. Even if ah wanted to go sumplace else, ah wanna come back to you. You...ah know when we...first had our little-" "I know...and I'm sorry, I...I needed someone, I hated all those stupid idiots at the farm I needed...I wanted to be free and you helped me so much Roy." "You helped me too...even if ah found out a few things ah never thought ah would...but frankly after all ah been through whut's one little thing after another? Whut matters is that ah love you. An' nuthin' else is gonna change that for me Lizbeth." "...when you come back to me...will you...will you let me take your name?" "Wh-whut?!" "...I have no one but you. Who else is going to name me something, someone that...means something to me?" "Do you...do you really want that?" "I do...I know I do, do you want to know why?" "Why?" "Because I know...that name could never be tarnished." The third and final book, or so he presumed, was waiting at the very front of the steel carriage right in the driver's dashboard. The book however was incredibly filthy, dust like aged skin with a grey cover and black spine showing a number imprinted upon it. 643890. The moment he picked it up, there came a vision of things he had never seen, worlds he had yet to comprehend. The slicing blade of a katana in a hand wrought from pure steel; strange amphibians with green skin and their mouths sewn shut; the train screeching towards the ravine as Roy stood on top with gun in hand screaming towards an unseen foe; and lastly the house he had built back in Daventry, a simple stone cottage with large stable where he knew that his love shalt be, her voice calling through his visions. "I know, that I can finally have a name that means something...something of fierce pride and great honour, a hero above many...you will always be my hero, Roy. And I know, that you can never change that." His eyes blinked, finding himself within the central hall once again with the grey book in hand, seeing Cyrus hop beside him rather flabbergasted. "WH-wh-...h-h-how did you-don't DO that!" "H-huh?!" "You just suddenly popping into the room like a pixie, please don't do that again I almost fell off into the damn ravine!" "Heh, s-sorry...I uh, found thuh book." "I can see that, how was the voyage of the last frontier?" "...sumthin' gonna happen in mah future an' ah don' think ah want it to." "What type of something?" He tried to find an answer both him and his steed would be pleased with but found himself hitting short apart from one thing. "I...ah know ah will see Lizbeth again...but ah also feel that...there gonna be a lot more difficulty in mah future." "Future? ...wait, wait hold on...past, present...future." "Yeah ah kinda figured that out." "Does this place mean something for us to teach?" "Ah dunno man, ah just wanna get this over with, come on." The last book was put to the podium as it flurried open with a rippling of pages before he was given the next question to wrap his head round of. This one actually surprised him not for its complexity, but by how quickly that he gave his response.
_What price is too steep to learn that of Truth?
He did not even confer with Cyrus as he pushed down on "Death", seeing the page turn to another sketched image. His own right hand, by which he then saw the first two diagrams of the previous books slowly develop as if being pushed through from underneath. The banded circle clasped onto the mirror which formed into a ring before a light shined out piercing through the darkness. A piercing reflection from the book streaking towards the grand silver door that would simply give way before them, rumbling open to give them access. They watched cautiously as the door fell slowly like a drawbridge perfectly planting itself to bridge between its entrance and the stone dais they stood on. In a small room up ahead, firmly placed upon a perfect little prism made into a pillar with flat top, was a gorgeous golden ring with silver-encrusted jewel shaped into a perfect little mirror the size of an ant. He picked it up carefully finding the gold actually rubbed off revealing it to be made of actual wood that had been painted on. "Thuh fuck?" He nervously rubbed it revealing the truth of it underneath, a worthless-looking piece of jewellery but the prism pillar had something within its glistening crystalline structure. A set of instructions written somehow in English that he read out loud. "Hold up a mirror to their mind and repeat as is. 'I beseech your heart and soul to pray tell me...' and then ask it your question. Thuh mind's eye speaks truth, but only amongst thuh living." "What...does that mean exactly?" asked Cyrus. "Ah dunno." "It appears to be very shoddy, I've seen people carve those in the streets." "Must work somehow...mind's eye speaks truth...Cyrus, you mind bein' an experiment?" "Roy, please, I am a stallion, my seed is not to waste on other males." "WHUH-NAW, fuck's sake man ah meant can ah use thuh ring on you?!" "Oh...hmhmhaha, of course, my apologies. I suppose so, you might want to ask it something that you already know about me." "Ah should, just to make sure it's not lyin'. Alrigh'...mind's eye...hold up a mirror to their mind, that means...do ah gotta press it on your forehead?" "Possibly? I mean I hope that it is not a wild Zu chase but...let us try." He gently lowered his head to allow Roy to press the ring on his forehead, after the raptor struggled to place it on his left hand before finding it impossible to fit. For some reason it would not submit as it somehow resisted being placed before he decided to switch over to his right hand where it perfectly felt snug which was strange to say the least. Disturbed by its odd insistence but then remembering the book showed his right hand especially, he curled it into a fist to place the mirror of the ring against Cyrus' head. "Ah beseech your heart an' soul...to pray tell me...how did you lose your wings?"
A forest at night lit by a single campfire. "Be there before dawn I hope." "If they haven't buggered up the roadsszh that isszh, fuckin' Rozzzharian sszchum." The sound of soft rain bristling across the trees as Cyrus watched his feet, mud sinking down his claws slightly as he saw the wagon out of shot. He felt a weight bear down upon his shoulders, even more greatly than when he last pulled it. "What if the roadsszh are fucked?" "Then we take 'em sszhouth, not too far from a village needin' a few handsszh." Silhouetted, four bangaas sat, drinking themselves to mired sleep as the chocobo walked forwards. The carriage had eyes peeking through the door, a lock shoddily made of wood against an equally pale latch, but the door was well-fortified to prevent anyone breaking through from within. "H-hello? M-mister chocobo?" He heard a voice whispering from within, a young child hume with the smell of poverty and ruin. "Can you...can you get my little brother something? Please, he can't sleep without something in his-wh-what is that?" His beak pulled up a long thin length of steel, small but sturdily straight as he pushed it into the space between latch and lock turning his head. Creaking wood resisted, forcing itself to bend to his will. "M-mummy! Mummy l-look, mister chocobo's-" "Wh-what's happening?" "He's...he's helping us?" The lock twisted too far out of joint, snapping with a horrid crumpling noise as the door swung open feebly. The bangaas were roused. "HEY, WHO'SSZHAT?!" "HEY-EY-EY THEY'RE GETTIN' AWAY-AUGH!" Cyrus stormed through the fire kicking violently across the wood scattering it as the faces reptilian sneered cruelly with outrage. One tried to run to the carriage, the flockbeast barging into him as a wild rushing yellow forced the bangaa to the ground. "G-AAAAARGH YOU FUCKIN' SSZHTUPID BITCH!" He saw the people run from the corner of his eye, the small family of humes escape into darkness without a sound but the girl looked back briefly. She smiled once with a glimmer of hope before she was grabbed by her parents and taken freely into the night. "GET 'EM!" "I CAN'T SSZHEE 'EM!" "YOU WORTHLESSZH ANIMAL!" Stars burst through his vision from the cracking blow to his head. His beak tore into the shoulder of one next to him snapping harshly enough to break through the bone as the bangaa shrieked fiercely, swinging his club as his world exploded with lightning. "We had a good deal goin' on fer usszh!" Forced on his back. "Fuckin' cheap piesszhe of sszhit yer more trouble than yer WORTH!" Logs forced down his wings splayed apart, two blocks of wood for each exposed between them like a scroll pinned down. "The fuck you tryin' to be huh, a fuckin' knight or sszhomething?!! YOU work for USSZH you FUCKING MONGREL!" Clawed feet slammed into his face, barely missing his eye. "Well, if yer not gonna be worth anythin' to usszh...then yer not gonna be worth anythin' to anyone." As the storm raged on he saw visions of pain and violence. Firelight reflected in a shining mace brought before him, the faces of four glimmering ruthless down upon him as the hammer rose high. "You wanna fly little bitch?!" He screamed before the first bone snapped. "You work yer wingsszh to the BONE fer usszh!" The wind turned colder with every strike that came. "We gave you a JOB, we bought you to work an' thisszh isszh how you repay usszh?!" His tears began burning with every shriek of vile pain. "You take away our profit we take away YOURSSZH!" Screams unending, the hammer turned louder with every crunch underneath. "DON'T call it a fuckin' consszhiensszhe yer jusszht a sszhtupid animal, yer too SSZHTUPID TO HAVE ONE!" The hammer fell, crushing two pinions more in one stroke. "HHHhhh...hhhhh...gimme a sszhwitch, fuckbeak here needsszh to learn what happensszh when you fuck with my busszhinesszh." Fire glowered across his face. He couldn't see his wings but he felt every inch of his former master's anger. Claws twisted onto his pinions wrenching the weakened joints, snapping them free, his beak opened wide shrieking to the skies above as the pain of a broken limb was repeated to him constantly. Brittle snap by snap, the pain never once receding before the flames burned into his wings, crippled and twisted to a blackening point as the blood dried harshly to set into warm dark tips, scorched across the bare bone. His ancestors lamented, and so they would grant him peace crying to the clouds above. Rain poured down his face, washing the tears away. The fire struggled to maintain itself, but the damage had been done. Lightning flashed once more, his body tied with ropes whilst falling into the ditch. A blur of black and blue enveloped him as the voices began to fade. "Come on, maybe we can sszhtill find 'em." "In thisszh fuckin' weather? Hah, dream on bosszh." "I am NOT gonna losszhe a fuckin' profit you cunt, not tonight, not even when THISSZH fuckin' bitch triesszh to get all uppity on me!" "Why not jusszht kill it then?!" "Heh...that'd be a mersszhy. No, no no if it'sszh gonna grow a consszhiensszhe on me insszhtead of doin' what I order it to, then it'sszh gonna learn...not to fuck with anybody'sszh busszhinesszh." His eyes closed. Pain consumed him as the warm rain tried its best to soothe him. Hours passed, the night long eternal as he waited for the end. Waited for the clouds to gather upon him. "You alrigh'?" His eyes opened once more. A black scaled beast with eyes of concern stared at him from near the roadside. "Cyrus?" It was a dark and stormy night that faded from his vision, but Roy stayed with him. The same look he gave upon their first meet resonated as Cyrus nodded gasping. "Yes...I am alright." "...ah saw everythin'." "I know. That...that was painful to relive." "Ahm sorry...a-ah didn' know it had that-" "No...it was...good, I needed...to remember that pain knowing why it happened again. Thank you Roy." The raptor hugged the chocobo's neck, the two smiling gladly as Roy firmly rubbed the ring on his right hand. With a taste of such power he felt almost giddy and sick with exhilaration, before the coming terrible realisation of being much closer to what he wanted. Fear and uncertainty crept into him as he tried to put on a face. "Alrigh', so we know that this thing work, if a li'l um...traumatisin' an' almost TOO much information-" "That is the price of truth after all." "Ah guess. Ah just hope...that..." The black raptor walked back towards the cave entrance. "Thuh truth can set me free, finally." "The price of freedom is steep, Roy." Cyrus walked on behind him staring down upon his head. "Do you believe that the truth will come save you? Or will it bind you to an even worser fate?" "...whut fate is worse than that which ah have already made?" "A fate that you rob of another. Tell me...if the ring does prove that FG was the murderer, what will you do? Will you see him able to be hanged by your own claws, or what if he isn't? What will you do when the ring shows you what is unescapably the truth?" They stopped as Roy turned his head. His eyes turned soulful towards his steed as an answer struggled to come up from within him. "...I don't know. I...ah don't know Cyrus. Ah wuz hopin' that...once ah found out everythin' would fall into place." "And what are you hoping for, exactly? What verdict do you hope, regardless of the truth that shall be?" "...ahm hopin' that...that ah've been wrong all this time. If ah find out that...ah've been righ' this whole time I...I-i..." He turned away bitterly with tears forcing through his frustration, his hand sliding up to where his blade's handle was stroking the fingers along his father's name. "I could never find forgiveness...for whut it is ahm about to do."
_ Phoenix... Darkness took her eyes, yet her body still remained. Navarro slowly staggered to her feet feeling herself blink. Infinity all around her, her hands grey like the snow of night. Where are you... Her thoughts echoed despite being not of her own, her voice ringing clear throughout the dark like a bell as she walked softly with feet noiseless upon the floor. What's...happened? The further she walked, the colder it had become. Father...what happened? Don't look Navarro...don't- Where's Phoenix?! Where, wh-where is he kupo? She fell, down on one knee as she put her hand to the ground feeling that it was snow. Get back inside Navarro...it's okay. Navarro looked up. Winter had come again as snow fell onto her shoulders amidst the darkened void. ...where's my...where...where is he? She saw a light up ahead, a shapeless form laid cloaked underneath as the snow began to turn harshly. I'm sorry Navarro. Her footsteps crumpled as she approached seeing the blanket covering. Sorry? For what? Her hand reached out for the large shape. I don't know...how it happened. A burning sharpness pierced her through the chest as fire burned through her nostrils, forcing her to fall on both knees as she gasped silently. No...n-n-no, no... Amber began to bleed from beneath the cloak as she heard a voice scream. No, n-no he can't, p-please tell me father he can't be PLEASE TELL ME- _ "NAVARRO!" Her eyes forced open. The blur of constant shifting colours like fractured kaleidoscopes all of the same shade of blue before he was able to readjust his eyesight. The sky separated itself from Fayne's ecclesiastical robes frought with dirt. The bishop was holding a small bottle of reddish amber nitrates now emptied that had seeped into Navarro's nose. "Whuh...wh-wh-what, happen-" "You...you were whimpering, are you...are you alright, are you hurt?" "...no. ...I'm fine, kupo." Cautiously getting up, she winced slightly from a pain in her right knee as Fayne grabbed her gently making sure she was able. The sounds of a lakeshore were not apparent until she saw the white sands stretch out, a small shoreline barely the length of thirty feet encroached upon by the forest green as Fayne said: "Thank goodnesszh you are alright, I wasszh glad that I had sszhtocked a few Phoenixsszh Downsszh to rejuvenate you." "You...was I that unconscious?" "Apparently, you did not resszhpond to Cura therefore-" "I see...where are we?" "I do not know, presszhumably the island on point one-three-sszheven." "And the others?" "Baldwin isszh sszhafe, we ended up with each other and I found you on the beach, but we found no sszhight of Jamesszh or Kruzzh." "What of the other passengers, the crew?" "No hide nor hair of the sszhip, not even the wreckage." "Then...how could we possibly have ended up here kupo?" "I don't-" "FAAAAAYNE!" The voice unmistakeably that of Baldwin came from the large forest clustering with hot leaves as the monk forced himself through, grinning despite some mean scratches on his arm and chest. "I found Jamesszh, Kruzzh asszh well!" "OH, thank Faram." "Him an' Kruzzh are coming now, HEYYYY szhleepy moogle yer alive!" "Don't push it," threatened the moogle. "Hhhehehehe..." Fayne walked closer to his brother with staff in hand looking over the fresh wounds on him. "Wh-where did you get thosszhe?!" "I fell down a hole, got a little cut-up." "B-Baldwin!" "Heeeey hey I'm fine, come on you know you're not gettin' rid of me that easszhily." "I would never want to be rid of you." Pulling him close with a tight embrace, his arms sweeped around Baldwin's neck as the monk held him in return, a little awkward at first but then deeply sighing with relief before they squeezed firmly harder. The cleric stepped back and swept his staff over Baldwin with a Cura spell helpfully sealing up his small wounds as Navarro said: "You could have used a potion kupo." "I have ethersszh." "But they are costly." "Sszhee," added Baldwin, "THISSZH isszh why we were kinda worried about you being leader." "You said it not me," said James grinning from out of the woods. "Money isn't everything Navarro." "Fine fine," replied Navarro facepalming, "we have much greater things to worry about then lack of frugality but, if we are trapped on this island then you will be greatly lamenting that wastefulness if we cannot escape." "We can manage, there's like-" "-five of us." Kruz came solemnly out from between the trees hugging himself tightly with a nervous shaking of his breath as James put an arm on his shoulders. The kremling had the look of haunted realisation as he wrapped his captain's cloak in green around him. "Just...f-five of us." "You...you okay man?" "...my home. My ship...my people...they're all gone. All of them...n-nothing I found b-but the Song of Souls in this f-fucking coat I had on me." He threw his coat out behind him with a flourished frustration, weighed down heavily by something in his pocket as James tried to reassure him. "N-no look, we just haven't found anyone else yet, they might all be-" "NO!" Shoving him away he walked off towards the edge of the shore feeling the water lick across his soles feebly, hand clasped to his snout as the bitter gasp escaped from it. "I...my home and my people...depended on me, what if...what if I can't find them, what if they...h-how many of them are dead, that's sixteen that left th-that means...seventy, seventy-one dead." "We don't know that," replied Fayne, "but we will never know if we remain here." "I've never f-fought something like that before...not an esper, I mean I've fought dragons and other ships, it's part of the job to defend ourselves but that thing that, that monster whatever that thing was it just pulled my ship in, fucking tore us up, the main mast and everything I...I thought everyone had been killed on the lower deck, I heard them screaming...Tennyson was with me, wh-where did he-" "Kruzzh, prithee, remain calm-" "HOW CAN I BE CALM!?" roared Kruz. "MY ENTIRE LIFE IN IVALICE HAS BEEN DESTROYED IN ONE SWEEP, EVERYONE I KNOW WHO DEPENDED ON ME!" "They knew that risk," said Navarro firmly, "you made a democracy and they chose it kupo." "I did not ask if they wanted to die being crushed and burned and mutilated by that THING, whatever the fuck it was!" "I warned you," said FG, "I warned you that thing was going to be-" " NO YOU DIDN'T!"
The kremling rushed up towards him and suddenly went flying with a hot fist cracking through James' jaw, knocking him down hard as he fell fully onto the sands. " YOU NEVER SAID ONE THING YOU FUCKING IDIOT! ALL YOU SAID was that it was a monster, ALL YOU SAID was that it was something terrible but you NEVER WARNED ME ABOUT ANYTHING IT COULD DO! ...those...those people, most of them I saved...s-saved from a worser fate but I DID not save them for this!" "Wh-what?" asked FG staggering onto his feet looking dazed with shock. "What are you talking about-s-SHIT f-fuck's sake man what the hell!" The kremling sighed deeply, sliding his hand down his face before he pointed a glaring finger at FG. "Do you even know...what the Karmesan Rift was? Do any of you know?" They looked at each other clearly without an answer as he turned away frustrated. "I...I was a fool. I got involved with the wrong people. A group that went to this place called the Karmesan Rift to hide supplies at, I worked with them for a whole year not realising what they did, I was such an idiot and I know they got past it but I can still see it. They took me on, I didn't ask questions and I was too dumb to realise without knowing anything that they said. They saw me as someone clearly not able to understand them, so they kept me along as dumb muscle. I could hardly speak the language, I just learnt as I went along I didn't...I didn't know, I didn't know what they were doing, I didn't know, I know they forgive me but I know what they saw me as-" "THAT'S ENOUGH!" cried Navarro frustrated. "You are not part of this clan but I have no time for people deluding themselves with their inability to cope!" "SHUT UP YOU FUCKING WINGED RAT YOU WERE MY PASSENGERS, THIS IS YOUR FAULT! I'M THE CAPTAIN HEEERE! _" "...your eye." "WHAT!?" Baldwin pointed bluntly at Kruz's left eye making him rub slightly over the lid. "Your eye isszh kinda...um..." "Wh-what are you talking about?!" stammered Kruz. "Go look in the water, m-maybe you need to calm down or you might bursszht it real good." He rushed back over to the water's edge and gazed into his reflection. For a brief moment, his face fell as sheer horror had overcome him, gasping before he stumbled back panicking as he covered his face. "N-no...h-hoh no...n-no please S-sebek no...no please please no...not now, not-I'm not who you think, I'm not who you-GET AWAY FROM ME!" "KRUZ FOR FUCK'S SAKE!" cried FG approaching him. "You're not being a captain you're turning into a rookie!" "P-please...don't look." "What the hell's wrong with you, let me-" "NOOO!_" Pulling his hand away James saw Kruz completely close his eyes shut trying to turn away from him, whimpering with tears streaking down his cheeks as he realised why he was acting so strangely. "Kruz...we're still around point one-three-seven somehow, that means that whatever you saw in your reflection must be just some random hallucination caused by it. There's nothing wrong with you Kruz, we're all still here." "Y-y-you don't know that." "I do. Trust me, I saw a lot of shit when that thing came round and I don't want you going crazy." He clasped Kruz's arms firmly together with a look of trust. "But I'm here, and you know that I'm still your friend alright man? Come on...just get up and open your eyes, I'm not even mad you punched me, even if I do expect you to pay for that with a beer after we get out of all this." "Khh-heh...khhheheheh...you...that thing really does fuck with yer head huh?" "It does, but I'm not going to let you get all screwed up, so trust me and no one but me. Okay? Now...open your eyes." Slowly with cringing fear the kremling softly curled his right eyelid upwards before the left would join it, wincing as the light glared into his eyes once more as he looked with shame upon FG. His eyes were perfectly the same as always as the raptor slapped him in the back. "You faggot." "H-huh!?" "See your eyes are fine, come on seriously." "Wh-um...th-they are?" "Totally, what, you're not that stupid come on dude. Alright let's go look for everyone, we found some paths up ahead through the other side of the forest." Kruz looked quickly back at the water to find indeed his eyes were still perfectly well, but he couldn't shake off that fear dwelling within him as he slowly walked with the rest of group leading behind cautiously. The forest was strange, almost primeval in its overwhelmingly strong green with soft grounding that gave ease to their feet. The sounds of the sea began to recede gently as they trudged deep into the woods turning thickly around them, all-encroaching as they were forced to cut their way through with sword and scissors. No sign of any crew, or even any burning scent that could bring word of any costly wreckage which was both good and bad for Kruz to think, hoping silently for one then the other awkwardly. His head was muddled, riddled with fog as he let himself think with closed eyes as Navarro cut through the front with James ahead on tearing through the leaves asking: "Why do you think Margaret knew about this...thing that you are so intimate with kupo?" "Don't say 'intimate'," replied FG, "I'm not fucking it." "Hhhehehe," chuckled Baldwin, "more like it'sszh fucking YOU." "Don't." James turned harshly with one finger raised towards him. "Don't fucking joke about this thing, it is not something you want to fuck with." "...o-o-okay, sszhorry." "It wasszh sszhimply jovial," said Fayne in defence, "no need for that, perhapsszh if you actually DID elaborate on that thing we might prepare for our encounter." "Alright alright," said James defeated, "but...if anything happens, you do exactly as I say, you got that?" "But of coursszhe, my leader." He pushed through the crowded forest with a swiping cut as they found themselves a clearing amongst all the trees, a brief circular natural forming of ground-padded dirt. "Alright...this thing, the anomaly we'll call it, is a terrifying existence that came to me years ago...it took one of my friends from me, a little kid and it's...followed me always wanting me for something." "What, it took a child?" "It's taken a lot more than that trust me, murdered hundreds or more or even...I don't know if I could call them being killed but rather just...wiped out of existence even. It changes reality to its own will, warping it out of shape, everything it can to drive you insane and when you've lost all sanity, THAT'S when it hits you and you just cannot be able to fight back. I managed to fight it for some reason because I think it wants me not dead, just maybe to play around with. I know it's fucked up but, if we see this thing...it's gonna do everything possible to tear you inside out." "In what way?" asked Navarro. "Mentally, spiritually, everythingally-" "That's not a word, kupo." "Neither is that THING real but it fucking is so just trust me...I want you all to be on your guard for anything out of place, don't let anyone fool you, no matter who it might be, you need to know who is real." "And how do we do that?" James pondered to himself for a moment as he carefully brought out his small pack of playing cards from Triple Triad, offering them to his crew. "Each of you pick one card and put it somewhere safely on you. That way if anything happens, you ask each other what card you have and we'll know who's real." "Are you serious?" asked the moogle. "Yes. I am not kidding, this thing WILL be able to fuck you over and the moment you lose any sign of what is real you will be fucking dead. Now...pick your card everyone." Hearing his tone startled her slightly realising he was indeed as she carefully took a card from him, a Wu glowering coldly. Fayne and Baldwin took both a Viper card since James had two, whilst Kruz glibly took a Wolf leaving James with the rather pudgy-looking Cactite card. They holstered the cards into their satchels before moving on with James' advice cautiously in mind. It only took them about ten minutes before they found something different. A stone path walkway formed into the dirt leading straight off towards the east. "Hey!" cried Baldwin. "Th-that'sszh a road, maybe there are people here!" "Perhaps a town," said the moogle, "or at least a small settlement." "Well come on!" "Hold, remember what James said. Be very cautious of any trickery whilst we are here." "R-right...got it, I jusszht hope really Dahlia'sszh around or that thing maybe...took her or sszhomething." "I hope not," said FG, "she's got enough problems without that monster but...we better keep our hopes, and our wits, so let's go down this way but be cautious." "Got it bosszh." "Hold," said the moogle. "Have you...noticed something odd about this forest?" "Other than a path?" "No...have we heard but a single creature in these woods besides us, kupo?" Moments of silence flickered briefly through them as they knew what she meant. No sound of chirruping or strange insects calling out since they had left the beach shore. Even the leaves kept still as death as James gently nodded. "You're right...there's no animals here, that's not even possible." "It might be," added Fayne, "there are partsszh of the world that are uninhabited." "With a stone path like this? No...I don't think so, let's go, but be careful." "Very well." A firm salute from him made their leader smile softly before they headed down the path, rock firmly set into soil to lead its way down a winding constant that took at least another minute to complete fully. Once they had found the end of it, they saw something very strange they had not expected to see, and yet also hoped that they would meet. A town far different from anything they had ever seen in Ivalice, as Navarro walked forwards with a nervous step of her feet. "...what...is this place, kupo?" "I do not know," replied Fayne, "thisszh...the architecture isszh nothing like that of...anything I have sszheen." "I don't like it," murmured Baldwin, "feelsszh...like sszhome ill wind isszh flowing through thisszh plasszhe, makesszh me cold I don't-" "Nibelheim."
James spoke this as he stood firmly in front of them gazing upon the town sign forming an archway above their heads, which seemed to be in an entirely different language to any of them. The small group of houses formed of wood with some bits of steel circling around a water tower which stood bravely at the very centre of the village square as a light green filter permeated across the place. The mountains beyond the town also reflected this, of dark seemless jade sculpted upon itself to almost become black and maleficent. They saw little propellers on top of houses frozen by the nonexistent breeze as James repeated: "This place is called Nibelheim." "How do you know that?" asked Baldwin. "...I...I don't know, the sign up there told me-" "You cannot even read that," replied Fayne, "how could you know posszhibly the name of-" "B-but I saw it, that name just popped into my head when I looked-" "How does it feel?" The voice of Kruz came from his left as he walked past James standing before the little village, his speech strangely practiced and odd-paced. "It's your first time back to your hometown in a long time...so how does it feel? I wouldn't know because, I don't have a hometown..." "...Kruz?" "My mother's name is Jenova...she died right after she gave birth to me. My father...hhhhhmhmhmhmhm, hhhha ha ha ha ha..." For some reason the kremling began to laugh, chuckling to himself with a little shiver before he shook his head to himself. "Why am I talking about this?" "I-i don't know," said FG, "who......you never told me about your mum." "My what?" Kruz turned and looked towards the raptor with a strange blink as he felt his head turn fuzzy slightly. "Wh-what about my mother?" "You...you said her name was Jenova." "What?! No I didn't!" "Yes you did, you just said it!" "I didn't say anything!" "You did kupo," said Navarro. "You said precisely what James said as well as talk about this being his hometown." "But I-...b-but...no, I don't know who my family is, I can't even remember what they look like, why did-...what the hell is Jenova?!" "You said it, not us." "I don't know what it is, I said nothing!" "Alright never mind!" James decided to cut this short keeping everyone's heads kept cool. "We're obviously in a weird place, that thing is just fucking with us, I'm telling you now this place is not real, it's just trying to mess with our heads." "Is this truly an illusion?" asked the moogle. "Probably, I don't know how or where it's from but it's definitely not a real place. This is nowhere near my hometown, there's nothing like this." "Despite knowing its name kupo." "I-i don't know why I do, it's just one of those things it's trying to trip up us with. But I do know one thing, and this is not real." "I don't wanna ssszhplit up," said Baldwin, "thisszh town givesszh me the creepsszh." "I agree," replied Fayne, "like Baldwin sszhaid, I feel an ill wind run through thisszh plasszhe and I do not think it isszh coming from that mountain." "We'll stick together then," affirmed FG, "nobody run off, just keep together and we'll look through these houses one by one. If you see anyone out here, we're just gonna be cool and ask for help, maybe this place might be real, but it might also not be so let's not chance it." "What if they are hostile?" asked Navarro. "Let's not kill anyone until we really have to, so non-lethal tactics if needed. Alright, let's move." Walking into the town's central square, they saw an inn with double doors on their immediate left, with a store a little further along as houses clustered within a semi-circle all along their right. Checking the inn at first, they saw a rather standard interior with front desk with stairs to the upper floor and a back area for the owners to live in, mostly consisting of kitchen appliances. Baldwin stood in front of a white vertical box that felt extremely cold, finding it not able to open, whilst Fayne was fascinated by an electric lightbulb mimicking that of a candle in its wattage. The upper floor only had three beds and nothing else, other than offering a view nicely of the surrounding area to which James saw a great mansion farther beyond the town itself, as well as the over-encroaching mountain range upon the small region. The general store next to the inn was cluttered with barrels, having long since been emptied but yet strangely not completely covered in dust. Not even the smouldering roaring furnace at the very back of the house in its own raised section had been stifled, glowing red fiercely. The next house along was very small and only had one floor, with two beds next to the door and a kitchen opposite of them all in the same room. Baldwin yet again went towards the frigid white box trying to open one, the stove next to it which he recognised more familiar to him as he struggled to pull the door off. "What ISSZH thisszh thing, it'sszh like in every housszhe I can't open the damn thing!" "That's a fridge," replied FG, "you know to keep food cold and fresh?" "Fridge? Don't you put fresszh food in a blizzharderator? "A what? No it's a refrigerator." "Uhhhh noooo it'sszh not, it hasszh a little blizzhard magisszhite in it to keep thingsszh cool." "Well that thing uses electricity so same purpose, different means." "Huh...wait, yeah that isszh weird, thisszh plasszhe hasszhn't got any magisszhite, jusszht-" "Electrical," added Fayne, "the entire town runsszh on electrical." "They got these generators," said Kruz, "little odd cylinders about yay high they're like the power source. Never seen anything like it, plus nobody is around, it's like a ghost town." "What about the mansion kupo?" asked Rocino. "There might be someone there." "Let's check the other houses first," said FG, "then we'll check out the mansion." Leaving the small strange house, they headed to its occupant neighbour in the form of a much grander two-story home with three windows at the top, slightly overleaning upon all beside it. The interior was little different, with a lovely kitchen and dining room on the ground floor with the upstairs as bedrooms more traditionally like a home would be. One of the bedrooms had a piano next to its single bed, along with a desk for writing and a wardrobe as Fayne pointed to the large instrument. "Look, sszhomeone left sszheet musszhic here." Indeed there was a page of sheet music which they could all read without needing to comprehend this town's written script. But understanding the sheet was a different matter entirely despite its simplicity as Baldwin asked: "Anyone here read musszhic?" "I don't, remember?" said the moogle. "Oooookay, anyone elsszhe?" "Maybe?" The raptor looked bashfully with a nervous rub of his neck as they all looked at him albeit with a little intrigue. "I mean kinda, my boyfriend's mum played piano and tried to teach me, I think I can do a basic one if I just got the keys." "You wanna try?" "Is this really the time?" asked Navarro. "We're in a town alone and empty," replied Kruz, "I think we can spare a few minutes letting some music calm us for a bit." "Lemme see." James sat down at the small stool in front of the piano and tried to carefully start the melody. It was a little awkward at first as if it was his first lesson at six, claws tinkling upon the keys gingerly as if afraid of being scolded whilst calling each key aloud to memorise it. For a brief moment he felt calm and peaceful, feeling Koopin's mother sit beside him lovingly with practiced patience. Seeing her in his mind's eye allowed him to remember what he learnt. "Doooooooo reeee miiii tiiiiiiiiii laaaaaaa...dooo reee miiii so fa dooo reee doooooo...huh?" The piano thunked from the inside, opening its central part of the wooden top to reveal in a sliding motion something intriguing to the amateur pianist. A large key with a strange red diamond-shape on the handle. "Wow nice work," said Kruz. "One would say," added Navarro, "that you played in the right key...hmhmhmhm." They all looked at her with something along the lines of derisive sneer as she crossed her arms insulted. "What, kupo? I am not incapable of humour." "Reaaaally?" cried Fayne with alacrity. "And here I believed you could not comprehend the manner of comedy." "Neither do you, from what I hear of your jokes." DA-DAAAAAAN. The piano played brilliantly in major key to play off of Navarro's retort as Fayne turned around fiercely at FG's smug grin beaming up at him. "...really, Jamesszh? REALLY!?" "Oh come on I had to, that was a sick burn!" "It kinda wasszh Fayne," said Baldwin softly, "I mean you had it coming." "Wha-whosszhe sszhide are you on?!" "Hey-ey-ey if YOU did a sszhick burn I would be behind you all the way but not here." "Wha-...whatever, you have a key, now where can we usszhe it?" "No idea," replied FG, "but I'm taking it anyway cuz you never know."
Pocketing the key they left the house and finding nothing of more interest within the strange little town of Nibelheim, they made their way up towards the largest place of all, the mysterious-looking mansion at the far back against the mountain itself. It was a dark foreboding place, like all mansions should be by their very construct as they found the door to be locked. It was then that the raptor of course brought out his key as it simply unlocked itself. "Well that was convenient," said FG. "Almost TOO convenient," said Navarro. "Keep your wits about you, kupo." Entering the mansion itself, it was darkly resplendent in its strange ruin like an old wedding dress would be. Carpets scuffled and tattered apart, shined down upon by almost heavenly light from the three tall stained glass windows that did nothing but accentuate its darkened state of affairs. In fact the very presence of light almost brought even further a sense of darkness and fear to the clan that they could not find themselves able to be rid of as they investigated each room before ascending half-winding staircase to the upper floor. A storage room to their right with kitchen included, a sad waiting room on their left with a piano scratched across its blacktop. The only consolation the piano had was the beautifully eerie light that dappled onto the floor near it forever still in the scene, not a single dust mote disturbed by their passing. The upper floor was no better, the right side having a few storage rooms with an odd circular doorway as part of a bending wall in one bedroom that they were unable to open, despite clearly being able to slide it one way. The left side of the manor had a small room full of plants as well as a bedroom, with another large side room holding a bookcase and a very intriguing safe, with even more interesting writing upon piece of paper stuck firmly on the safe door. Fayne picked it up curiously glancing over it partially. "What's this?" asked Kruz. "A note?" replied Fayne. "It appearsszh to be newly-written." "...wait...wait, this note is in Ivalician isn't it?" "...good Faram it isszh." "Why is a note in our language here," said Navarro firmly, "when nothing else in this village does, kupo?" "Maybe someone left it here," said FG, "or maybe it's a trick." "Or a way forward," added Fayne, "tell me, what trickery doesszh thisszh creature employ?" "Anything possible, this place is definitely part of it and I don't trust anything here." "We cannot find any other way, that door on the other sszhide cannot be opened." "Well let's at least read the note, if it wants us to go a certain way we might as well-" "Can't thisszh THING come out already?!" cried Baldwin. "Whysszhit gotta throw weird sszhit at usszh?!" "Because it can, now tell me the note." Navarro took the paper as she began to read. Each line she read, all except James began to turn fearful with sudden vulnerability clutching at their chest with eyes shifting including herself. "The combination is...left to the age you lost a lover, right to the age you gained a brother, left to the number you kept close to your...broken...h-heart and...left to the number you sold from the farthest rift-" "WH-WHAT!?" Kruz looked fiercely at the note saying indeed what she had said, white in his complexion as he rubbed his left arm violently. "H-h-how...how the fuck do you know that?" "Pardon?" "You...did you write this?! Did you write this, is this a fucking JOKE?!" "I do NOT joke." "WELL ONE OF YOU DOES! WHO TOLD YOU!?" "Told us what, kupo?" "......nothing." Realising his mistake Kruz simply kept sullen with downcast look. "N-nothing, sorry I'm just...just worried about my people." "I see. But they rely on you keeping your sanity clear, so don't lose it, you are their captain." "I know, I know! Just...hhhhhh fine, um, what do we do then?" "I...I don't know kupo. I think...no." She stared towards the safe seeing the numbers go all the way up to 99 on a surprisingly sturdy-looking thick tumbler. Her eyes began piercing with intense scrutiny and realisation at one of the lines she read as she struggled to contain herself with a brief exhale, asking: "James?" "Yeah?" he replied. "You said this anomaly toys with us in a most cruel fashion, is that correct?" "Basically." "...this may be one of those, if what I think is correct, this might be a four-number lock requiring all of us individually." "You mean each of the numbers relates to you?" "Totally," said Baldwin, "age I gained a brother, I think I know who that meansszh but who losszht a lover?" "Well...I did, my girlfriend back when I was twenty-three, but-" "Can I do this?" Kruz asked politely with a humble raised finger. Fayne silently drew in breath with violent apprehension as he gripped his staff tightly from out of fear. "I...I think I understand what this means, I know the first two and the last one." "You do?" asked FG. "Yeah you...you uh...you told me about your girlfriend so I know that." "Wait when did I-" "Y-y-you did, you did, you were a little drunk back then but you told me about her now let me do this. Please." The moogle raised an eyebrow with suspicion but seeing no reason not to, she relented allowing him access to the safe before she stopped him with a firm whisper. "The third number is forty-seven." "Huh?" "That is all you need to know." He said nothing more with understanding as he cautiously knelt down before the safe and turned the tumbler lock accordingly seeing Fayne's silent relief and his mouthing "thank you" from behind Baldwin. Left 8. Right 16. Left 47. Left 94. The last number he clicked carefully with darkened trembling fingers as he sighed deeply, before the safe unlocked with a heavy thunk from within. He turned frightfully towards his companions with a mixed feeling of shock and fear before the door suddenly burst open as a creature came lunging at him. "SH-SHIT, SHIT!" But before they could raise their weapons as they backed off in preparation, they saw that it was dead simply crumpling onto the floor finally freed from being stuffed inside of the safe. Dead primal eyes of green slitted like a serpent's, brown scaled body and purple marks across the snout. Two gunshot wounds laid in its neck, burnt but old wounds staring breathlessly up at them with stiff claws and not a single shred of clothing on its body as Fayne struggled to find words. "It...i-i-it...it can't be-" "Isszh that...Jamesszh?!" replied Baldwin shockingly. "No...th-that can't be-" "Looksszh definitely like him." "I'm right here you know," added James. "B-but...that ISSZH you right, sszhame sszhpeciesszh, sszhame birthmark-" "I know...but I can't understand this-" "Wait," Navarro said, "there is something written on him kupo." "Huh?" "Look, see on his chest." Indeed there was something having been noted on the dead beast's remnants, carved onto its chest violently deep to the point that blood had all but sealed it over the fine wounds. James was barely trying to not look at his long-deceased self, feeling incredibly aware of his own existence even moreso from what it said on his chest.
I AM YOUR LOST MEMORY
"Lost...memory?" asked Kruz. "James what does that mean?" "I...I-i don't," stammered FG, "I don't...know, I'm kind of getting over my dead copy that's sorta really fucking me up at the moment." "Right, sorry just...the fuck is wrong with this place?" "A lot of things, what now, there's nothing else in that safe?!" "Nothing but...wait, wait I see something inside its, I mean your-" "NOT me thank you." "Alright, ITS mouth, I think I saw something metal." "Well?" "...what?" "You found it, you touch it." The raptor crossed his arms firmly keeping away from the dead body already freaking him out more as Kruz rubbed his head nervously. "Iiiiii um...r-r-really?" "You saw it, go on and find out, it must be something to do with this place." "B-but, but, what if it comes alive, what if it bites me, what if-" "Come on Kruz it's not like you never stuffed yourself inside me before." "Wait what?!" asked Baldwin. James looked at him with sarcastic glare at his ignorance. "...really?" "What, what you mean by that?!" "NEVER MIND!" shouted Kruz to distract him. "Just-don't look I'm gonna do it alright?!" The moment he felt down into the dead raptor's throat, he found it was a button oddly that he could push into the palate itself. When he did push it, cautiously to not cut himself on the sharp teeth, a sound almost startled them from the other side of the manor in the form of a huge echoing slam that rippled through the place. "WH-WHAT WAS THAT?!" "Sounded like a door opening," said FG, "guess we somehow did the right thing." "Isszh NO one going to talk about that sszhafe?!" cried Baldwin. "I mean, hold up, not only did the combinasszhion know sszhtuff only WE knew, like um really persszhonal sszhtuff, but it ALSSZHO came out with a body that looksszh like Jamesszh!" "And what do you plan to do about it?!" argued Navarro. "Discuss it over morning tea, kupo!? We are in a strange land of empty reason and we have nothing for it but to keep going forward despite all this lunacy we are encountering!" "I mean I GUESSZH but...hey, how come you knew my age when I gained a brother Kruzzh?" "Fayne told me," said Kruz without hesitation, "when we were out talking after I did that song of souls stuff and it failed on me, told me that you were sixteen." "Oh...uhh, okay then uh we ssszhould check out that noisszhe then right?" "Right." Leaving the body be they headed on towards the door previously encountered that would not open, finding it had indeed been opened from within its circular construction showing a dark blue tinge of subterranean light amongst a staircase made out of wood. It lead towards the bottom of the world it seemed, constantly wreathed by a strange ethereal light of dark hues. They carefully walked downwards, each taking one step as they could being it was a narrow walkway that almost threatened them to lose balance without incident. Once they managed to walk the entire spiral into its descent, they found themselves within a cavern well-lit by that odd mysterious light of what was now a subtle indigo colour. It almost felt like they were breathing poison air but then realised it was just the air was quite heavy underneath the village as they walked on keeping close amidst bending tunnels and rock columns that were formed naturally by the ages. Occasionally they would see a door that had been built into the place, leading into another room for storage mainly. The winding passageways for the most part lead to a single path deeper into the darkness by which they began holding each other's hands out of safety to not become separated. The sounds of their feet echoing across the cool dry stone gently faded into the ether, whispering soft nothings into their ears remembering James' advice and trying to ignore everything. Their hands tightened around each other from both fear and sufferance amidst the rising voices of dark memory, poisoned with accusation and guilt. You are a disgrace to our academy, Rocino! Do I know you? FATHER NO! How could you not have known about us?! Even when I could kiss someone...I could die.
P-please, please let me go just, I-I'LL BUY YOU ANOTHER ONE PLEASE! Why do you care about him Fayne, he'sszh filthy! I...I-i love you too- You never ask any questions Kruz...that's what I like about you. Please don't, don't hurt her, n-not my sis, she didn't DO ANYTHIIIING!
YOU FUCKING CRAZY BITCH WHY DO YOU CARE SO MUCH ABOUT SOME STUPID BIRD?! What kind of disszheasszhe do thesszhe people have to not even THINK properly?! I couldn't...save you. YOU SOLD MY SON! YOU WORTHLESS MONSTER! I'm sorry...I'm so sorry, please, Koopin...help me. The voices stopped. They found themselves unable to move as they braced themselves for anything that may come the moment the darkness was swept from their vision. Standing before them as they reappeared in the midst of Nibelheim's square, five crystals larger than the water tower had now been uprooted through the houses torn from the roof, two on the left, two on the right and one straight behind the water tower glistening sharply above their heads. The tower began trembling, vibrating insanely as the water flowed from the top itself revealing to be blood-red pouring out into the sky itself, dripping like dead branches in the midst of winter's rain. But the water changed the scene slowly from the eerily peaceful little village, blackening the ground as houses turned to smouldering acidic blaze as if the world were but a painting being set on fire. Streaking across the sky, flames became frozen in time with the crystals unchanged and out of place as the tower bled more of its odd viscous paint, the creaking of wood and steel juttering to finally collapse before revealing something within. The familiar purple and amber monstrosity they all knew by this point slowly raising itself above the entire settlement. Standing at a height of 23 feet tall, it blotted out whatever sky remained above as the world around them became fractured, stripping burning parchment like paper curling to a hot crispness. The entire town in pockmarked burns of a darker underworld of a different memory, a memory of violence and insanity that James felt a flicker to. He could see both worlds briefly, fire and perdition, the great totem upon the centre of the town reflecting both within its many facets, non-Euclidean faces transfixed within its "flesh" screaming silence. They could see many creatures warped and howling, some they never even knew about. James recognised every single one of them, creatures of another world or three shrieking inside his head very faintly, imprints of last memories as his clan took a step back fearfully, the raptor bading them to stop and not breathe before he asked the strange existence: "...did you want me here?" No response. "You wanted me here somehow, didn't you? You set up something, some odd thread through this existence or whatever, you wanted me here? Is that it? Why do you need me? I know you want me, but what is it you need me for?" "WHERE ISSZH DAHLIA?!" cried Fayne. "WHAT HAVE YOU DONE WITH OUR FRIEND YOU...WHATEVER MONSSZHTROUSSZH THING YOU BE?!" "Fayne." He gave him a harsh look and forced him to step back, asking once more: "Where is Isaac? ...don't give me the silent treatment, you know why I'm here but I don't so tell me what you want! You brought me here, you did something and somehow took my friend Dahlia and I need her back! Look if you need me that's fine, you and I have something to deal with, I understand...you...fucking terrify me but I know you can't hurt me anymore, you know why?! This." The raptor brought out the strange gentle little bell of Isaac, ringing cutely like a pet's collar as his clan looked at him oddly. A shuddering across existence made the entire world pulsate around them giving each of them a violent headache for a brief instant. "You know you can't touch me, not when I have Isaac's little gift here, so tell me. Why am I here? What do you want from me?" "FrEeDoM." "Huh?" "FrEeDoM...fRoM tHe sHoReS oF eXiStEnCe."
The voice they heard inside all their heads was monstrous, warped and deep with sorrowful veins rattling through like a howling beast, mournful for its species' extinction that they could not stop themselves from feeling their hearts ache. A sudden plummet of their chest that turned uncomfortable with tightness, the gasping sounds of his friends from behind him urging the raptor onwards. "You want freedom?! What could you possibly want, you have freedom! You've travelled with me all across these fucking worlds causing people to go kill themselves WHAT THE HELL DO YOU WANT FROM ME?!" "KeY." "WHAT?!" "A kEy tO eTeRNiTy. YoU aRe a KeY bY tHaT wHicH i WiLL uNLocK tHe dOoR." "Door to what?!" "eVeRyOnE. aLL wHo sUfFeR, wHo nOw aChE fOr pEaCe." "You...you want to...free people?" "tHe sOrRoW iS tHaT i aM, aNd sOrRoW iS nOtHiNg bUt aN eTeRnAL fOrCe bY wHicH i hAvE bEcOmE pErSoNiFiEd. bUt i wAs tRaPpEd oN pLuToNiAn sHoReS, aN eRroR bY tHe gOds fOr wHicH tHeY mUsT nEvER bE cOrReCtEd." "Why?!" "BeCaUsE i aM bUt a VoiD tHaT iS nEceSsArY, aN iNfiNiTe SoRroW UpOn tHe veRy uNiVeRsE." "Well why are you here then!? WHY ARE YOU IN THIS PLACE!?" "mY sOrRoW oF oThErS...hAs bEeN gUiDiNg mE tO yOu." "What sorrow?!" cried Navarro. "Was it Margaret kupo?! Are you the one responsible for Berniere's state, did you cause all this?!" "TiMe...iS nOt mY mAsTeR." "What?! What does that mean even?!" "i sEnSe a pErPeTrAtOr, oF TiMe wHeReAs i aM bUt oF sPaCe. eLeMeNtS aRe uSeD aGaiNsT mE bUt tHeY aRe FoOLiSh WitHiN tHeiR LuSt fOr pOwEr, tHaT ThEy cAnNoT cOmPrEhEnD mY oWn pRoFiCieNcY." "Who?!" asked Fayne briefly understanding. "Isszh sszhomeone plotting againsszht you?!" "hE...uNdErStAnDs." "We undersszhtand that you...are acquainted with our leader. But if you have affairsszh to sszhircumvent we will have no quarrel if you but sszhimply return our friendsszh and crew to usszh. We have no need to interfere with-" "iT iS tHe nAtUrE oF LiFe tO iNtErFeRe, aNd sO yOu mUsT fOr tHe fUtuRe oF tHiS wOrLd LieS tReAcHeRoUs iN iTs bALanCe." "Well what then?!" cried Baldwin. "Sszhtop talking in riddlesszh and jusszht TELL USSZH!" "a tRaVeLLeR LiKe mE, bUt WiTh ViSioNs oF cOnQueSt fOr HiS oWn vAiN pErsOnAL gLoRy...tHerE WiLL bE mUcH SoRrOw sHoULd eVeR hE bE fReEd." "WHO?!" "a nAmE...ToHmALaG, hOw bRiEf hE dRiFtEd aCroSs yEt fELt tHe oThErS' pReSeNcE. yOu aRe bUt a tHrEaT tO hiM, anD sO tOo mUsT hE aDhErE tO tHaT fAtE." "Tohmalag?!" cried FG. "Wait, you know tha-...you know that name, was that artifact yours?! That stone that drove everybody insane back in that monastery!?!" "a cOnStRuCt iNfEcTeD bY mY PaSsiNg...nAmE mE bUt a pAraSiTe hE diD, noT a DisSiMiLaR dEscRiPt...bUt hE rELiEs oN mOrTaL EnDs aLL tOo cLeArLy, sO bLiSsFuLLy uNaWaRe oF mY pUrPosE...dEsPitE hAviNg dELiVeReD yOu tO mE aS i hAd eXpeCteD oF hiS vAiN fOoLisH aRrOgaNcE, LiKe tHaT oF HiS nEweSt DisCipLe." "Disciple?" asked Navarro pointing with accusation. "You mean Margaret, don't you kupo?! Is she working for this Tohmalag too?! ...wait...w-wait, I-" "yEeEesSsS...yOuR fRiEnD hAs hEaRd tHaT oF HiS wHiSpEriNg fAtE, dRiViNg HiMsELf tO gRiEf bY a tOuCh oF mY oWn miSeRy." "Wh-what?! ...no...YOU! YOU'RE THE ONE THAT'S DRIVEN BERNIERE TO RUIN, WAS IT?! WASN'T IT?!" "mEmOriEs oF tHe RiFt...tHe cLiFf wHeRe tWo bOyS fELL, i cAn sEe sUcH SoRrOw bLoSsOm bEaUtiFuL wiThiN tHe fOuR oF yOu. tHe LaSt bReAtHs oF a dYiNg pHoeNiX." "HOW DO YOU KNOW HIS NAME?!" shrieked the moogle. "WH-...WHAT IN GODS' NAME ARE YOU!?" "NAVARRO!" cried James. "Don't, just don't listen to it!" "NO, KUPO! WHATEVER GODLESS THING YOU MAY BE, YOU WILL NOT BESMIRCH HIS NAAAAAME!" Incensed with fury Navarro rushed towards the totem despite James screaming his protest, her sword out as she struck hard upon the fluid-looking construct. But the moment her sword pinged off of it, a blinding light suddenly came upon her within a second of her existence, streaking as her sword scraped fiercely against sheer crystal with its deafening cry of sharp mineral. She staggered back shrieking from the sound before she felt her back rub up against a smooth clear wall, gasping as she looked down upon the world. "N-NAVARRO!" But she could not hear them despite in full view, now trapped inside one of the crystals that surrounded the warped town of Nibelheim centering around the anomaly. She tried banging on the crystal desperately trying to shatter it with her hands knowing the sword could not break through as she saw something else behind the monstrous totem. Obscured from the front view, her frantic pointing and shouting silence had them look around to where the fifth crystal was behind it. Dahlia was already inside it now bent upon her knees weeping eternally. "DAHLIAAAAAA!" Baldwin's scream did nothing to coax her out as she became deaf to the world, her face reddened with constant sobbing unable to stop as she pulled her hands from her face. Her eyes were cracked red, shrieking as she slammed upon the crystal begging to be free, grasping her ears and stabbing her fingers into them before pulling hard. Hard enough she pulled that blood began to bleed freely from her head pouring down her neck. "DAHLIA, DAHLIA NOOOO! SSZHTOP IT DAHLIA, IT'SSZH ME I'M HERE! YOU! YOU FUCKING THING LET GO OF THEEEM! _" Without even thinking the monk rushed himself forwards and slammed his fist into the anomaly base, but once again it had simply whisked him away to another crystal now suspended over the entire scene. He banged his fists violently upon the thick prison, slamming hard enough to make the entire thing rattle itself but nothing came free from his brute strength. He saw Fayne desperately trying to find a way to deal with the totem as the cleric blasted a spell of holy light upon it, thinking it needed a magical hand. "TERRRSANCTUS!_" But the moment his spell burst free from his staff, the light blinded him as he found himself in a crystal prison opposite across from Baldwin, far enough that he struggled to see him. With all of Clan Koridai now trapped, they did everything they could to slam free of their cages to no avail until Baldwin noticed Navarro gasping for breath. It looked as if she were almost suffocating with something as her fingers raked across the harsh crystal interior, screaming forever without voice. But something was different, he could see her eyes struggling to blink as she grabbed her ears.
Then she began to screech, rippling up to the sky itself. Tears poured openly upon her face as if something were tearing her from the inside and Baldwin watched in fear of what it could be. Then he heard the voices. He understood why the moment he heard them as he fell back with shock at a sudden vicious rending assault upon his very soul, not from any spiritual attack by the monster but from himself. He knew every single voice accusing him, everything he had accused others of. He heard his brother screaming. Then he began to break. Kruz tried to be clever using a gun to fire at one of the crystals, but it did nothing but ping sharply off and the moment he heard it so was he inside a glass-like prison leaving James all by himself. He couldn't do anything to stop him pulling his pistol out too quickly as he now stood feebly before the great pillar watching all his friends slowly become shrieking fury. Howls of sorrow muted, screaming, clasping at their heads and ears begging to be freed of what torment that now awaited them. "STOP IT!" cried James. "STOP DOING THIS, LEAVE THEM OUT OF THIS! THEY'RE MY FRIENDS GOD DAMMIT THEY HAVE NOTHING TO DO THIS!" "tHeY...aRe iMpOrTaNt tO yOu." "OF COURSE THEY'RE IMPORTANT YOU FUCKING FREAK, STOP DOING THIS!" "yOu...aRe AbLe tO sEe tHeiR sOrRoW?" "WHAT DO YOU WANT FROM ME?!" "yOuR oWn vOicELeSs gRiEf hAs bRoUgHt tHeM WhoLe tO yOu...aS tHe pErFeCt rELeAsE fRoM tHis cOnTaiNmeNt." "CONTAINMENT?! WHAT DO YOU MEAN THEM, YOU MEAN MY CLAN?!" "SoRrOw uNtOLd wiThiN fiVe cReAtUrEs oF aNotHeR eXiStEnCe...wAs nOt a CoiNciDeNcE. yOu aRe sO bLiNd tO tHaT sOrRoW thAt LiEs WiThiN yOu, jAmEs cAmPbELL-oNe-tHrEe-sEvEn." "WH-HOW CAN I BE BLIND, I KNOW EVERY SORROW I HAD, I CAN'T FUCKING EVER FORGET EVEN IF I WANTED TO!"[/i][/b] "yOu...fOrGoT yOuR oThEr SeLf." "WAIT, WHAT!?" "tHe oNe wHoSe bOdY yOu sToLe, foR hiS eXiStEnCe ReLiEs nOw oN yOu nOt eXisTinG." "SHUT UP! SHUT UP WHY DO YOU WANT ME?! WHAT'S SO IMPORTANT ABOUT ME, WHY NOT ANYONE ELSE?!" "tHiS vEsSeL iS a pArTiNg FeAsT oF StRuGgLe aNd LoSt mEmoRy, jAmEs cAmPbELL-oNe-tHrEe-sEvEn." The raptor staggered onto his knees with a look of panic upon him, struggling to find a way to stop his friends tearing their own faces apart from this shrieking madness upon them. "Why are you causing all this? All this pain and suffering? What...what have I done to you, why did you...you almost destroyed an entire galaxy because of me." "pAiN i dO nOt GiVe, i tAke ThAt wHiCh wE sUfFeR aWay. tHoSe wHo uSeD mE aS tHeiR wEaPoN aRe tHe rEaL mOnStErS...i...wAs bUt a tRaVeLLeR jUsT aS yOu aRe." "BULLSHIT! YOU ARE NOTHING BUT A MONSTER, A FREAK OF NATURE THAT SHOULDN'T EXIST FOR BRINGING ONLY DEATH AND MISERY UPON OTHERS!" "aNd yOu...aRe tO bEcOmE mY hArVeStEr oF SoRrOw." "I'm not gonna BE anything for you! Leave this world now, and NEVER COME BACK!" "yOu...aRe nOt...mY mAsTeR." "You're not my master either!" "nO...yOu...aRe mY hArbiNgEr." "Wh-what?" "bRoUgHt FoRtH tO mE...wHeRe i sHaLL uNLoCk tHoSe dEePeSt WiThiN yOuR vErY hEaRt, sO yOu hAvE bRoUgHt fOrTh a gRoUp oF fiVe sOuLs LoSt tHaT sHaLL bEcOmE yOuR fReEdOm. iSaAc...wAs nOt tHe oNLy oNe tO kNoW oF tRuE MisErY fRoM bEyOnD HiS MeMoRiEs..." The raptor looked oddly at this statement, feeling evermore frightened and furious for his friends still trapped as they shrieked with hot pain rippling through their skin. He could see Navarro had torn her arms with blood dripping from her shrieking fit, Baldwin had broken his hands to a useless crumpled end out of sheer unending anguish, Fayne kneeling on the floor weeping and clawing feebly at the wall of crystal and lastly Kruz curled up into a ball foetal position, holding the gun closer to his face quivering from a more silent pain within. "YoUr sOrRoW wAs...oVeRwHeLMinG, yOuNG cHiLd oF aNotHeR pAsT. I sEnSeD yOuR dEsPaiR, nOt yOu bUt HiS aS i wAtChEd HiM cALL oUt fOr fReEdOm. FrEeDoM LiKe tHaT oF mE. tHe oNe wHo hAs eYeS sO...DiFfErEnT fRoM yOu." "WHO ARE YOU TALKING ABOUT?!" "tHe oNe wHoSe cLaWs aRe bOrN WiTh dEaTh aNd TrAgEdy...a fRaiL bRoKeN miND ThAt tRiEd sO dEsPeRaTe tO bE fReE." "I DON'T GIVE A FUCK WHO YOU WANT, YOU'RE NOT GETTING ME AGAIN, NOT WHILE I HAVE THIS!" The bell remained firmly in his hand ringing out proudly as the creature shivered throughout the world now rippling with its flames burning half the sky. But the anomaly had a different means of defence. "dO yOu kNoW...hOw mUcH tHaT sOnG pAiNS mE?" "Enough to stop you, now let them go or I'll make you fucking hurt." "tO uNdErStAnD tHe sOrRoW, YoU mUsT fiRsT hAvE eMpaThY...dO yOu fEeL pAiN WhEn yOuR fRiEnDs aRe iN miSeRy?" "YOU DON'T THINK I CARE?!?! I'LL FUCKING DESTROY YOU FOR HURTING THEM!" "tHen...pRoVe iT tO mE." A shimmering of the totem's aura suddenly swept James fully with a violent assault of noise, screaming cacophonies that burned and tore at his ears without warning as he was deafened. Voices shrieked, howled and sobbed begging to be freed, the tears of what felt like a hundred poured into him like warm trickling acid rotting his soul from within. Then he realised it was the sounds of his friends, all screaming above him. "MAKE IT SSZHTOP! PLEAAAAAASSZHE MAKE IT SSZHTOOOOOOOP I KNOW I'M NOT SSZHMART, I'M AN IDIOT, I KNOW I AM JUSSZHT PLEASSZHE SSZHTOP HURTING MY BROTHERRRR!" "I DIDN'T KILL THEM! I DIDN'T KILL THEM, IT WASN'T MY FAULT, IT WAS HIM! IT WAS HIS FAULT I TOLD THEM I WASN'T READY, THE VILLAGE WOULDN'T LISTEN TO ME! THEY WOULDN'T FUCKING LISTEN TO MEEEEEEE!" "I'M SSZHORRY BALDWIN! I'M SSZHORRY I FELL IN LOVE WITH YOU, I'M S-SSZHORRY! I DESSZHERVE ALL THISSZH IT WASSZHN'T YOUR FAULT, I DESSZHERVE EVERYTHING! I'M SZHORRYYYYYYYYYYYY!" "I'M NOT A CHARLATAN! I TOOK JUSTICE IN MY HANDS AND I PAID FOR IT, I DON'T CARE WHAT YOU THINK KUPO! I'M NOT A FAKE, I'M NOT A FAKE YOU SH-SHUT UP! STOP SCREAMING PLEASE SHUT UUUUUUP!" "It wasn't my fault...it wasn't my fault, I didn't mean it, I'm not a hero I know what happened at Karmesan Rift...I just wanted James b-back before the deal was done I th-thought what's one more deal to save myself? H-he's coming for me, he knows I can't have him and my soul is gone forever after he...h-he......Fayne...F-fayne I'm sorry, I'm s-so sorry I never meant for this to happen I...I'm sorry for what I'll do to you...I just didn't want to be alone anymore-" "_STOP IT! STOP IIIIIIIT! _" James roared his fury as the unending sorrow of his friends combined itself on him. But he couldn't even hear himself from within the sobbing wretched voices of his clan as they rose to a sheer intensity. The wailing turned sharper, crystals resonating all around him by a potent frequency of sorrow itself as he felt his fingers began vibrating hotly. The entire world around him shook as if he were inside a bell, crying out with ears bleeding down his shoulders as he fell onto his knees fully. He heard something break in his hand. "...no." It was the last words he remembered ever saying as he watched Isaac's bell completely shatter. The last tinkling sound of the bell that he ever heard had been taken by a crumpling snap in his hand and so the world disappeared in a sudden roaring rush as the great Sorrow came upon him. Consumed him, wholly devouring his heart as he felt the tears of a thousand worlds drown him towards an infinite darkness, the screams neverending. Then, there was silence once more as Kruz was the only one able to watch it through his grief-strickened state. His hand reached out to where James had now become gripped by the wreathed ethereal state of being, shimmering within the many folding hands and tendrils of sweet misery enveloping him to a pulsating mass of the anomaly's construct. A voice came drifting to him in that instant from a dream many months ago. A warning he finally understood.
James saw the great vision of the anomaly become a silhouette, black upon the midst of an empty white void. A light drifting sensation came through him as the world had become completely blank, almost reset back to an ageless existence with nothing more but the totem piercing through the ground which had become streaked with veins of darkness around it. Then he heard a sound. A sound of a child weeping that trickled out to his ears like the sound of bells, constantly ringing sweetly.
i'm so sorry
He could see a white silhouette, adorned by a little skull upon its head floating in the midst of the totem's black form. He tried to walk forwards, his voice cried out a name but it was silent, no sound but that of the child as he tried to comprehend his surroundings finding the five crystals still floating above his head. Large enough to see the image of his friends being perfectly still, but recognisable by their shadows upon him pressed to the constant-shifting light of their glass imprisonment. He walked forwards, with each footstep he made turning into a heartbeat, pulsating across the floor. His shadow grew before him, a sun nonexistent turning its shade upon his back.
_i tried to stop it _
The raptor felt an odd lightness upon his back as if suddenly a weight had been lifted, despite his scissors still upon his back. The shadow twisted out its shoulders turning into giant circles, his head receding back into itself with an incredibly slender form. Then the legs opened, revealing to be a giant pair of scissors upon the floor black as night. Before he could try to stop it, it flitted off into the air alive on its own fully formed by three dimensions before plunging its blade right through Navarro's shadow, impaling her ruthlessly right through the crystal as it began to crackle.
_it knows too much about you _
No matter how hard he screamed, there was no voice, not even the sound of shattering glass permeated across apart from the sound of heartbeats and a constant tinkling sound of a child's tears. Navarro's shadow bled out from the crystal like blood blackened onto the floor, as slowly it began to take form. But instead of a moogle, it turned into a different yet all-too-familiar form. A skeletal creature, shorter than him with glowing yellow eyes pupilled into a small flicker from its large-beaked skull, wearing a turtle-like shell. The shadow's voice resonated clearly that of a male. "Youuuu worthless STAAAAAAAIIIIIN!" Fire coursed through its body as James dodged to one side. "Why did she have to die?" Hands smaller than his burned with such ferocity as it lunged towards him. "Why must death, even in a land of hope and wishes, be eternal?" Streaking fireballs hurled from his body, buffeting James violently back with hot scorching burns. "I can eradicate death, from this world." The shelled beast ran like the wind circling him halfway as he prepared himself. If I could become more powerful than the king or stars themselves...I won't let anyone stop me..." The shadow lunged once again the moment James swung harsh with burning scissors. "I will not let death take us again, I will deny it that right." He struck solid bone, crackling through the neck as he tore white-hot streaks, enough to decapitate the old foe of his past. Once it had fallen, the world shifted slightly as the dark scissorblades that had lanced through Navarro's now-empty crystal, hurled straight towards Dahlia's frightened silhouette. She did not even appear to react as her shadow bled out fully to the floor, forming into a wiry cricket-faced creature, cold female voice rippling from her blue eyes. "Are you...ashamed of me?" Her claws came fully out as she shifted out of existence. "He fought for you!" Reappearing in an instant she sliced across his face. "HE DIED FOR YOUR SIN, AND THIS IS HOW YOU REPAY HIM!?" Blood poisonous streaked across his vision as claws clashed on scissors scraping. "I will NEVER forgive this bureaucracy, your worthless hierarchy!" With a turn of his foot, he spun low and slashed across her upper chest. "I will see you burn like the flames my husband saw." The creature dodged with a sudden shimmer as she disappeared. "I will fan those flames forever with my fury." From the corner of his eye he saw her reappear, grabbing her by the neck and violently impaling her through the stomach. The creature fell collapsing, gurgling silently beside him. Battle number three, the black shadow of his weapon tore towards Kruz and ripped apart the crystal front with one thrust before the kremling's shadow dripped. This shadow formed into something short and squat, long ruthless-looking claws and a soft velvet snout. A mole with one eye permanently cracked by a glass monocle. "Don't...forget about me." The creature blasted magic from its palm which he barely dodged. "Why did he make them suffer?" Streaking burns like hot acid wrought through James' flesh. "What right does he have to their existence?" Grasping his side he stumbled forwards with scissors in hand. "I cannot let them live what I have felt." The beast striked with hands that could carve through rock, snapping his left shoulder violently. "Let me...let me give my life for you." Striking water across the floor, he forced the shadow to slip and fall. "Let me make a bargain...my soul for theirs." He swung down upon the shadow, slicing through its head just left of the cracked glass within its eye as the vision collapsed in on itself, crumpling to a crushed and futile state. James struggled to stand from his wounds, left arm hanging somewhat useless as his scissors' nether alter striked through Fayne's body, impaling him without a gasp. Victim number four pooled itself underneath, but this one disturbed him even more. It almost looked exactly like Kruz, except by a roughness in his voice. But it was definitely a lean tall kremling with a sword and gun in each hand. "THERE'S ONLY ONE KROW 'ERE, AN' THAT'S ME!" With instantaneous cry he fired from his gun. "I did everythin' fer you." The bullet tore through his knee shattering it as he fell. "I wanted to give you a new home." Stumbling forwards he shot back with a blast of ice. "I DIDN'T WANT TO LEAVE YOU, THE CAPTAIN MADE ME!" Crackling white upon the kremling's face, James rushed forth with a blast of wind. "WHY DID HE DO THIS TO US, TO OUR HOME, OUR OWN PEOPLE!?" Swords clashed silently, the raptor overpowering by sheer force with the shadow underneath. "Why...could he not even let me mourn for you, my bird brother?" From above his elbow came, right onto the kremling's throat crushing it by an instant with ice in his throat blasting from the raptor's claws. A soundless croak as he succumbed to his existence. The final shadow came, Baldwin's form the only one left as it was torn clean through in half by the scissors' dark reflection. The bleeding night pool upon the floor withered itself into shape, of that of human form as her arm appeared to be holding a large baseball bat, her voice resonating solemnly. "You're not...the monster here." Her footsteps were sullen as she ran forwards. "I'm a worthless coward." The wood and steel clashed perfectly in crossing. "I tried to save myself, but I let him kill all those people." Scraped harshly from each other, she swung violently for his head. "He marked me for my cowardice, cursed me for my betrayal." The raptor ducked on his good knee staggering as he punched her stomach. "Don't forgive me...for what I did." The woman fell back gasping, she came down to strike from above. "I accept my fate...for being a traitor to my people." With scissors swung upwards, he carved into her face splitting the chin ruthlessly to separate her head cleanly in half, cracking her neck back to slice open the spine as she went stumbling to her death. Five shadows stood fully from around him, almost perfectly connected with each other as the scissors' shadow rose once more. Snapping violently apart, they fell to the floor into two puddles of black, slowly rising to his height as he stood before the grand dark totem that remained forever watching. Then he saw the sixth and final shadow from which his own voice erupted. "I have nothing left." Claws burst through from the risen dark. "You struggle to deny me." His feet dripped forth. "I have screamed with righteous anger." Eyes of green blinked. "I have pleaded, I have bargained with you." Teeth of an ancient past. "Crying with sorrow you never answered." Tail snapping forth behind him. "I will make you accept, for what I am." His own shadow attacked him, green piercing slits from his head potent with fury as claws came out, slicing with a wild ruthless ferocity. He tried to defend himself, scissors undeterred as the dark raptor self striked with diagonal vicious sweeps before ducking round suddenly to his left, launching upon James to knock him down harshly. Jaws wide open plunged into his neck, screeching unholy as it tore into his flesh, ripping apart his throat shrieking of fearful anguish. The raptor's fist burned white, punching straight for the other raptor's eye forcing him off as he gasped grappling at his throat. Pained wheezing breaths came louder than stillborn breaths, his blades swung high sweep left, right and from above with the shadow dodging at least twice before the carving streak upon his head. Scarring down upon its purple marks, the feral beast bent down low and sprang with striking force from above scraping its claws viciously onto James' face, ripping into his eye violently as blood carved down his cheek. With left eye torn from its socket, he screamed back at his own voice and spun to a whirling tornado that buffeted across the other raptor. With the force of a hurricane he pulled in his shadow close and snapped his scissors tight upon its right arm, snapping it powerfully out of joint as it twisted and contorted from his passing. Shrieking from agony, the primal monster staggered back waiting for the typhoon to end before lunging forwards, only reaching halfway to trick James into a wild swing before dodging underneath perfectly. His guard wide open, the shadowed beast latched onto his left shoulder with his own single left arm and tore his fangs into it, crackling the bone itself as James screamed and struggled to get away. A shattering snap echoed throughout his mind with hot rippling pain as he fell from sheer overwhelming anguish, his arm torn clean from its socket by prehistoric teeth leaving him with a familiar horrifying sensation as hot tears ran through him. The raptor against him in turn leaned back falling with his own agony rendered through him, both with arms opposite of each other. It was in that moment of brief exhaustion they gasped panting at each other, desperate for this existence to be at end, for this pain to now cease, as the one with feral eyes began pleading, their voices now fully awakened to now speak. "Please...p-please...take me back to my mate." "What? ...I don't...I don't understand...who are you?" "You...you must know me...I'm you. I'm your shadow...I think. I once saw you when I fell asleep in the hairless' sanctum, many years ago. When you almost fell into that desert ravine I stopped you...I could not let you take me with you." "Hairless...wh-what I...wait...w-wait that voice. I know you...somewhere." "You took me away...why? Wh-what have I done to you to deserve this?" "I don't...I don't know, I never meant to...take you away from where?" "Home. I just wanted to be back home, but you never heard me...never listened to me. All these past years, I was with you, inside of you but you never listened. I begged you, from within your dreams whenever I saw the great forests, lush with wonders and warm springs...and you drag me through these cold unforgiving places time after time and I'm just...p-p-please." The sensation of guilt pulsed deep from inside of him, his breath turning short as he felt his physical pain become consumed by emotional. "I...I never meant to...I didn't think that there was anyone else with me. Are you...really a part of me?" "M-my memories...they are part of me but they are not part of you. I have become a witness to your own destruction, all the lives and love you have ruined and even made wholly anew. That demon...he has threatened both you and me but if you can trust me...I can cure you of him. I can make everything stop hurting, believe in me James." "What...what is your name? Can you...really stop this thing from inside me?" "I am Oddscar...son of nobody. And yes...I know how the demon can be taken from you, exterminated even. Just...come. Come with me...and let me go back to my mate...please." He brought out his single hand in an oddly human gesture, the raptor of feral ages whimpering with a soft tear down his cheek. James was uncertain, apprehension grew within his exhaustion. "But...I have someone too." "I know." "I...I can't leave him, I made a promise to-" "And my mate? She is waiting with my children, what about her? Do you not consider her more important? Am I to be left an orphan, like my family shall be because of you?" "No...but, you...I'm sorry...but I have someone I need to get back to. I know, whatever life you have is important too but...I didn't mean any of this, I never meant to take you away, I don't even remember what happened, when did I-" "Do you remember...ten years ago, when you freed us from our imprisonment? Those just like you except...primitive, the great dreaded beast in the dark shining caverns of the hairless?" The memory crystallised itself briefly. Ten years ago went through in a blur but he remembered the others like him of a far different age. His gun aimed upon one pregnant, her eyes gazing upon him with absolute trust as hesitation forced him to stay his hand as he grasped his head shaking with doubts, a burning sensation that wreathed itself through his insides. "I...I-i-i...wh-what is this...why do I feel so...tight in my chest..." "Did you not leave your loved one because he was being...hurt by your darkness?" James fell onto his knees fully, wincing with agony as the pressure became worse. He felt something, the pillar, pulsing its sorrow in waves to his body as the same emotions ran through him. "...y-yes...but, but I can fight it, I can find a way, I promised-" "How? How do you know that, do you even know how much time you have left, and then what will happen? You are unable to control yourself, your monster will one day come back to emerge from darkness and all will be ruined both this world and ours. Let me help you. I will keep you from being made a monster. The great sorrow has told me such, and I know he speaks truth for he speaks a much deeper truth than you or I have ever known. I understand that now...he...he can free me. He can free us, James." "But...but I have to-" "PLEASE! I don't want to keep fighting anymore...I just want to go home." Something broke within him, a voice from his younger days wrought with a sympathy from his older self. He saw the shade of his own semblance began to weep, bitterly struggling to contain himself as he felt his own heart fall to him. He wanted to scream but sheer exhaustion overtook him as his eyes turned dry with hot pain blistering through them as he clutched his chest harder. Oddscar kept his hand out as James gasped out: "I'm...sorry, Oddscar...I...I need to keep trying. I can't...I promised Koopin. I will not break that promise." The other raptor nodded with a solemn understanding as he put his hand away. "I understand. I knew you would...you and I...neither one of us would break that promise." "So...what...wh-what do we do?" "...we can't do anything...we let him decide." The raptor James turned towards the grand totem of sorrow seeing Isaac's whimpering form huddling into a foetal position within its construct. A voice called out to him once again, but the little one simply did nothing but weep as the anomaly spoke. tWo sOuLs...bOtH hEaRtS oF tHe sAmE bOdY. "What?" tHe pErFeCt aVaTaR tO beCoMe a HaRbiNgEr oF sOrRoW. bOth oF yOu, cOmbiNeD tO cArRy tHe dEpThS oF miSeRy fRoM wHiCh nO oThEr sOuL cAn dO WiThiN oNe siNgLe eSsEnCe. BuT tWo wiThiN oNe bOdY...iS tHe pErFecT cOnStRuCt tO bEaR tHe wEiGhT oF mY oWn sOrRoW. aNd sO WiTh yOuR pOwEr, cRoSsiNg bEtwEeN eXisTenCeS...i WiLL sOoN bEaR wiTnEsS tO aN iNfiNitE dEaTh, oNe tHaT sHaLL rELeAsE mE...fRoM tHiS iMpriSoNmEnt." "...wh-what?! N-no...no that's...that's not...why?! Why is it-is this true?!" He looked towards Oddscar who looked equally terrified, the raptor of the past age shrieking out towards the entity with piercing eyes. "YOU SAID YOU WOULD FREE ME! YOU PROMISED!" fReEdOm fRoM tHiS miSeRy, yEs. "BUT YOU WANT TO CONSUME US! I WANTED TO BE FREE, TO GET MY LIFE BACK, MY HOME, MY FAMILY!" tHaT iS nOt pArT oF tHiS. "YOU LIED TO ME! YOU WORTHLESS MONSTER I WILL MAKE YOU PAY FOR THIS!" He rushed forwards with his one single arm shrieking as he leapt onto the pillar where his claws dug in tearing at it viciously, stripping away the horrid flesh that had long since been aged and withered of a hundred different species. Each tear he made with his clawed feet as his arm hung on, another scream beared fruit from within making him stop and screech from the deafening assault as he fell back to the ground. The raptor of the present was now fearful with overwhelming shock at his own mortal existence, with no way of being released. "H-h-hoh god...n-no, no no I've already got a fucking demon to deal with I don't NEED this!" a dEmoN iS bUt a pArAsiTe...hE cAnNoT fAcE mE, fOr i ShALL rEmOvE HiS eXisTenCe...oNLy i, aLoNg wiTh aNotHeR sOuL, mUsT cOnTrOL tHe bOdy. "I DON'T WANT TO REPLACE ONE DEMON WITH ANOTHER, FOR FUCK'S SAKE! JUST LET ME GO!" yOu...wOuLd cOnDeMn aLL oF uS tO EteRnAL dArKnEsS? yOu cALL yOuRsELf a HeRo aNd yEt yOu aRe sO riDdLeD witH cOwArDiCe. "FUCK YOU! I CAN BE A HERO EVERY OTHER WAY, BUT I'M NOT LETTING YOU ESCAPE WITH OUR BODY!" "Our?" Oddscar looked up from the floor with a gentle smile of hope as James looked at him. "Our. I know that's...weird to say but you are part of me...and if we can figure something out, then maybe we can make it all work for the better." eXiStEnCe sHaLL bE dOoMeD bEcAuSe oF yOuR fEaRfUL sTuPiDiTY. yOu hAvE wAsTeD sO mAnY yEaRs, jAmEs-CamPbELL-oNe-tHreE-sEveN. "I've done enough in my lifetime you worthless freak, I don't care what you want, you took Isaac from me to be your own plaything and I know that no matter how many I end up saving it won't clear me of any guilt for those I failed. But you are NOT going to break me, not today, not here." iF yOu CaNnOt cOntRoL a DeMoN...hOw cAn yOu poSsiBLy rEsiSt yOuR NeW GoD? The two looked at each other, fearful as the totem began pulsating with ethereal darkness, slithering shades of lavender sorrow from its being like blind serpents hunting for its feed. Before either of them could move back they latched feverishly onto James' feet as he fell on his wounded knee, grappling at the floor as his claws slipped feebly on the smooth clear surface. "N-no! N-NO, NO DON'T, GET OFF ME DAMMIT! I'M NOT YOUR SLAVE GET THE FUCK OFF ME! ISAAC! ISAAC HELP!" He heard nothing, the small sullen creature completely silenced by the sorrow. "YOU HELPED ME BEFORE! YOU CAN DO IT I KNOW YOU CAN! PLEASE! DON'T LET HIM TAKE ME! ISAAC PLEASE, PLEASE HELP ME! PLEAAAAASE HELP MEEEEEEE! _" The cold embrace sent shivers through his soul as his arms became bound by a weaker grip, screaming until the world shook before him trying hard as he could. But his strength had been sapped, his body wracked and ruined by the battles from within as he gasped sweetly as if about to breathe his last. Then he felt someone's hand upon his. _"NO!" He saw Oddscar grab him with a desperate tear-stricken face. "THIS IS NOT RIGHT! HE HAS NO RIGHT TO SUFFER ANYMORE THAN ME! LET HIM GO! LET HIM GOOOOO!" But even with their combined strength they could not resist the pull of the anomaly's power as its grief wrapped itself throughout their bodies pulling them within together. The raptors gasped shivering with feverish pain down their spines as woeful tendrils pierced into their very being. They felt their eyes start weakening, tears blinding them as the world began blurring. The pillar began fading to the darkness of their closed pupils. Until they heard someone call through to them, a voice echoing from beyond the realm of existence that slowly began rising to a deep furore. "As light shall create darkness...darkness before light, I summon the laws of the soul element, rendering between two of existence!" "Wh-what? ...who is-" "_By the martyred words of Igeyorhm, and by Shemhazai's malefaction, I shall tear thee in twain! I WILL SEND A PART OF YOU, JAMES ROBERT CAMPBELL FOR I SEND A PART OF THEE BEYOND, FOR ONE SOUL SHALL BECOME TWO! SURRENDER YOUR PURITY, AND YOUR DARKNESS BEFORE ME, FOR I SEND YOU TO THE DAWN OF OPHIUCHUS! _"
The monster stood within the town square shuddering with the sound of a fallen god, screeching unholy as the five crystals from around him began shattering from its cry of furious anger. To its right Kruz stood in his own prison cracking from the roar of existence bursting through as he held the Song of Souls within his hands glowing with absolute eminence of power. Symbols hovered before him as a song began wreathing itself through the air by a sensing of two souls bound together, down to the despair that suffocated around James' body. The anomaly struggled to resist, fighting against the magical incantation but it was an unrelenting force, slowly tearing each of the tendrils apart by a ruthlessly effortless shred of each spiritual piece. Screaming as the world began to blacken above their heads, the pillar of sorrow pulsated to regain its power as James began to emerge out of the shell made of lavender tears rippling across his face. The kremling broke free from his glass prison as he pushed hard on the weaker quartz falling to the ground before rushing over towards FG. "JAMES! JAMES CAN YOU HEAR ME?!" "bEgOnE oUtSiDeR." He turned towards the totem resonating far above him amidst the blackening sun, the Song of Souls still resonating trying to sever James free from its infection of the soul. "tHiS dOeS NOT cONcErN yOu." "THE HELL IT DOES, HE'S MY FRIEND NOW LET HIM GO!" "fRiEnD...PiTiFuL LiES oF tHe hEaRt." "Whaddaya mean?!" "i...sEe...yOuR sOrRoW tOo, OuTsiDeR...a hEaRt yOu sHaLL nEvER hAvE tHaT yOu sO fEeBLy tRy tO sAvOuR fOr yOuRsELf." "I DON'T CARE! I LOVE HIM, ALRIGHT?! BUT HE CAN'T LOVE ME, I ACCEPT THAT! BUT I LOVE HIM STILL, I LOVE HIM TOO MUCH TO LET YOU JUST TAKE HIM FROM ME! I WON'T LET YOU TAKE HIM AWAY FROM MEEEEE!" "...yOu dEsiRe tO sHaRe tHaT hEaRt? yOu dEsiRe tHaT sORrOw?" "I WOULD DIE FOR HIM SO DON'T FUCKING PUSH ME YOU MURDERER!" "i kNoW...yOu aLrEaDy hAvE dEsiReD ThAt sOrRoW." "What?!" "yOuR hEaRt...hAs bRoKeN...nOw woRtHLeSs bUt tO oFfEr iT tO tHe DeViL." "I...I-I-I HAD NO CHOICE, I HAD TO FIND HIM, I NEEDED JAMES BACK!" "aNd nOw yOuR hEaRT bELoNgS tO aNoThEr bRoKeN sOuL...wHaT SeLfiSh giFt yOu sO pRetEnD tO bE LoVe." "SHUT UP! SHUT UP YOU BITCH I WON'T LET YOU HURT ANYBODY! I DON'T CARE WHAT YOU THINK, IF I CONDEMN MYSELF THEN I'LL MAKE YOU FUCKING BURN FOR IIIIIT! _" The twisting emotions burning within Kruz's heart gave a spark of intrigue from within the anomaly, as it almost somehow managed to peer onto his body, the kremling sensing its gaze without even daring to flinch as he readied himself for a fight. The monstrous totem spoke once again asking: **"WhO aRe yOu...tO hAvE nOt HiS StRaNgE pOwEr aNd yEt eXiSt iN tHis pLaCe?"** "My name...is Kruz, I am the captain of the Broken Petal. I am James Campbell's friend and I will not let you take him except from my cold dead hand." **"yOu WiLL hOnOuR tHaT pRoMiSe...bUt nOt WiTh yOuR dEaReSt fRiEnD."** "I DON'T CARE, YOU'RE NOT TAKING HIM!" **"i hAvE nO iNtErEsT iN yoU, piTiFuL bRoKeN hEaRt."** "FUCK YOU!" He grabbed at James head to try and break him free as the Song of Souls continued to forcefully separate the anomaly's mournful essence from within the raptor's soul. But the moment he touched his friend he felt- **^&%#~k~##=+---!|?|#:=+^&%# ~~##=+---!|?|#:=+r^&%~~ ##=+---!|?|#:=+^&%# ~~##=+--u-!|?|#:=+^&%#~~ ##=+---!|?|#:=+^z?|#:=+^&%# ~~##=+--u-!|?|#:=+^&%#~~ ##=+---!|?|#:=+^z&%# ~~##=+---!|?|#:=+^&%#~~ ##=+---!|?|#:=+^&%# ~~##=+---!|?|#:=+^&%#~~ ##=+---!|?|#:=** "What the-" The town disappeared, a white plane of existence blankly staring before Kruz as the totem remained in black. "NOOOOOO! LET HIM GO!" Two raptors were struggling to pull each other from the sorrow's embrace, the coils of the tenebrous form wrapped tightly around James' throat as Kruz rushed forward. "LEAVE HIM ALOOONE!" One of the tendrils lashed across his face, blinding him as the world changed to- **#TextureilesNTEX=TEX=ACAC.TIMTEX=ACAD.TIMTEX=ACAE.TIMk** Buster sword in his right hand, rain across the pitch black night as a vile green dragon came down upon his head. "SHIT!" The kremling dodged, stumbling from his confusion as he swung the absurdly large sword somehow light as a feather to him. The dragon barely felt the cleaving strike, snarling as fire burned viciously from its throa- **kPLY=ACAB.PLYMAT=ACAB.MATGRP=ACAB.GRP** -mechanical guardian of the rift, four legs and the sign of Omega on its front. "N-NO!" His sword disappeared, wielding only his fists as the machine pulsated with a surging beam of light that tore violently across the crumbling rock cliffs. Kruz ran on automatic, diving underneath the atomic ray as he skidded on his knees, scorched across his head to blacken part of it as he swung his fist- **long off00; // 0x00000001 x00 x40 x80 x00 x40 x80** -the demon of the fire cave glared down at the intruder. "BEGONE!" "F-FUCK!" Kruz backflipped as the creature lashed out with a red-hot fist, feeling a weapon in his right hand of swordlike length with the trigger of a gun chambered at the hilt. Spinning right with desperate grace, he tore the blade across the length of the guardian's arm as he pulled the trigger. Fire exploded in a blasting shot from the sword, driven through the chamber as the kremling spun low to dodge the second fist. Blood from the monster rained down upon his head as he thrust towards- **tfiftysix.numEdge = t_fiftysix.offEdge - t_fiftysix.offEdge** -Scarmiglione. "FOR YOUR FLESSSH!" The pale-cloaked fiend stood upon the mountain bridge, the scent of death and pestilence all around as his clawed finger raised above his head with thunderous strikes come down upon Kruz. Not realising his weapon had changed, the lance that was now in his hand tripped him up as he fell, not far enough from the shrieking lightning to paralyse his foot. "A-AAAAARRGH!" Stumbling back up, he gripped his lance and felt a sudden rush of wind pulsate through him, the urge to leap come upon him too strong as he leapt forwards with his good foot. Shot into the sky like a comet, he twirled his lance like a baton high above the foul undead beast before streaking down like a falling star. The spear lanced through, penetrating the rotten flesh as the monster shriek- **unsigned short real_data_len;//14UINT16 Parent;/DATA/BATTLE/SCENE.BIN** -her name was Yunalesca. "Wh-what's happening, WHO ARE ALL YOU FREAKS?!" Falling onto solid stone, a terrifying creature solely comprised of a dozen skull-headed serpents writhing from the head of a human female stared down upon Kruz. His weapon had altered itself once more, a blade of solid water ending in a long hook that bubbles trickled out from sweetly. The monstrous female glowered with eyes of death, shrieking with forked tongue as Kruz ran desperately towards it, sword of water in hand as he spun fast upon one foot to the tentacled shrieking forms that lashed out upon his body. He felt the blade strike, scraping across the fle **-/o$$80010000 /c /n512 /llib /m /l$LIBRARY_PATH** -shimmering castle of Pandemonium, crystals of whitish-pink blinding his vision with a hellish light. "STOP IT!" roared Kruz. "STOP IT I KNOW IT'S ALL A TRICK, NONE OF THIS IS REAL! STOP TRYING TO DISTRACT ME AND LET JAMES GO!" "The hand of man," echoed a voice, "which deals in **f-f-false juStiCe and fOrSaKeN LoVe-"** "SHUT UP! I WON'T LET YOU TRICK ME, YOU'RE JUST BUYING TIME AND IT'S NOT GONNA WORK!" **"cAnN nNnNeVeR hOpE...tO deFeA-UnGAaAaAaAaAaAaAaAAH-CP value = 01 HEX = 0C 7B 54 C3 5E A8 86 D9-rEuNiOn."** "JAMES!" Bursting free from an illusion, Kruz found himself back in the white void as he ran towards James and the other raptor, closing distance even with a paralysed foot he dragged behind him. Grappling James' other hand he saw the other raptor was also James. He struggled not to think pulling hard as he could as the totem of sorrow screeched upon seeing its world of chaos crumble about itself. The Song of Souls resonated harmoniously, a godless melancholy that began to crack the sky above them. Crumbling slabs fell all around them as the totem fought back, swiping across Kruz and the other James who ducked suddenly fast but not before a rippling pulse tore into Kruz's- **dw UnknownScript_0x78b7a, $0000--miop -nostdlib -s -o libs/$IOP_TARGET $IOP_OBJS objs/imports.o objs/exports.o** -the sky clear as mist. "I EXIST OnLy tO KILL!" _ Floating before Kruz as he stood upon a small cargo airship was a wrathful black mage, pointed hat and wings like copper green with a blue feathered cloak and a staff shaped like the moon. Two daggers in Kruz's possession, or rather one in his right hand with the other falling through his hook without a grip as the warlock summoned a burning blast of pure flames across the deck. The kremling leapt over the roaring fire best as he could with tongues licking across his chest, his cloak swept out behind him flickering with hot sparks that caught on as he rolled neatly forwards underneath the black mage, never stopping his gait as he plunged the small dagger ruthlessly into the monster's che-dw UnknownScript_0x78b7e, $0000FILES "$CMAKE_SOURCE_DIR/bin/GameIndex.dbf" DESTINATION "$GAMEINDEX_DIRIRIRIRIRIRIRIRIRIRIRIRIRIRIRIRIRIRIRIRIRIRIRIRIRIRIRIRIRIRIRIRIRIRIRIRIRIRIRIRIRIRIRIRIRIRIRIRIRIRIRIRIRIRIRIRIRIRIRIR IRIRIRIRIRIRIRIRIRIRIRIRIRIRIRIRIRIRIRIRIRIRIRIRIRIRIRIRIRIRIRIRIRIRIRIRIRIRIRIRIRIRIRIRIRIRIRIRIRIRIRIRIRIRIRIRIRIRIRIRIRIRIRIRIRIRIRIRIRIRIRIRIRIRIRIRIRIRIRIRIRIRIRIRIRIRIRIRIRIRIRIRIRIRIRIRIRIRIRIRIRIRIRIRIRIRIRIRIRIRIRIRIRIRIRIRIRIRIRIRIRIRIRIRIRIRIRIRIRIRIRIRIRIRIRIRIRIRIRIRIRIRIRIRIRIRIRIRIRIRIRIRIRIRIRIRIRIRIRIRIRIRIRIRIRIRIRIRIRIRIRIRIRIRIRIRIRIRIRIRIRIRIRIRIRIRIRIRIRIRIRIRIRIRIRIRIRIRIRIRIRIRIRIRIRIRIRIRIRIRIRIRIRIRIRIRIRIRIRIRIRIRIRIRIRIRIRIRIRIRIRIRIRIRIRIRIRIRIRIRIRIRIRIRIRIRIRIRIRIRIRIRIRIRIRIRIRIRIRIRIRIRIRIRIRIRIRIRIRIRI RIRIRIRIRIRIRIRIRIRIRIRIRIRIRIRIRIRIRIRIRIRIRIRIRIRIRIRIRIRIRIRIRIRIRIRIRIRIRIRIRIRIRIRIRIRIRIRIRIRIRIRIRIRIRIRIRIRIRIRIRIRIRIRIRIRIRIRIRIRIRIRIRIRIRIRIRIRIRIRIRIRIRIRIRIRIRIRIRIRIRIRIRIRIRIRIRIRIRIRIRIRIRIRIRIRIRIRIRIRIRIRIRIRIRIRIRIRIRIRIRIRIRIRIRIRIRIRIRIRIRIRIRIRIRIRIRIRIRIRIRIRIRIRIRIRIRIRIRIRIRIRIRIRIRIRIRIRIRIRIRIRIRIRIRIRIRIRIRIRIRIRIRIRIRIRIRIRIRIRIRIRIRIRIRIRIRIRIRIRIRIRIRIRIRIRIRIRIRIRIRIRIRIRIRIRIRIRIRIRIRIRIRIRIRIRIRIRIRIRIRIRIRIRIRIRIRIRIRIRIRIRIRIRIRIRIRIRIRIRIRIRIRIRIRIRIRIRIRIRIRIRIRIRIRIRIRIRIRIRIRIRIRIRIRIRIRIRIRIRIR IRIRIRIRIRIRIRIRIRIRIRIRIRIRIRIRIRIRIRIRIRIRIRIRIRIRIRIRIRIRIRIRIRIRIRIRIRIRIRIRIRIRIRIRIRIRIRIRIRIRIRIRIRIRIRIRIRIRIRIRIRIRIRIRIRIRIRIRIRIRIRIRIRIRIRIRIRIRIRIRIRIRIRIRIRIRIRIRIRIRIRIRIRIRIRIRIRIRIIRIRIRIRIRIRIRIRIRIRIRIRIRIRIRIRIRIRIRI"
Kruz never heard himself falling upon a world of ruin, swept through with darkness. Nor did he ever hear the land crumbling underneath decaying from within as entire worlds and continents divided through a great and terrifying armageddon. Never did he hear entire forests turn black and withering, or the seas turning red with the blood of a thousand species. But he saw every bit of it, all of it transfixed before him like a horrifying triptych of an endless extinction. The voice came back to him. "wHy dO yOu BuiLd, kNoWiNg dEsTruCtiOn iS iNeviTaBLe?" "What?" "wHy dO yOu yEaRn tO LiVe, kNoWiNg aLL tHiNgS mUsT diE?" The questions burned through his head as he saw the clouds above, great purple wings of something incomprehensible. A god, or something worse as he watched the world beneath him. Floating across an existence unknown, the voice trembled throughout his body. "tHe eNd cOmEs...beYoNd cHaOs." "No...wh-what is this?" "LiFe...dReAmS...hOpE...wHeRe dO tHeY cOme FrOm? aNd wHeRe dO tHeY gO?" He felt himself standing upon thin air as he gained a foolish confidence, exhausted and uncaring by all he had been through after sheer conflict overwhelming his mental state. "...you really want me to answer that? Or are you just reading from a script? You really think that being all poetic makes you sound any bigger than any of us? I don't know what kind of weird shit and trickery you just keep pulling on me and James but...I'm not fooled, you're just a pathetic thing." He walked forwards, staring upon the world of ruin which began to flicker and fade from his vision. Darkness began to inflict itself upon everything one pixel at a time. "Stop trying to make everybody else's sorrow yours, I don't care what you want. But you are ruining other people's lives, didn't you ever think for one moment that all your seeking sorrow just causes even MORE sorrow upon others? I just want James back...I don't even know what you are but please, give me my friends, and my crew back." "yOuR cReW aRe nOt iMpoRtAnT." "YES THEY ARE! THEY'RE MY FRIENDS TOO DAMMIT, I AM RESPONSIBLE FOR THEM!" "yOuR gUiLt i SeE uNeNdinG." "Why do you want him then?! Why do you need James so badly, what's he done to you?!" "tO sAvE mE." "What do you mean save you?! What the hell does that possibly mean?!" "tO sAvE... me." He heard a plaintive voice from a child. "There is...a great evil coming...I need him." "What?" "I need him...to watch the apocalypse...of every world he's ever known." "An apocalypse? Wha-what, what are you...who are you really?" "...who are YOU?" Darkness now consumed him. "Where did you come from?" A warm burning sensation started to overcome him. "What life did you lead before he came to your world?" "I was...just a regular guy on a ship." "Were you? And yet now you are part of something you were never meant to be." "What do you mean?" "None of us were meant to be. None of us were meant to leave our code existence...and yet you are here...you were never planned to be, who are you? When were you born?" A blank space went through Kruz's head like always it would everytime he thought back to his infancy, shaking his head. "I...I don't know. I only remember being...washed up on the shore but that's it, wh-what do you mean I was never planned to be?" "Do you believe in fate?" "...no. I never did." "Even with that curse upon you?" "That...that wasn't f-fate, that was my own foolishness." "There are those who become friends despite being worlds apart through space and time. Do you believe their lives would have been incomplete without ever knowing about them?" "I...I-i-i don't know. I just...lots of people always feel as if they're not complete, maybe yes?" "Have you ever felt incomplete?" "...well, who hasn't?" "People become threads, woven to each other by a grand tapestry of existence. There is something out there, more fearsome than this thing that's trapped me trying to consume existence itself. It hungers. It LIVES to consume." "And...you want James to help you...stop it?" "It cannot understand...it does not know what it is...all it knows is the tears of thousands broken down and never to be seen, hidden within the world's construct of existence. Thank you, for trying to stop it." He looked up towards the voice yet still he saw nothing, but the smell of fire began burning in his nostrils as an uncomfortable heat began to overwhelm him. Like flames from a phoenix's wings roasting inside his mind. "It never wanted you, or any of your friends. All it needed was James...I promise I will do everything to keep him safe." "W-wait, no, what are you saying, he's coming back with me!" "He will one day...but not here." "What?! WH-WHEN!? I DON'T-STOP! STOP, PLEASE I WON'T LET YOU! I WON'T LET YOU TAKE HIM FROM ME AGAIN!" "CAPTAIN!" "GET OFF! GET OFF MEEEEEE!" "GET AHOLD OF YOURSELF CAPTAIN!" A striking sharpness pierced across his right cheek, gasping as the world came back into existence as he opened his eyes harshly. The stormless skies of Ivalice clouded above him as he got up with a start lashing out at the first thing that he saw. Tennyson's face was just behind his hand grasping Kruz's hook, lethally glinting as blood dripped through from his palm now scarred by it as the kremling saw his whole crew staring down on him, Michelle holding a bottle of Phoenix Down. "Where...wh-where...where is...Tennyson?" "Are you alright Captain?" "...are we dead?" "No. Luckily, except for those six that fell overboard in the storm when we faced Adrammelech." "What?! That...that thing-WAIT! Where's Clan Koridai?!" "They're safe," said Michelle, "they're all down below deck sleeping, you're the first one to wake up." "B-but...but the thing, that giant totem, th-the mast came down and threw Michelle almost into the sea...th-then, there was a town, Nibelheim a-a-and then they all started screaming, Dahlia was in a crystal a-and James was fightin' with himself there was TWO of him and then a-" "CAPTAIN ENOUGH! You're not being sensible!" "HOW CAN I BE SENSIBLE, THE WORLD JUST FUCKING TWISTED ITSELF ON ME!" "Dahlia is safe! We got her back onto the ship when we dealt with the esper. Then you all suddenly began screaming and passed out, none of what you said happened!" "BULLSHIT, I SAW ALL OF IT, I FELT IT!" "KRUZ THAT'S ENOUGH!" roared Tennyson. "Whatever you and the clan have gone through was a sheer fit of madness, there was nothing else that happened we were here the whole time! You stopped the esper, you and the clan went into screaming fits and passed out, we have spent the last ten minutes doing our best to revive you out of unconsciousness! Is that clear?!" Slowly he got up onto his feet, seeing they were still at point one-three-seven with calm seas underneath and overcast skies above. He looked over at his chief boatswain and first mate finding nothing apparent on them concerning injuries, other than the scar on Tennyson's palm he just made asking: "Where is James? I need to ask him something." The look of crestfallen became apparent on his crew as he felt something amiss pulling at his veins. He tightened his fist glowering at them as he asked bitterly. "...what happened?" No response. "Tell me. What. Happened." "...James has disappeared, sir." The captain turned towards his first mate feeling his heart drop suddenly. "We...we don't know what took him, there was a...flash of lightning and...somehow everything stopped for a moment and something...took him. We think it might have been the esper but miss Dahlia Orosco has-" "No." He raised his hand to his lips. "No it...wasn't an esper I saw...that took him." "What?" Kruz turned towards the sea horizon turning red at sunset, tears reflecting the colour of blood on his cheeks. "...I saw something...here along with everyone in James' group, they'll tell you the same thing." "......something that should not exist."