The Zodiac War

By Blade

Chapter 41: The Thirteenth Brave

Delita stalked quietly in the dark tunnels of the Zone Eater, trying to find his comrades, but slowly getting more and more agitated. The idea that he felt someone or something following him did not help. But he played the shadowy figure's little game and marched along the tunnel anyway, looking for some type of slimy clearing.

That's about when he found it.

Or rather, he found himself.

A black-clad knight stood erect upon his entering the cavern and merely nodded upon his arrival.

"Greetings, traitor."

"Come again?" Delita drew his sword, Legend, bright and gleaming from his sheath.

"I figured I wouldn't even have to bother looking for you, since you would eventually find me."

"Then who was following me? Speak up!"

The black knight looked innocently at him, "It wasn't me..."

Delita looked at the armor he remembered so familiar, but remembered the guilt and shame that came along with wearing it. Even Ovelia's blood was still stained red upon the black sword this evil knight bore.

"You don't have to tell me about my past; I already know I'm guilty."

"I figured as much; you're not as blind as I was going to say you were. But there is something I've got to tell you; I'm torturing the others with the truth of their own lives;'s your fault."

"The truth really doesn't matter anymore to me....whether it's my fault or not, you will be destroyed. I have no use for a dark past like you."

"Ooh, spoken like a true hero; only one problem; what makes you so sure you'll win. I mean, you're not exactly a Zodiac Brave or anything, no stone, no powers, just that weird sword of yours. On top of that, what makes you so certain you won't want me back, after all, I made you king of all Ivalice...."

"That...I guess, is just something I'll have to deal with. With the throne, or without it."

Delita stood in a perfect stance, that of a defensive position as the Black Knight charged up his Dark Sword attack, and a massive wave of darkness washed over Delita, the pain was nearly unbearable, but he still stood.

"You really think you can withstand your own Death Sword?"

"I've dealt with death before, I think I can deal with you."

Another wave washed over Delita, this time he fell to one knee, only Legend holding his frame up.

"Ha! You're a fool, Delita! You're no Paladin, you're nothing compared to me!"

That's when Delita noticed, he was in the same kneeling position that he once held to take the Oath of Fealty.

"I do so swear--to God and to my compatriots..."

"You think a simple prayer to a dead god will save you? You're a dead man, Delita!"

".... that I shall uphold his word and his orders...."

Another massive wave of darkness fell over Delita, that pain making him gnash his teeth.

"...should the church betray me or hell destroy me--"

More waves, each pain intensifying even more than the previous.

".....I shall love my God with all my heart, soul, mind, and strength..."

Delita's nose was bleeding now, and the waves kept on coming.

"...and by this sword I drive into his earth I make my oath of fealty..."

He could feel a warm trickle come from his ears, it had to be blood.

"...I shall love and protect my neighbor as my own soul--I so swear this..."

"Are you insane....take me in your heart or you'll kill us both....!?"

A slender hand touched Delita's shoulder, he recognized the family horse breeding signet ring.

It was Teta's…

For some reason, he instinctively touched his chest and seemed to be able to reach inside it, as if he felt his heart. It was pure and warm, he wanted to take it out and show everyone how he felt. He grasped at it and a form appeared in his hand.


"It's yours," a young vibrant woman's voice spoke, she sounded like Teta, but he wasn't so sure yet. Teta was gone, it was his fault, he knew it couldn't be her.

He looked at the green glowing stone.

Serpentaurius--Deceiver. A symbol of a snake etched on it.

" Stone?" He asked. The pain seemingly nothing more than dark flashes than pain.

The woman answered, he still didn't see her face yet, her voice sounded so much like Teta, he wanted to believe, but was still unsure, "Yes. They show us who we are inside, then who we are destined to become."

Another stone seemed to appear within his field of vision, it was in the woman's other hand. A bright healthy green color, deeper than his, glowed in the stone.

Capricorn--Generosity. A symbol of the horn of plenty etched within it.

"I'm the Thirteenth Brave, aren't I?" he asked the woman.

"You now know all the you can truly fight him." A slender finger pointed at the laughing, mocking knight who seemed to enjoy every bit of misery and suffering he gave to anyone and anything, even if it was himself.

As he stood, the pain was gone, no blood, no dark waves, they seemed to get deflected off him and he knew for certain who the woman was. He looked at his sword, Legend, which glowed a bright Silver, and noticed that now 13 glyphs were etched on the sword. Grasping the hilt he charged at the Black Knight.

"How can you be standing! You were dying a minute before? Who is that woman?" The Black Knight shrieked.

"You ought to know her, she's my sister!" Delita said and with a massive swing, cut the knight straight down the middle, the rays of light emanating from his sword disintegrating any remains left of what the Black Knight once was.

Chapter 42: Ending the Charade

Delita just crouched there, heaving, exhausted. It had been a long, hard, battle; even if it only lasted a few moments. The Black Knight in him was finally dead, he knew this for certain.

Finally, he stood up and put his sword back in his sheath. He felt the warm presence of the woman before, and he turned to look into her face.

And for the first time in many years, he cried in joy.


The woman was young and lively like he had always remembered her. Always the model sister. Loving and kind, innocent and supportive of anything he did, even when they were orphans. He was the leader, and she, she was moral support in any situation.

"She was the one.....who said I should go into Garland Officer Academy..."

A smile appeared on her face as for the first time in many years she embraced her only brother. The fact she could still embrace him boggled his mind, but he still accepted it.

It had been many years since she died, and now, being in this world, it was the only fitting thing left to him to reunite with her.

"Brother....we must go help the others, they're still battling their dark selves.."

"Alright, we go save them, but first, let me ask you a question."


"You exist in this world, yet I remember you died....does that mean you're soul only exists in reality in this place, and if so, how can you be a brave?"

"....this is something that will take time to explain, Delita, you see, my light as a Brave, that is the light in my heart that lights up this stone.....allows me to follow you and your allies on this pilgrimage to defeat Altima."

" once we defeat her...we...all go back where we belong...."

"Don't be sad, brother, I exist outside of time, and if we defeat Altima....that just might change certain courses of events."

"Outside of mean you can go to any point in your past life? Is that what your saying...?"

"I'm not certain....but it is a hope. But we've talked too much....come, let's help the others."

With that she took off quickly and it was all Delita could do to keep up with her. He hadn't known her, even when they were kids to be this athletic, this shocked him.. She definitely seemed to know where she was going, even for being inside a Zone Eater's stomach.

They found Ramza wrestling with the dark evil version of himself, the only problem was that they couldn't tell which one was the real Ramza.

"Which one is it?" Delita asked.

"There's no way to tell with your eyes..." Teta explained, "Use your stone, it has the power to see through deceptions."

Delita thought for a moment and it came to him that his Serpentaurius--Deceiver, had represented his life, but it gave him the ability to see through deceptions to the truth.

Pulling the green stone out of a side pouch, Delita could see the truth, that in fact, it was not a double of Ramza battling him, but an Ultima Demon fighting him. His eyes cleared, he concentrated on the demon. At first, due to the rolling around, it was difficult to get a good thrust into the demon. But using his Legend sword, he pierced the demon through the heart without hurting Ramza in the process.

A little shaken, Ramza stood up, and wiped the slime off his armor and was about to thank Delita for the assist...that is until he saw Teta....and became speechless.

"Ramza; I'm going to have a hard enough time trying to explain this to the others; so I'll just say it as quick as I can to you; she's the 12th Brave and I'm the 13th....officially." He held out his Serpentaurius stone.

"Teta....I thought you were......," Ramza began.

She shook her head, "No time to explain the why of it; we have to rescue the other braves."

Running through the oddly shaped tunnels, it appeared as if Teta had spent a great deal of time in this Zone Eater's belly.

And she seemed to know exactly where all the braves were.

That's when they found Alma.

She was unconscious, with her duplicate standing over her, thinking her to be carrion. It was all but two quick thrusts and the evil Alma was dispatched.

With two quick light slaps from Teta, Alma was awake.

" You.....alive?"

Ramza spoke honestly to Delita, "She's too weak to help us for now, you and Teta go ahead and get rid of the rest of those demons."

Running down tunnels that appeared to be dried-up blood vessels, and a few clashes with the demons, they had picked up Reis, Beowulf, and Agrias, still shaken, but willing to help in the current crisis. Incidentally, they found Zidane had managed to kill his duplicate and was proudly waiting for their arrival.

"Hey guys, you'll never believe who I just killed..."

"Believe me, we know." Delita grimly smiled.

Teta leading the way, while Delita defended her position, was an odd feeling to him, but it seemed she'd changed when he'd last seen her, she seemed....stronger, more combat ready, stable like Agrias, thinking like Alma, yet kind like Aeris, but also seeming to be soft-spoken like...Garnet, yet strong-willed like Reis.

He hadn't realized it at the time, but he had missed his sister for so long, that she had become more part of his life than he could possibly have imagined.

Finding Garnet wasn't that hard, she had slumped over in a corner, weeping. Zidane was the first to get to her.

"Are you alright, Garnet?"

Through sniffs and tears she replied, "Y-yes.."

The look in her eyes said that she had been mentally violated, all her secrets taken from her, all her hopes and dreams shattered. Zidane, seeing this, began to scowl like Cloud.

"Where are you monster! Come out and torture me like you tortured her, why don't you?"

The shadow seemed to appear at his calling, but took the form of Garnet, then slowly sauntered up to him, as if she were about to kiss him. Mesmerized by her form, he seemed paralyzed.

"So you like my form, eh? You know I can take any form you wish me to, I'm a million times more powerful than that little girl cowering in the corner over there. I love you Zidane, my feelings are true, unlike hers, she's fickle, I've decided, I'm yours, now and forever."

The remaining party seemed to fade in the background as this new Garnet seemed to hypnotize Zidane, and she was about to kiss him when, a single, solitary tear fell from his cheek.

"What's wrong? Why are you sad?"

His face was like iron, something no one had ever seen on his face before.

"Because......I had to kill a woman."

She looked down and noticed that his Tower had run full-length into her chest and out the other side. Her eyes went wide, blood spewed out her mouth, and she fell.

"You're not the woman I love." he said, bowed his head in brief grief, then turn around and faced the real Garnet.

"You did the right thing," she said to him, eyes now a soft shimmer.

They embraced and Zidane spoke under his breath, "Not a knight, my ass, evil-me!"

Stunned at what they just saw, the party kept silent about it. For the first time, Zidane actually resisted the thought of going after a woman.

The march slowed down a bit, as they had trouble finding where Aeris, Cloud, and Sephiroth had gone. But they did see a few sword marks on a wall which they thought was from Cloud or Sephiroth, until Beowulf admitted to having carved that himself, Reis slightly giggled to herself that he had actually gotten angry.

Chapter 43: The Final Test

"So who will you fight for? The strong or the weak? The dream or the failure? Well? Speak up! I want to hear what your dream is so I can smash it!"

"For an evil version of me, you're pretty dumb, you actually think I would tell you things like that." Seifer now had his famous smirk on, and to top it off he did manage to put a big X on the evil Seifer's forehead. If the cuts were any deeper, Seifer could have taken off his skull, but he was merely toying with his double, trying to obtain what information he could about the one who sent this thing after him.

The pseudo-Seifer spoke with a venomous statement.

"I really don't need you to tell me, I just wondered if you'd admit you failed at life."

Bringing the Hyperion up and charging at Seifer, the evil being swung in a wide arc. Ducking down, rolling backwards and kicking him squarely in the chest, Seifer threw his evil alter-ego right into a wet wall with a loud splat. He didn't notice till later, that the force of the being hitting the wall had crushed his skull instantly.

With his customary smirk Seifer jibed, "And I never used my gunblade to kill you."

Meanwhile, Cloud wasn't faring so wel. The headache was straining his sanity, and with every pound into his psyche, he was becoming less and less stable.

"You thought you could escape Jenova, Cloud? It's part of you, now and forever, maybe it will even take over your body and be born again!"

"!" with one quick slice he cut at the shadowy figure that held his mind in a crushing force.

A loud clash signaled that the being had deflected his blow with his own sword.

"'re stronger than that eh? Want to fight me the old fashioned way?"

"...B-biggest'll ever make...." he said as he prepared to attack again.

He swung upward and the sword clashed again. Pressing his attack, Cloud forced the monster that was torturing him into the light.

"Me….? I'm fighting…me?"

"Who did you expect, Sephiroth? He's a weakling compared to me!!"

"You invade my mind, CLASH, you insult my integrity, CLANG," for the first time in his life, his anger had reached its peak. "You're worse than Sephiroth ever was!!!"

"I'll take that as a compliment!!!" the dark Cloud grinned maniacally.


Cloud's stance was similar to his Omnislash, but there was much more rage there, and a red aura began to glow about him.

"Cherry Blossom…STRIKE!!!"

A red energy erupted in malestroms of rage. The force biting and tearing even into Cloud himself. But the anger kept him anchored. The force of the small 'Cherry Blossoms' or so they looked, were like small blades, cutting away at the dark Cloud at lighting fast speeds, until there was nothing left of the monster.

When nothing remained, Cloud slumped to one knee, eyes rolled up cunvulsively.

"Why fight me? It's inevitable, we are one and the same! Come and join me!"

"Why? So I can shed the blood of innocents, murder thousands in exchange for godhood? What would that lead to? Loneliness and no friends once again? Do you think I EVER wanted to be alone? I HATE BEING ALONE!"

For the first time in history, two Masamunes flashed across the battlefield that was a Zone Eater's stomach: one tainted with the blood of innocent lives, countless and ever-stained, the other a fierce shining steel, never tainted, a hero's blade.

It was a strange battle for Sephiroth, facing himself. He found his other to be every match to him, but wavering between stable and insane.

The lengthy katanas of incredible steel ground white hot against eachother.


"I don't've already...lost!"

Slashes and what could be described as a 'deadly wind' blew across the dark slimy cavern.

"Eayah!" Sephiroth brought his blade in a sweeping arc, barely gouging a fresh cut across his dark nemesis' chest.

"The cut me...was Cloud himself!" the being grinned in utter madness.

"Cloud will be the least of your worries, I guarantee you!" Sephiroth brought his wild blade around in a second angled spin that would have taken off the chattering creature's head had he not parried the blow.

"You forget I'm everything you are...and everything you're NOT!"

"That's right...ungh," Sephiroth matched the dark being blow-for-blow, mid-conversation with his words punctuating every strike, "I'm not a KILLER, I'm not a POWERMONGER, I'm not a LUNATIC, and most of all, I!! HAVE!! FRIENDS!!"

A wet thrust signaled the end of the fight.


"...Because I don't want to be alone anymore...."


"They're...all I've got left." he said with a tone of sadness.

As Sephiroth swung his blade over his shoulder, he couldn't help but think that possibly he was more than what his enemy had said he could have been.

"I'm no god, but I know I'm destined to be a Zodiac Brave....that's all I can ask for. I have friends...but just as I need them...they need me. I'll find them."

With that thought, he ran hurriedly through the watery passages of the monster.

"Is this who you really are.....just an Ancient with no past? No future? What are you doing here?"

Aeris looked at herself in confusion and almost hatred, she at first ignored the hurtful words coming out of her doppelganger's mouth, but they only seemed to creep deeper into her heart. Deadening her resolve.

"Is this the real me? Am I who I think I am?" tears seemed to have dried up on her face like old scars. Her confusion was digging a deep abyss within her soul with which her nemesis hoped to bury her in.

"This is how you'll die you know, trying to save a world that never really belonged to your kind in the first place--"

A large purple blade thrust out of the evil Aeris's chest, and she fell, now silent on the wet ground.

Behind her stood Cloud, his sword falling from his hands.

Aeris stood up, eyes wide in surprise, "What you did...."

His eyes were blank and distant, as if living an old nightmare that repeated itself, "I never meant to do, not to anyone, not to you, not to anything....but I had to."

" protect me...."

He fell to his knees, silent beyond reckoning. Then for a long moment he spoke, still detached from his emotions, "I never thought I'd kill Aeris with my own hands....I never thought I'd fight myself, my dark half...."

"You did................right." she whispered.

"You're dead....Jenova's dead, Sephiroth's dead.....and......I'm still here...."

"Your wrong! I'm still here Cloud Strife! I'm here!" she quickly grabbed him and looked him in the distant mako-filled eyes, he blinked once, but it barely registered.

She shook him, but he was still trapped in his reverie,
"You.....died....because of me...oh, Aeris.....I would have given you my life in exchange for all you did for me."

That did it. She slapped him back in to reality.

"Cloud! That wasn't me you just killed! You're a Zodiac Brave now! So am I! I'm here with you now! The past you remember still has a chance of not happening yet! We can change the past! By changing the past, we can change the future! We can still be together! You......and me....." tears began flowing from her eyes again, but then her eyes met with Cloud's again.

"You're right......I was lost.....and you saved me again. I'm back, Aeris, and I'll never leave you, even if I have to go to your era, I'll never leave you! Jenova is dead....but you don't have to be..."

The familiar figure of Sephiroth stood behind the two. He had taken the Ultima Sword out of the dead demonic Aeris and was looking at the black blood that coated it. He looked up at Cloud.

"Let's make a promise, Cloud, you and I....." his eyes were dead serious.

Cloud stood, not quite recovered from his old nightmare, but still acknowledging the good Sephiroth.

Sephiroth lightly tossed his Masamune into the ground, before Aeris and Cloud.

"Promise me....that when this war is over.....we never shed blood again....."

Cloud took his sword from Sephiroth's hands and.....seeing the meaning in the promise said, he drove the sword into the wet tissue. Next to the Masamune.

"I promise."

A moment of silence filled the cavern as two legendary warriors stood side by side, thinking about what their lives had been.

".......we should find the others....." Cloud murmured.

".....we leave...." Sephiroth grabbed his sword and began to exit the area, when Cloud stopped him.

"....did you.....fight yourself....?"

"........I ......fought a shard of myself.....broken and twisted......I'm whole again now....and I know my purpose.......old friend."

Cloud could've swore a small smile creased across Sephiroth's face when he said those words.

Chapter 44: Reunited and Whole

In the massive body of the Zone Eater, it took some great effort navigating the twisting paths of the stomach to find the rest of the Braves. Delita, after a time, had only one thing to say:

"I'm exhausted...."

So the ten of them located a less moist section of the stomach and settled down for a brief rest.

The topics of discussion were: who was Teta? How did she become a brave? And how were they supposed to find their way out of the Zone Eater?

Teta, apparently knowing exactly what was on their minds answered the question openly:

"Well, I'm Delita's little sister, whom was apparently dead for many years since we were young. I still am, at least until we beat this Altima. The only explanation I can give as to why I'm alive now is that we're in...."

"The Zero World.....we know all about that." Zidane said, rather tired of the place.

"How did you end up in such" Alma asked, cringing at the disgusting decor.

"As far as I know I've lived here for quite some time now, because of the fact I'm already dead, I really don't need food, so I just sat in here waiting for some way out of this thing. It's not very pleasant being undead, and yet I still have my soul."

"We were worried that undead people would want to feast on our flesh and drain our lives." Garnet said, shuddering at the thought.

"Most do....I think....but due to the fact I was a Zodiac Brave when I died, and on top of that I found my stone in this place, I think some kind of Aura is keeping me from doing that."

"Well, sis, we'll do all we can to see if we can bring you back to life again." Delita promised.

"Are you sure that's wise, brother? I mean, changing the course of history? If you do that the Zodiac Braves may never assemble to fight Altima, the Lion War may never happen, thus you aren't put on Ivalice's throne......and...."

"I don't become a black knight? Is that so bad, sister? To save needless bloodshed, violence, to remove a dark chapter out of my life?"

"'s not that....if...if you don't become a Black Knight, you won't become a Paladin!"

"I would trade a thousand holy swords for your life, Teta, never forget that!"

"Back to what we were saying....," Beowulf interrupted, "Exactly how long have you been in this monster?"

".......I'm not sure.....something like 100 years......yeah, something like that....time doesn't seem to matter in a place like this, no one goes anywhere anyways.."

The gawking faces of the party made her blush, that is, if an undead could blush.

Their reverie was interrupted by the arrival of Cloud, Sephiroth, and Aeris...although Cloud appeared to be a little worse for the wear, they seemed to be stable for the rest of the trip out of this pit.

"....well...," Delita said, scratching his head, "if you've been here that you think you could help us find a way out of here.....?"

"....hmmm.....oh! Absolutely.....I'm sorry, Delita, but being undead causes me to have slight memory lapses from time to fact, I don't think I would have ever thought to leave this place until you came here....the idea never really occurred to me..."

Stymied at such an odd answer, Delita let it go and asked her to lead on. She quickly marched them through the passageways, which was rather brief, considering what they had just been through.

Delita was baffled that his wise little sister was actually acting like something of an airhead, although he would never say as much. Then what she had said to him a while ago made sense: "The stones show us who we are inside, then who we are destined to become." That was part of the reason she was so different then from now...the stone was speaking through her.

He would have to hold on to this bit of knowledge for later use.

They came to a large open space and noticed a massive breeze blowing at them.

"A vacuum...we're almost at the mouth! Come on!" Ramza yelled over the noise.

Charging, slashing, cutting, and casting, the party busted their way out of the Zone Eater's mouth, and landed on the ground, getting ready to battle the thing again.

"This time, I get first cuts!" Seifer yelled as he charged at the beast's underbelly.

A few cuts at the mid-section left the monster wide open for a Holy Explosion on Agrias's part. This ended up causing the creature to writhe about in mass confusion.

"We strike now! While it's confused!" Delita ordered.

Reis jumped high and performed a massive, repeated Dragon Dive strike. Pounding away at the creature's fat neck.

Sephiroth ran full-speed at the thing with Masamune digging in the ground, then, turning the blade upwards, he cut a large gash in it and cast a large cloud of smoke in it's eye-holes.

Blinded and confused, it could only writhe about, and when it did strike, it usually only ended up biting itself.

"Even though it's disabled, I still think it's pretty strong, Ramza! I'm going to use Bio-cut on it to weaken it even more!" Beowulf yelled.

Casting the Bio spell onto his sword and slashing into the already open wound left by Sephiroth, Beowulf could see the thing was in real pain.

Surprising everyone, Teta, cast a massive Firaga spell on the creature igniting it into flames.

"Time to end this! Omnislash!" Cloud screamed.

The rest of the party marveled at the Ex-soldier's deftness with his Ultima Sword, even Seifer was impressed.

The final cut sent half charred, half diced pieces of Zone Eater in all directions.

Breathing heavily, Cloud put his sword back in his sheath,

" how one uses a sword..."

"Now that that issue is settled...," Delita sighed, "I need to explain something to all of you...."

All eyes and ears cued in on what Delita was saying, the howling wind seemed to evenly accentuate his words as well.

"When we were in that Zone Eater....," he began, "I was having second thoughts as to if we could ever find the 13th Zodiac Brave, let alone the 12th...."

"I was unsure for the most part if we could make it out of here with Capricorn, I should have never doubted myself.....that's when myself, my...former self showed up. My subconscious summoned him via the stone. He wanted to be 'me' again.....and he said that he was torturing all of you to do it.....I'm sorry I put you through that...."

"No Delita, it really isn't your fault," Aeris had a pleasant smile on her face, "I realized I had doubts in my heart too, and I needed to defeat them to move on....I guess I lost...."

"We didn't lose, we only got stronger...." Ramza said, "Don't you see? We created our own tests via the stones! We came out sane, right? And if Delita didn't test himself, he wouldn't have ever gotten his Zodiac stone! If we're going to defeat Altima, we need to be strong in mind as well as body."

"I for one defeated my self," Zidane happily replied.

"I couldn't have done it without Beowulf," Reis said.

"And I would never have won if Reis wasn't in my heart," Beowulf grasped her hands.

"It doesn't matter if we defeated these 'foes' either alone or with allies, what matters is that we defeated them." Ramza seemed quite pleased at the turn of events, "I feel a lot braver for it."

"So it was a test well met then," said a mysterious voice from behind.

They weren't shocked by the voice, so they slowly turned about to face their old friend.

"'s good to see you, sir," Delita bowed in respect.

The old man laughed, "Ho, Hoo, you really outdid yourselves this time, and you got all the stones, now it is just a matter of finding the right gate to Altima."

"How do we do this, sir?" Delita asked, somewhat puzzled.

"The question is where do you do it?" he replied.

Chapter 45: Chaos, Death, and Destruction

"So....where do we do it?"

"In order for you to get to Altima, you'll have to get past her fiends, once old warriors, now fully beings of evil, you've already survived one of her fiends from the past."


"Yes. He was the water fiend, ergo that's why he was found in the deep sea research center."

"(psssst) how would he know that?" Zidane whispered in Garnet's ear.

"(psssst) he's a sage, I guess....." she answered.

"So where do we go to fight the rest?" Ramza asked.

"Each fiend guards the other gates of time, there are three gates, you've only gone through the first, Omega, but the other gates that you visited in the past are now guarded by her minions. She exists only in the oldest era of you." Bugenhagen answered.

"My time....." Delita said, ominously.

"But in order to get back to that era, you'll have to travel backwards through the gates and defeat the fiends that prevent you from using them. You'll have to defeat Chaos to get out of this era, then go to tears' point to face Ultimecia, then travel back to the Ancient Forest and defeat Jenova, and finally you'll have to get past Necron to leave Alexandria castle..."

"My castle! But how could Necron invade Alexandria, my greatest army of knights was protecting it!" Garnet jumped.

"Nobody knows Necron is there, he is sealed up in the time gate area, and only you and your allies can leave there. But you will have to defeat him to avoid unleashing him upon Alexandria.

"Zidane, we have to do something about this!" Garnet yelled.

"Sheesh, one fiend at a time! Please!" he remarked.

Bugenhagen overheard the comments, "That's exactly how you should do it! Take it slow, they're waiting for you to come to them, and don't let your emotions drive your attack, be deliberate, no matter what compels you to defeat Altima. Remember the next few eras will only be the way they are because Altima is altering time. Defeat her at the source, and time will change."

"Thank you, Bugenhagen, you have been invaluable to us."

The old sage looked at Delita, then at the blackened sky, "I once was one with the planet, I wish to be that way once again, not this unrest I'm experiencing, you are my only hope."

As the party walked along the dark dirt road back to the pillar from which they descended, up to face Chaos, their thoughts were changed to conversation.

"I know I should have said this earlier, Beowulf, but inside that Zone Eater, I found something for you." Zidane said handing him a really large broadsword.

" sneaky little thief!" Zidane grinned at this, Beowulf then began to examine the sword, "It seems to hold an engravement, it reads: 'THIS SWORD REPRESENTS THE LOVE BETWEEN SIR STEINER AND LADY BEATRIX IN TIME OF BATTLE, TWO GREAT SWORDS MADE THIS ONE: EXCALIBUR AND SAVE THE QUEEN.' Odd, but Agrias owns 'Save the Queen' how does this sword even exist."

Agrias overheard the conversation, "Save the Queen once belonged to Lady Beatrix, and its steel was the only match for Steiners' Excalibur, so they took shards of each to apparently forge this one..."

Zidane was curious, "Then why do you still have your sword?"

Agrias replied, "My sword was named after hers to commit it to our memory as friends."

" this is both Excalibur and Save the Queen..."

"Much more than is named Excalibur the 2nd, Excalibur II, and I do believe Beowulf is destined to bear that sword. It has a hunter's signet on the hilt..." Agrias speculation caused Zidane to ooh and ah on it, that is, until Beowulf drew his new sword back in the hilt.

"Be careful, Beowulf," Agrias warned, "That sword should stay in your family for generations to come, it is a legendary sword, more so than any before it, and the love bond put in its craftsmanship is unbreakable, understand?"

"Yes, m'lady..." Beowulf replied with a smile.  He then thought on the implications of the love between he and Reis which were similar.

The group had a bit more difficulty climbing back up the pillar's spiral stairs. There were monsters there now and they cut through the usually strong defenses of Ramza and Delita. They were usually wolves and imps, but stronger than what the party was used to.

If anything got past the front lines of Ramza and Delita, it was usually dispatched by Reis or Beowulf, followed up by Agrias and Seifer, and backed up by Aeris, Garnet, Alma, and Teta Magically.

Back attacks were usually easy to deal with considering Cloud, Beowulf, and Sephiroth covered the rear. As for Zidane, he switched off through the formations, stealing, attacking, and protecting Garnet when necessary.

The higher they got up the pillar, the stronger the enemies were, Iron Giants, Behemoths, and Adamantoise filled the area. The Iron Giants were virtually indestructible to magic and attacks until Teta cast Demi on the it, crushing it's insides. The Behemoths were fast and strong, plus they cast a lethal Meteor spell on the party every time they were about to expire. This meant Alma and Reis were either busy casting Revive or using Lifega to prevent death on their allies.

But the most challenging monsters were the Adamantoise, they were slow, but they blocked the path until they were defeated. And due to the hard shell, the only way they could be seriously harmed was when Reis jumped and pierced their shells. It was even more difficult when the Adamantoise sprayed black dust in the air, blinding Reis, making her accuracy decrease significantly. It was only when Alma gave her some Eyedrops was she able to see again.

The fights were long and tedious, but the team pulled through and soon they were almost completely at the top when they heard.....laughing?

It was an inhuman laugh, almost demonic. The laugh had a tinge of hate for life, as well as a love for destruction in it.

Delita stopped the group and spoke, "You know what that is, that's Chaos beckoning us."

"Time to show the fiends what we're made of!" Zidane said.

"We face darkness and destroy it!" Agrias chimed in.

"Alright! Everyone ready? Charge!" Ramza yelled.

The party ran the remaining steps up the spiral toward Chaos. The creature was a dark knight clad in a dark horned helmet with red piercing eyes, and black armor with spikes every which way. He bore a massive sword upon his back, very similar to Cloud's in size if not even larger.

The knight drew his large blade and cleaved a massive gouge in the earth in front of him.

"Come and die, Braves, this battle will be the end of you!"

"We'll see who dies first, monster!" Delita's sword glinted with holy light as he spoke.

Charging forward, Delita swung into the black armor which bit deeply, but didn't seem to damage Chaos any. Grasping at the blade with one of his metal gauntlets, Chaos threw Delita and his sword aside like a rag doll. The force with which he threw Delita knocked the wind out of him.

This wasn't going to be easy.

Ramza and Beowulf took a different tactic and circled around Chaos so that he could focus on neither.

Chaos, grabbing his sword, plunged it deep into the ground, seemingly an unthinkable move, but what occurred next threw the two men off guard. A Quake spell had been summoned, and the force of the earth shaking in massive shockwaves disoriented the two knights.

Outside the shockwave circle, Agrias raised her sword into an arc and swung with all her energies into a Stasis Sword attack.

The attack struck home. Chaos was frozen.

But then the shell that was Chaos, shattered, he had broken out of the spell.

Disbelieving, yet still determined, Agrias chanted another sword strike, Holy Explosion.

The white shockwave that emitted from her sword bit deep into the ground after the knight.

Plucking the sword from the ground, Chaos lifted it in such a fashion as to parry a sword blow.

When Agrias's shockwave hit, it was suddenly deflected by the mysterious large sword.

"No! No one ever deflects that! It's impossible!" She screamed in dispair.

"Don't give up yet, he can't defend against all of us!" said a voice overhead, it had to be Reis.

Plunging her spear into what she thought was the Chaos Knight's spine. She held herself in place, pressing the wound in deep.

The knight screamed and began to reach behind his back, but she was out of reach.

"Come on! Attack while he's distracted!" Reis yelled.

Zidane ran up and plunged his dual blade Tower into the ground to boost his jump, then slashed deep into Chaos' open chest, the armor beginning to weaken.

"You think a simple flesh-wound like that will hurt me?" the evil being laughed, "I suppose that was your best attack?"

"Wrong!" Zidane said, "This is!" he charged right at the knight full-speed, then made a slight shift in movement, basically running past him, blade out.

The Tower caught Chaos square in the chest.

Though they couldn't see him through the helmet, they could tell he was in pain. The knight stooped for a few moments, then ripped the blade out of his chest with a disgusting tearing sound, black blood flushing from the wound. Then, with a guttural battle cry, Chaos furiously charged, slashing randomly with his huge blade.

The fight wasn't over yet.

Chapter 46: Over Hills and Mountains

"He's angry! Let's use that to our advantage!" Ramza beckoned, Cloud, Seifer, and Sephiroth followed suit.

Due to the fact Chaos' sword was so large, it was all Cloud could do to take the brunt of his mighty swings. "Strong steady hands are going to win this fight," he surmised.

The clash between the massive swords left Chaos open for a few deep cuts from the Masamune as Sephiroth aimed at the open area on Chaos' breastplate, which already had a gaping wound in it.

A few strong thrusts, and Ramza created another hole in the knight's armor, while simultaneously ducking the strong swings of the large blade bearing down, trying to give him the nastiest shave of his life.

The knight roared in rage and began to cleave at Ramza, but, due to Ramza's agility and the massive size of the blade, he used the sword like a spring board, leaping over Chaos head and slicing at his rear armor plate.

"You can't escape my blade, I will have your head!"

"Not today!" Delita took advantage of Chaos confusion and with all his strength and his sword knocked the huge blade into the ground, embedding it. Seeing his blade stuck in the ground only made the knight all the more furious, and he immediately cast a Barrier spell on himself.

"He's got his guard up," Beowulf said, "swords are no use now!"

"Fine by me…." Teta said, and with a wave of her arms, a massive Flare spell was cast upon the knight, burning away at his armor, and ignoring the Barrier spell. She smiled in satisfaction when the knight clutched his sides in massive pain. But frowned when he cast reflect on himself afterward.

The knights fought furiously, chinking away at the Barrier spell, while the mages cooked up a way to get rid of it. When they realized, the only spell that would work is Dispel, but that wouldn't work with Reflect on him. That's when Alma got a flash of realization.

"Reflect reflects spells right? So why not cast reflect on one of our own, bouncing the spell off that person should cancel out the Reflect and get rid of the barrier."

"I don't know, Alma, it's risky, Dispel is one of the Destruct spells, say one word wrong and you could be casting Death on the person, you know how death works." Garnet warned.

"We shouldn't have a problem if the person has reflect on them right?"

"Yes, but who of us knows Reflect strong enough to bounce off a Destruct spell?" Teta asked.

"Well...I do...I just haven't used it much." Alma replied.

"So you're not good at casting Reflect are you?" Garnet asked.

"Sort of...see, I only learned it a few days ago."

Groans came from the other mages, but Teta spoke anyway, "Well, let's see how well you know how to cast it then, so who's the test dummy…erm…subject?"

"I'll be the target." Delita said.

"What? Are you sure? What if Reflect misses and you end up getting killed. Death isn't picky even when breaking down barriers or peoples lives! We need you!" Teta reminded him.

"Remember, Teta, this is the Zero World, I can't exactly die here anyway."

"Not funny, you just might end up a Zombie." Alma pleaded.

"Come on, cast the spells already, Chaos is starting to heal himself with potions!" Zidane pleaded.

Closing her eyes, Alma murmured a few incantations trying to remember exactly what the phrase was.

Delita wouldn't know Reflect was cast on him until something bounced off it. Gritting his teeth, he prepared for Teta's Dispel. After Alma was finished, Teta began to chant, a few light glyphs appearing under her feet.

That's when Death appeared, Skull face, hood, scythe and all.

Grinning evilly it charged forward and tried to skewer Delita with it's scythe, but a massive barrier of light seemed to stretch and bounce Death off. Seeing that Delita was facing Chaos, Death charged full force on the dark knight. Slicing with its scythe, to cut through the barrier, but what it did next was unexpected.

The Grinning Grim Reaper had cut a glowing red orb out of the Knight's body, grasping it firmly in its skeletal hands, the being hungrily smashed the orb, and in an instant, Chaos dropped dead. Death then disappeared in a puff of black smoke.

"I...I guess that was Death, huh?" Delita scratched his head nervously.

"And you are so lucky Alma cast her Reflect right." Teta scolded him for his flippancy.

"You scared me!" Alma ran up to him and hugged him, shocking him even more than the near-Death incident.

All the warriors breathed a sigh of relief that Death had finally hit its mark.

"Well, that's it for Chaos! Now we can go back."

"And fight more super fiends along the way." Delita warned, "We should be cautious."

Chapter 47: Elements of Time

The party began to heal wounds and clean themselves up while preparing for the next time era, when Aeris spoke up.

"Everyone….I have something to ask of you, please."

All eyes and ears cued on what she had to say.

"I…I've been thinking of all the time we've spent together, and I just wanted to say, that no matter what kind of road we travel on ahead, I want you to know that I'll never forget any of you. Even if I go back to my era. Even if we all go back to our own times, never forget the time we spent with each other as friends."

Nods in agreement filled the party as they paused for a moment to reflect on where each had come from.

Some had come from a Royal Castle, others from a Dark City, still others from Ancient Civilizations long lost to time and space.

Standing near the edge of the now split pillar, Ramza closed his eyes and imagined he was back home in Ivalice, with Blue skies, and a soft wind playing with his hair. It was almost real, he could almost feel the flow of wind tussling his hair.

A hand touched his shoulder, surprisingly, when he looked, it was Seifer.

"I have a favor to ask of you, Ramza…." He said, not directly looking in his eyes, which wasn't like himself.

"What is it?"

"You think we could, um, visit my old Matron's house when we go back to my era? She might have some useful information for us. She used to be a great sorcerer, I think she might be able to help us."

Doing a double-take on Seifer's request, Ramza answered, "Er, sure, Seifer..."

After the party was fully rested from their fight with Chaos, they set out to stand in their designated sections on the platform, but now something was different, thankfully the Gate wasn't split in half along with the tower, but now something else was different.

"There are 12 platforms and one in the middle now, there were only 11 before." Delita commented.

"That's because you found me and my stone, the time gates react even more now than they did before to the stones since we have all of them." Teta explained.

"Yeah, now Altima's gonna get her butt wuppped!" Zidane cheered.

"She doesn't stand a chance against us now!" Cloud agreed.

"Let's go then!" Delita drew his sword, Legend, and plunged it deep into the activating anvil.

Instead of the usual blue hue of light, something different happened.

"Greetings, braves, I am glad you are all whole once again!"

"Wha-? Who's that? Who's there?"

"I am Gaia, the spirit of the planet, I speak to you through the stones, to tell you that now that you are complete once again. The time gate is at its full power, and you can use it whenever you wish, to go where you are needed as long as you are together. And time is open to you, not just in the gates, but whenever you believe in yourselves…you are the masters of time, the guardians of time. This is not your final fantasy, but your world and your story."

"Defeat Altima, but do not let the light in your hearts fade. The stones may fade, but your hearts must never fade away. Tell your children, tell them of their New Legacy. Never let them forget that they are the Warriors of Light and that this world is theirs. Never forget."

Just as mysteriously as the voice appeared, it faded away in a soft echo, the words forever etched in the minds and hearts of the braves.

"That…is my dream…" Seifer whispered.

In an instant the Braves were whisked away to another time, a golden aura surrounding them this time.  And as they arrived at their former time, the pillar they stood upon was whole once again. But what they discovered shocked them even more.

They were no longer on the platform that whisked them to and from time eras, nor were they anywhere near the gate. Instead they were on the surface of the Deep Sea Research Center.

"I guess what Gaia said was right after all...we can go anywhere we want in the blink of an eye." Delita thought aloud.

"But only if we're all together, all 13 of us." Alma said.

"Instant transportation is cool and all, but, guys, take a look around." Zidane commented, "Guess we can't call this place 'Deep Sea' Research Center anymore…"

They were standing atop the Research Center they knew, but they failed to notice that the ocean that once made the place an Island was completely dried up.

"I guess when we defeated Omega, he took all the water with him, not good." Zidane said.

"Bugenhagen said we have to defeat Ultimecia, Jenova, and Necron, I'm guessing, if we beat them, Fire, Wind and Earth disappear along with them." Ramza said.

"Altima, you monster!" Delita said, "even when we fight through the fiends we lose something we hold dear!"

"Hold on! Don't run swinging your sword so quickly!" Ramza interjected, "Seifer said he knows of a former Sorceress who may be of some help to us, lets go visit her before we take on Ultimecia."

"I really don't have the first idea as to where we can find this former Sorceress, so I guess we just have to trust Seifer on this one." Delita scratched his head in confusion.

Seifer stepped forward from the group and spoke, "Matron Edea should be able to help us as she's dealt with Ultimecia more than Rinoa, but don't expect me to be all nice when we get there."

Smiling at the humor of Seifer actually being nice, Delita said, "We'll focus on following you, while you use the Transport power of the stones to warp us there."

Seifer concentrated hard on his stone. Concentrating wasn't one of his major talents, but he could do it. He pictured Edea's house beside a beach on a lonely peninsula, a broken light house on the rocks further out, and he thought one wo

d: "Go!"

In a gold flash of light, the party was instantly in front of the old Orphanage, the quaint little place was about as nice as vacation resort, except for the fact that there were no waves lapping at the beach.

All was silent, so Seifer quickly stepped inside, where he found Matron taking care of a small group of children, quiet and content.

Not even looking up, she said, "Seifer, you've come back after so long? I didn't expect you of all the children, to return after so long. Are you and Squall getting along?"

"Well, uh, Squall and Rinoa have kinda changed since you last saw them."

"They've merged, haven't they? I expected their love for each other was that strong. So, may I speak with your new GF?"

"Uh, sure," he waved his arm and summoned the beast, but Griever didn't make it's roaring entrance, instead two figures in white light appeared, then dimmed into phantom like images of Squall and Rinoa.

"Matron, it is good to see you again…" Squall spoke but Rinoa's lips moved in sync with his.

"Hello Squall, Rinoa, have you taken good care of Seifer, protected him in his fights?"

A smirk formed on Squall's face which didn't happen that often, "We have, but he doesn't summon us that often, we need more training."

The voice switched over to Rinoa's, "He's having trouble talking to you about what's going on in the eras, but I'll speak for him, we've been watching the Braves just as we sensed you were, We guess you had your Sorceress powers returned to you when we merged."

"That's right, but I only use my powers to help those in need. I do ask that you tell me," she looked at Seifer directly, Rinoa couldn't help a short giggle, "How's your dream is going?"

Seifer, at this point blushed a beet red, "Well....I've realized who I am..not a sorceress knight...but a Light Warrior, thank you…um…Squall, for teaching me that."

"You learned it yourself…I had nothing to do with it."

"I see you brought in your friends, no need for introductions I know you are pressed for….time." Edea mused, "Like Griever said, I have been watching you, in your eras, and I have made a great discovery."

"What's that?" Seifer asked, now mesmerized by his Matron's wisdom.

"That each of you represents a certain element, not just symbols of the Zodiac, you need not worry about losing your world every time you destroy a fiend, you can restore them. Look around, look in your hearts: each of you represents Earth, Fire, Wind, Water, and," she looked at Delita, "Light."

Delita finally spoke aloud to this mysterious Sorceress, "How can we restore the elements?"

"Believe in your hearts, find out who you are, and trust in yourselves that you can do it."

Delita could hardly believe his ears. That was exactly what Gaia had said, he looked around and looked at his friends, each representing an element: Agrias, Cloud, Teta--Earth; Sephiroth, Beowulf, Seifer--Fire; Ramza, Zidane, Reis--Wind; Garnet, Aeris, Alma--Water; and himself--Light.

"So now you know what you can do, not just save the world, but also restore it. Do not lose faith in what a select few can accomplish, even if they are only three. You must restore the world before you can save it, and this remember, especially you Seifer. I raised you when you were but a child. Remember that you are a warrior of light now."

The room fell silent after she spoke, after a few moments, Delita asked, "How shall we restore the water?"

Her eyes looked deeply into his and she answered almost with an ancient voice, "Those of that element will, know if they look in their hearts."

"I guess its up to us: me, Garnet, and Aeris…" Alma said.

"Good of you to not only trust in yourselves, but also realize you are not alone, the elements will help you…"

"We will remember this always, Matron," Squall said respectfully, then looked at Rinoa, love shining in her eyes for her knight. "It's time for us to leave, Seifer, Braves, we should go and restore the Ocean now."

"Always with the hot air, Squall, lighten up with the formality, man!" Seifer said with his usual smirk.

As they were leaving Ramza spoke with Seifer, "Why did Matron Edea speak directly at you, Seifer, as if you were struggling with something."

Seifer, not really wanting to answer that question, looked off into space for a moment, then turned back.

"I guess you could say, I was supposed to be Ultimecia's Sorceress' Knight. That was, I had thought, to be my dream. My romantic dream, but it turns out, I was supposed to be a Light Warrior. She was just reminding me that I have a duty as a light warrior first, and not to hold any love for Ultimecia for what she did, and is doing."

"Love? You loved her?"

"Love is such a soft word, we had passion for each other, the only thing that broke us apart is that she was hungry for power more than anything else. That and the fact that Squall and his friends defeated her before she could time compress all things into her."

"I was on the brink of death because of her, I have my regrets, yeah, but even then, there's still something in my heart for her, that was what Edea was warning me of."

"Don't worry, Seifer, we we'll help you defeat her, as hard as that may be." Ramza confided in him.

"Come on," Seifer said in his salty, indifferent tone, "lets restore the ocean and get this over with!"

The three women lined themselves up along with what was left of the beach, brought forth their stones, and concentrated. Using the stones wasn't exactly like casting a spell, it was more like making a wish and willing it to happen.

Aquarius, Virgo, and Pisces shined brightly in their hands as they imagined a vast ocean with emerald green waves, filled with life and all kinds of sea creatures.

The wish worked, it seemed as though a massive deluge erupted from the stones and flooded the entire area with Water. But the flow seemed to spiral as it spread to the outermost parts of the ground, bringing water back through rivers and waterfalls, and life seemed to fill the water, just as if it never left.

"Well, now that the water element is restored, we have to take on Ultimecia, only Griever knows how she fights, and I don't think we want to bring the Guardian Force out any time soon." Delita strategized, "Any suggestions as to how to take on a powerful Sorceress?"

All eyes turned to Seifer when he said, "Sorceresses are a lot like vampires, the only way to kill them is to pierce their heart, or we could take off her head."

"Not exactly a easy idea considering the fact that she knows both Black and White magics, she could cast a Flare spell one minute and Curaga the next, that also means if she has protect up, you can't do any real physical damage." Teta thought for a moment, "But if someone were to cast Silence on her that should do the trick, it might not last long considering they more than likely have an incredibly high healing rate, but if we could Silence her before she casts protect that could work."

Delita laughed at this as if it seemed a near impossible task, "I guess that leaves the rest of the job up to the guys to lop off her head. Just to make sure the job gets done right, though, I think we should designate Seifer as our main man." He patted Seifer's back rather roughly.

"Erk, ME! Why me! I thought I was the one having trouble fighting her?"

"Who else but you would she not expect? Besides, I think you need a little taste of the front lines anyway…"

Zidane chimed in, "We need someone who can hit what he targets for, you're the only guy here who almost never misses what he hits. Last time I checked you were the one who seriously chopped up that Zone Eater for us, even when Cloud's Omnislash didn't seem to work very well. We need you."

"Alright, alright, if you need me that badly…," his now-famous smirk appeared as he swung his Griever’s Blade, spun it and placed it in its holster.

Alma set the plans in motion, "Ultimecia is probably guarding the time gate at Tears' Point, we need to get there and take her out."

A surprise to the rest of the party, Edea came running out of the orphanage, bearing an oddly shaped bracer and gave it to Seifer.

"This should protect you from Ultimecia's Manipulation. But just because she can't confuse your mind, don't let her confuse your heart." She clasped the bracer onto Seifer's guard hand and gave him an unexpected but warm hug.

"Thanks, M-Matron." Seifer almost looked like he was about to cry.

"No tears, warrior of light, you have a war to fight." She smiled, "And thank you, Zodiac Braves, for restoring the water to this world."

Seifer stood silent for a moment, and for the first time he knew exactly how Squall used to feel, how he always bottled up his feelings inside, and didn't want to show the lonesome orphan, but the brave knight who fought to right the wrongs and destroy the evil.

Turning toward the now ebbing and flowing tides he said, "We have to leave."

"Alright Seifer, let's go everyone." Delita said finally, bringing out his stone, as did the others. The next instant warping on the outside of Tears' Point.

Chapter 48: Mind Games, Anyone?

Standing next to the massive complex structure made everyone crane their necks up. It seemed as though a massive fiery glow was emanating from the center.

"That must be where Ultimecia is; she never used to be a purely fire elemental, but I guess Altima changed all that, huh." Seifer drew his Griever’s Blade and slung it over his shoulder, stalking at the front lines while the rest of the group remained behind him.

The complex was like a maze, each corridor a high structure of glass and metal, and every so often a set of odd statuettes placed in tandem with the buildings.

"I wonder who could've lived here?" Ramza wondered, drawing his sword for extra protection.

Even though there were no encounters throughout the odd structure, it gave the party a bit of nervousness, everyone was gripping a sword, or blade, or staff of some kind.

What was even odder was the fact that even when the sun went down a long time ago, the structure lit up, somewhat like the way Esthar City lit up at night. Still, there was no one or thing around, and it was way too quiet for them to truly relax.

The massive statue at the very center marked the spot where they had originally entered the time gate, but something was very strange. Ultimecia wasn't there waiting for them, the party just spun about looking to see where she could have gone. But nothing was there.

That is, until a black hole opened up from underneath them.

They ended up landing in front of what appeared to be a massive Victorian Castle.

"Looks like she wants to play with us." Seifer smirked.

"This place is probably a huge death trap." Ramza warned, "we need to find her and take her out, but in order for us to do that we're going to have to split up again."

As they creaked open the massive door, a still small voice echoed in their minds:

"You wish to find me, then find all the gate keys, there are fiends guarding each one."

Monstrous voices echoed throughout the main room. "Krysta holds the key of light, while Catoblepas holds the key of darkest night, Tripoint holds the key of the mind, the key of the heart you must fight Trauma to find, the key of strength the mighty Goliath bears now, the swift Tiamat bears the soul key in tow, while the key of life is held by Sphinxaur, the powerful Gargantua bears death, the key to the door. Eight keys you'll find, if you’re lucky, eight fiends you'll fight, and that's many."

"Thirteen of us and only eight of them just doesn't seem fair…to them." Zidane smiled.

"A big place like this, means we have to split up. We should have three groups of three, and one group of four. We'll have to balance it out a bit, so none of our groups are weak. We know that most of the swordsmen: Me, Ramza, Cloud, Sephiroth, Beowulf, Seifer, Zidane, Reis, and Agrias can hold our own, but the mages: Alma, Aeris, Garnet, Teta, they need support. Since, I think Garnet not only knows white magic, but is good at summoning I think she doesn't really need a black mage to back her up. Am I right?"

Garnet nodded.

"Alright then Zidane, Garnet, you go with Seifer, make sure you flank him from behind, now for the next group, Cloud and Sephiroth are our best swordsmen, but I don't want them to be grouped together like last time, we need their blades as backup for the mages. Cloud, you, Aeris, and Agrias make up the next group. Alright now for the next group, Beowulf, you lead with Reis, Teta, and Sephiroth, take the middle route of the castle because you’re our main force. As for me, I'm going with Ramza and Alma, don't meet back here until you each defeat at least one fiend and get a key. I'm counting on all of you."

Seifer's group was the first to leave; they headed in the back corridor, while Cloud's group took the spiral staircase. Delita's group marched towards the main hall, while Beowulf and company decided to follow them.

The hall was dark and bleak with the exception of a few flashes of lightning, which didn't help Garnet at all. At every flash, she jumped and clung to Zidane, which of course he didn't mind. Seifer was off marching very quickly, scanning the walls for something.

"Ultimecia likes puzzles; I'm guessing she's hidden one somewhere around here." He began to feel the walls for a hidden switch of some kind.

"You really think so? I mean what's that chance that such a small hallway has a secret door somewhere. This is really boring, Seifer, I think we should move on." Zidane at first, was no help at all, that is until he leaned up against the wall, the wall spun around, taking him into a hidden room.

Realizing Zidane was gone, Garnet screamed scaring the crap out of Seifer. He quickly ran up to her and covered her mouth.

"Shhhhh....don't panic, he must've found a passageway around here."

Seifer began to call out through the walls at Zidane when he heard a loud yell.

"Hey guys! Check this out! Treasure!" said a voice in the wall.

"We don't know where you are, Zidane, open the door." Garnet said.

"Oh! Sorry!" The door/wall revolved around again, and Zidane appeared, "I found a bunch of chests in here, want to help me find out what's inside?"

Seifer shrugged and followed him in.

The room was filled with dust and cobwebs of all kinds, but all that was in the room were four treasure chests.

"Odd, it's not locked, there's no lock on it." Zidane lifted as well as he could, but the first chest wouldn't open."

Seifer managed to easily open the second to find…nothing?

"That's even odder…" Seifer thought. Then shut the chest, suddenly the remaining three chests that seemed to not open, opened by themselves. But there were no contents.

"Oh….I see, this is a puzzle. Open or shut the chests in the right order to get the treasure." Seifer grinned.

"Step aside! This looks like a job for a thinking woman!" Garnet pushed both men aside and took care of the dirty work. She opened and shut the chests like a master puzzler; by that time, she had managed to shut all but one chest.

"So, puzzle whiz, do we shut this last chest or what?" Zidane asked.

"No, shut that and the whole puzzle resets." She said knowingly, "Wait a minute, this isn't a normal puzzle, all the other chests are locked, and I can't shut this chest."

Stepping behind the open chest, she pulled the lid all the way back to hear a loud Click.

"Aha! I did it!"

All of a sudden all the chests opened simultaneously.

Seifer mocked applause, "Good job, but now that they're all open, what now?"


A blood red Behemoth with white hair and black fangs appeared behind them. The creature swiped a massive claw at Garnet, but luckily missed.

"Sorry, but you just picked the wrong party to mess with!" Seifer swung his gun blade in a snapping spiral, slicing and shooting away at the behemoth's hide. The beast roared in pain, and was about to counter, when a swift slice from Zidane's Tower weakened it.

"Siren, please, come to our aid!" Garnet had summoned a sylvan woman who was covered in massive angelic wings, she floated in the air for a moment, then let out a piercing scream. The scream was so loud that even Seifer and Zidane had to cover their ears.

"She coulda warned us!" Zidane said, half-deaf.

"What? I couldn't hear you! She didn't warn us about Siren!" Seifer called back.

"That should silence you!" Garnet said. "Finish him off!"

Both warriors charged forward and repeatedly slashed at the monster. It would have screamed in pain, except for the fact that it was silenced. It looked like just before it died that it mouthed the word Meteor, but nothing could be done to cast that spell.

"Well," Seifer said picking up the Dark Key, "That about wraps it up."

"Oh wow! A painting gallery, I love paintings!" Aeris yelped in glee.

"Don't let your guard down, Aeris, this area could be very dangerous." Cloud warned.

"Hmm, there's more to this gallery than meets the eye, Cloud, take a look." Agrias noted.

Cloud looked at the painting titles, all of them containing Latin titles and having Roman numerals on them. This wasn't so suspicious until he came across the largest painting in the gallery.

There was no title for this painting. And yet there seemed to be three spaces for a three word phrase.

"I don't get it, what does this mean?" he asked aloud.

"Cloud, up here, come take a look. This might be our clue!" Aeris yelled from the top of the balcony.

As he stood where Aeris was, he noticed a massive painting of a Grandfather Clock face on the floor of the Gallery, with the Minute hand, Hour hand, and Second hand all pointing to Roman Numerals on the clock.

"Hmm, that's I, V, and VI, I think I've got a hunch: Aeris, Agrias check the roman numbers and the three matching painting titles."

Agrias yelled in the back of the gallery, "This one's VIATOR,"

Aeris yelled up in the balcony, "This one says INTERVIGILIUM,"

Cloud looked at the one behind him, "VIVIDARIUM"

Cloud scratched his head, "But I don't know Latin…."

Agrias stepped forward, "You're staring at a Holy Knight of the church, and I know my Latin. Viator means Messenger, Intervigilium means to stand guard or keep watch, Vividarium means Garden, not so sure what that has to do with the other two."

"Well," Aeris said, "What does a Messenger have to do with a guardian or garden?"

"I think we have the words mixed up," Cloud speculated, "I think it says, and this is just a guess, 'In the Garden, Stands the Messenger.'"

"So let's go up to the painting and put in the title, I mean, that's what the painting looks like after all." Aeris said.

Cloud pronounced the three Latin words to the painting, "VIVIDARIUM, INTERVIGILIUM, VIATOR."

That's about when they heard a whir and a chinking sound of a large cannon aimed right at them.


A large mechanical creature stepped out of the shadows holding a massive gun and two mini drones phalanxing its sides.

"I guess people just don't like art critics," Cloud said as he unsheathed his Ultima Sword, "Time to get serious!"

"Let's start by stopping the competition! Stasis Sword!" Agrias managed to freeze the drones, but the
Trauma bot didn't seemed to be affected, "Cloud, give me a hand!"

Cloud leapt forward, slicing down upon the large arm cannon, but when he connected it only hit with a loud chink bouncing him back.

"I didn't think anything was as hard as my Ultima!" Cloud said in shock.

"It has an incredible vitality to weapons, that's why it didn't work, Cloud, I'm going to cast Trine on it, stay back!" Aeris yelled.

As she clasped her hands together, a vortex triangle of lightning formed around the mechanical being, shocking its very core.

"It's weak against lightning, I think we can beat it!" Agrias said, "I'll cut it down! Thunder Strike!"

Multiple electrical sword thrusts erupted from the floor underneath the Trauma, shattering what was left of the frozen drones, and blasting the Trauma to pieces of metal. Inside the debris was the Heart Key.

"We sure made short work of that thing didn't we?" Cloud spoke confidently.

"All for the love of art!" Aeris cheered.

"Oh brother!" Agrias moaned.

"Right in front of us and we didn't even notice! The Sphinxaur was just sitting there like a statue waiting for us to notice it was blocking the door to the hall!" Ramza put his hand on his forehead as if to say he should have known.

"Well, that's one less fiend to find." Delita shrugged.

"Come on now! We don't have all day, we have a world to save!"

"Before you fight me, you must answer the riddle of the sphinx….what has--"

"Blah-blah-blah, I've heard this one before, the answer is man!" Delita was growing impatient.

"Very well, but I have another riddle for you, can you defeat me?"

After a few short thrusts, Delita said, "The answer is 'Yes, I can defeat you.'"

With the Life Key in hand, Delita and party marched up the steps to the main hall.

Only to run into Beowulf's group, who were about to cross on a strange balcony/chandelier.

"Well, Beowulf, how did you get past Sphinxaur?" Ramza smiled wryly.

"Hmm? I didn't see it, you guys?" The rest of his party shook their heads.

"Pfffft." Delita was exasperated, that they could simply walk past a fiend, it was crazy.

"Well….," Ramza shrugged, "You guys first, I guess."

As soon as all four member's of Beowulf's party stepped on the chandelier bridge, it dropped a good forty feet smashing into the ground.

"Whoa! Hey are you guys alright down there?" Delita yelled.

"We're fine! Just a little shaken. And I think we found a switch for this odd chandelier to be held in place."

As the large chandelier rose back up to the main hall, Beowulf flipped the switch, locking it in place.

"I guess we'll cross up here while you take a look around down there…" Delita yelled.

"It's okay, I think when we landed we unhinged something, Sephiroth's about to check it out." Beowulf replied.

As Ramza, Alma, and Delita crossed the strange chandelier bridge, they found a small stone balcony that overlooked a large clock tower. Looking up, Alma saw a feint glimmer of something in the moonlight.

"What's that?" she asked.

"It looks like a Crystal, just floating up there, that doesn't make sense."

The crystal seemed to be slowly floating towards them, and then with a bright flash, it seemed to open up into a fiendish creature.

"I am Krysta, guardian of the Light Key, those who challenge me, challenge Light itself."

"If you were really light," Delita answered, "You would be on the side of the righteous. Not serving the evil likes of Ultimecia."

At first the battle wasn't really much of a battle, until Ramza started to attack, every attack seemed to be met and countered, making everything they did seem futile, except for one thing: Alma just happened to know Holy.

Apparently crystals absorb light into their forms, but light that intense simply...well...fried Krysta.

Incidentally Krysta dropped the Light Key, making Delita breathe a lot easier.

After a few thrusts from his Masamune, Sephiroth managed to open the door in the floor, it turned out to be a spiraling staircase that lead to a large Wine Cellar. And floating among the barrels was none other than Tripoint.

"Let's make this quick;" Sephiroth stated, "I can tell by the way, fire, ice, and lightning coat this thing, that it changes elements. Let’s just cut it down with one slice."

"Well, Sephiroth, be my guest." Beowulf replied.

Just as he said, all it took was one quick chop to drop the floating Tripoint, making the thing drop its Mind Key.

Chapter 49: Five Down, Three to Go.

After each party had obtained at least one key, they all headed back to the main entrance to discuss the next move.

"Well, we now have the Light, Dark, Mind, Heart, and Life Keys," Delita said, "Any ideas where to go next, besides that Clock Tower I mentioned, which we haven't exactly found a way to get into."

Seifer spoke up, "The hallway we went to seemed to only lead to the lower main hall by the wine cellar, any other routes were collapsed."

"There was a door that lead somewhere in the Gallery, but we decided to let you know before we went over there." Agrias mentioned.

"So in order to get to the other half of the castle we have to go through the gallery, somehow I feel like we're being herded." Delita moaned.

The party marched single file up the spiral staircase into the gallery, strange, but now every single painting was blank except for the main, now named painting. But now this was different, instead of a man standing in a green garden, a portrait of Ultimecia hung in its place.

"Ewww, tacky outfit." Aeris commented.

"Cloud, are you sure there was only one door in here," Delita asked.

"Yeah, why do you ask?"

"Because now I see two, one where you said, and one in the upper balcony."

"That's not funny," Agrias said, "I was up there and I didn't see any type of door there."

"I think she's playing with our minds." Ramza mumbled.

"If that's true," Beowulf said, "She might have been hiding more than just these doors, we need a party to check the main hall."

"Well," Delita sighed, "I guess we'll each go find a door, we'll check the upper balcony door, if nothing turns up we'll be looking in the main hall."

Beowulf's and Cloud's party headed through the lower door, only to find two more doors and a strange stone fountain. One appeared to be locked, while the other was being locked shut by a water pressure valve.

"I think I see found the switch, guys," Teta said as she pulled it open, it appeared as though all the water drained out of the fountain, and that seemed to open up the door.

"We'll go in, hopefully we won't get locked in here."

As Beowulf stepped in, sword in hand, he saw what appeared to be a skeleton on a torture device, "No time to find out what happened to him." Then he noticed a key, nothing like the keys they had been collecting, but still it might be useful. But before he could even consider its use, the steel door that they had opened with the valve slammed shut on them.

"Great, locked in here with Mr. Personality."

"I don't think he's the one you want to worry about."

Beowulf turned around to find a massive Red Iron Giant, swinging his huge sword.

Sephiroth instinctively spun on his feet and performed a broad cleave with the Masamune.

"Sorry, wrong number, please try again." The beast joked. It appeared as though there wasn't even a scratch on the fiend.

"Did anyone ever tell you, that your jokes SUCK!" Beowulf extended his arm, and swung his new sword, Excalibur II, biting deeply into the monster's armor.

Reis, seeing that there was no room to jump, ran full speed into the monster, impaling it with her spear.

"Can I help you, young lady?" the beast grabbed her and hurled her across the room, slamming her into the two men.

In a heap, the party began to discuss some strategy.

"Okay, what exactly did WE do wrong here?" Beowulf asked.

"Maybe you just didn't do it with style," Teta winked at Beowulf, "Hey, Goliath, when was the last time you polished your armor, I'll be that it's red because of rust!"

"Hey Zombie Girl, I just happen to think of red as my color so shut up!" The beast came running full speed at her, but was stopped dead in its tracks as a burst of black energy engulfed it and seemed to crush it with tremendous force.

"Hey ow! I was only kidding about the Zombie part, come on!"

"Sorry, but you just got disconnected!" Teta waved her hands and another jolt of Demi crushed the Giant to pieces.


As she picked up the Strength Key, she twirled it around her finger, threw it up in the air, and it neatly dropped into her carrying sack.

Using the key they found on the skeleton, they managed to unlock the steel door, only to find three seriously bored warriors sitting around waiting for them to get back out.

"What the heck happened in there?" Cloud asked.

"We got the Strength Key from a total idiot, that's what!" Teta flounced her cape and stepped out of the cellar.

"What's up with her?" Agrias asked.

"Don't ask…just, don't ask." Beowulf sighed.

"Well," Cloud said, "the door over here is locked, and I don't see any way of opening it, not even my Ultima could cut through that."

"I wonder what the others are doing." Aeris wondered, "Probably something exciting."

"Dear god! Is this boring!" Seifer moaned. "All we've done around here is walk down hallway to hallway, sure we fought Catoblepas, but he was cake, no challenge! Come on! Let's just get out of here and make our own doors!"

"Will you shut up Seifer! So what if this is a dead-end? We can't overlook anything!" Zidane was the only one who had the guts at the moment to tell Seifer to be quiet. In fact, the whole party was getting rather edgy lately. And frustrating hallways didn't help.

"Well, since the only place this lead to was a dead elevator, I say we back track to the main hall, where everyone else is."

Delita began to feel somewhat weary of this old castle, "Maybe they found something."

As the four parties marched back out to the main hall, the only party that seemed to have made progress was Beowulf's. They had managed to pick up the old Strength Key, so that brightened some members' spirits.

"There's got to be a way into that old Clock Tower….," Delita thought aloud, "We'll have to check the main hall again, in the meantime, Beowulf, you and Cloud get your groups together, check the hallway Seifer was in, perhaps there's something they missed."

Both sets of parties then went their own separate ways, Delita and Seifer's groups marched up the front steps to the main hall to find....a door?

"Hmm, it seems we've been tricked again," Ramza said, "This door was never here before."

"She's leading us into some sort of trap, I think," Seifer said.

"We'll this whole place is a trap so the point is moot right now." Zidane wryly remarked.

After opening the massive doors, the two groups found themselves in what appeared to be a courtyard, with a fountain statuette. Unbeknownst to them, this statue was the exact twin of the one near the prison/armory that Beowulf had found. A sign on the fountain read:

"If you wish to find death, look to the light, it falls into the deep, and then you must give it to my brother."

"Odd, it talks about Death, something tells me, that's one of the missing keys, but what does it mean?" Delita said.

"Look up," Seifer said, "At the top of the fountain, there seems to be a light shining out of the top…"

Looking up, the parties saw a rickety old bridge, with something shining on it, but the bridge was attached to the top of the Clock tower, in what appeared to be an inaccessible area.

"Maybe we're getting close," Delita said, "I think one of our groups should stay here just in case one group needs to find their way back here."

"Oh no, you're not handing my group that job!" Seifer said, "you want to wait, you wait, I wanna kick some monster butt!"

"Alright," Delita said crossing his arms, "We'll wait for you, if you find a way to that key, let us know."

Dealing with Seifer at this point was no pleasure, but at least he was capable of leading his own party.

Opening the next door they found what appeared to be part of an old Cathedral, with an Organ and Stain-Glass Windows. Beside that, a large set of stairs.

"Jackpot," Seifer grinned, "This should lead to the Clock Tower."

Marching up the steps, he found a stone spiraling staircase, a massive swinging bell, and the noise of ticking.

"Well, nothing left to do but go up, I guess," Zidane said.

Marching up the staircase was very time consuming, but worth it, according to Seifer, he just couldn't wait to cut off Ultimecia's head.

As they got eye level with the massive swinging bell, they noticed a large crack in the wall beside it, but there was nothing there but a small platform, no way to get across.

"Something might be there, you know." Garnet said.

"Yeah well, we're gonna go up to the top of the Clock Tower First, it's too risky, for all we know that's just a hole in the wall and a huge drop on the other end."

"Okay, but..." Garnet was hesitant to agree with Seifer, but, he was leader.

As they reached the top, what appeared to be massive gears and parts of an old tower clock clicked and ground in sync with each other. Nothing out of the ordinary, except a small door that opened to the outside of the Clock.

Sure enough, they found the connection to the rickety old bridge, and the little shiny object they'd stared at from below was a key.

Looking down, they noticed that even though they should be able to see Delita's group, the air was covered in fog, making nothing except part of the bridge visible, where it lead to was a mystery.

"Well, I don't know about you, but I'm gonna go get that key!" Seifer said, quickly running across.

"No! Don't run, this bridge shakes when you run! You going to----!" Garnet cried out, but it was too late,

Seifer had run the key right off the bridge and into the grey fog.

"Aww, Crap!" Seifer slapped his forehead, "Now we have to go all the way back down and get it!"

"Well," Zidane shrugged, "Might as well check that stupid crack in the wall Garnet was talking about."

Meanwhile, Delita, Alma, and Ramza were taking a pleasant rest near the fountain in the courtyard, when all of a sudden, Delita heard a little 'Plipp!' and looked in the fountain.

"Hey guys! Guess what I just found! A key!"

"Yeah, but," Ramza asked, "What's it for?"

"I think I know, remember the riddle on the fountain?" Alma said, "It said the light would fall in the deep, the light's the key to finding the death key, but it said to give it to his brother? That I'm not so sure about."

"Well I am!" said a familiar voice, everyone turned to face Beowulf and Cloud, parties in tow.

"Hey! How'd you find us!" Ramza asked.

"Well, the hall still lead back into the main hall, and that door was there all of a sudden, so we just walked right in."

"So what about it? What do you know?" Delita asked, almost ecstatic.

"This fountain's a mirror image of the one we found near the prison/armory, I think that's the armory key."

Sure enough as the parties looked at the key, it had a sword and shield embossed on its design.

"I think that since my party found that door, I think we should be allowed to unlock it." Cloud said, decisively.

"I agree," Delita said, "But make sure they're prepared, take as many items as you need with you, you are getting the Death Key after all."

"Done." Cloud said.

Giving Cloud the key, Delita said, "Good luck."

Cloud, Aeris, and Agrias strode away, leaving two parties wondering about how Seifer was doing.

Chapter 50: Clash of the Dragons

"I guess if we're going to get across to that crack," Zidane said, "We'll have to use the bell and swing across."

It was no problem swinging across for Seifer, but Garnet was a little scared of heights.

"Don't worry, I'll be there with you," Zidane said, "You can hang on to me if you want."

"Um, Okay." She said, a little nervous.

It didn't take that long before they were all across and peering through the crack in the wall. What Seifer had said to be a big drop into an abyss turned out to be a large overhanging balcony that seemed to serve virtually no purpose save to stand on. Walking out they stood on the circular platform where they could get a good look at the Castle Proper.

Thunder and Lighting roared across the place as what appeared to be a full moon, but not any ordinary moon, shined down on them. The moon looked to be an eye of some kind, which scared Garnet to no end.

"As soon as we find one of those keys, lets get back to the others, okay, Seifer." She gulped.

Suddenly a massive wind picked up and nearly blinded them. Covering their faces, Zidane, Seifer, and Garnet ducked as a massive creature flew over their heads.

"So you seek the Key of Souls…Defeat me, Tiamat, prince of the dragons, if you can..."

"We'll do more than that, you scaly freak!" Seifer yelled, perhaps his first-ever battle cry.

Diving into the fight, Seifer's Griever Blade lunged at the monster, but Tiamat seemed impossible to hit, it was just too fast.

"You think that I will let you win that easily, I'm more than you think. I am the brother of the great king of all dragons, Bahamut himself"

"Don't think for a minute that we're weak, Tiamat, we will destroy you!" Garnet stood defiant.

Screeching a high pitched cry that nearly deafened them, the monster swooped down on them, snapping particularly at Seifer.

Taking his opportunity, Seifer swung, hitting Tiamat's beak with a loud clang.

Taking his Tower, Zidane pole-vaulted high into the air and landed on the monster's back, plunging his blade into it's spine. The scales seemed to bite hard on the blade, but his determination and strength drove the Tower in.

Seeing what Zidane was doing, Tiamat performed an aerial barrel roll that nearly threw Zidane for a loop, except for the fact that he was hanging on for dear life by the Tower.

Seifer, seeing his chance, focused a Fated Circle shockwave upon Tiamat, stunning and disorienting the beast.

Garnet screamed, "Get off Zidane, he's about to crash into the tower!"

Zidane wide-eyed in terror, ripped out his weapon, and dove off Tiamat.

A loud crash rocked the side of the tower as Tiamat rammed itself into it.

The hit seemed to reorient Tiamat because he began to circle around high above the party like a dark vulture, waiting for his prey to let their guard down.

"Dammit, can't reach him!" Zidane yelled.

"We'll just have to wait till he gets low enough." Seifer replied.

"I have a better idea…" Garnet said, "Remember he's Bahamut's Brother, who better than to battle him, Zidane, I need your stone…."

Clutching Zidane's Zodiac Stone made out of her namesake, Garnet, she summoned one of the most awesome of her Eidolons: Bahamut himself.

Riding what looked like a massive hurricane, Bahamut swooped down and landed beside her, looking expectantly for her orders.

"Bahamut…your brother!!!" She pointed.

The dragon king's eyes widened in shock, that his own brother would betray their clan. Spreading forth his massive wings, he flew up to his brother and spoke.


"You of all should know," he replied, "there is no room for man anymore, it is time for those of the heavens, angels, and dragons to rule this world."

“Altima….she is not what you think she is, she is no angel-- She is a demon-- A Lucavi-- And you, a proud honorable dragon should know that we serve none, yet you obey her like an underling."

“How dare you…brother, say we serve none when you yourself serve that little girl down there."

"I heed man because man has saved my life on more than one occasion, I aid them, I do not serve them. You merely obey for the sake of a dragon's greed for power"

"I cannot call you brother anymore, Bahamut, it is time you die for betraying all dragons…"

With that Tiamat blew a cloud of wind in Bahamut's face and swiped a massive claw at him, knocking him down.

Catching himself, Bahamut dove upwards, slashing at Tiamat with his massive armored wings, like giant blades. Countering the blows, the powerful Tiamat caught Bahamut's wings and folded his own, preparing to force Bahamut to fall and take the brunt of the crash while crushing the Braves all in one move.

"This is not good!" Zidane yelled.

"We need your help this time guys!" Seifer yelled to the skies. In response the Guardian Force known as Griever appeared, and with a massive unknown strength, flew up and caught the spiraling dragons in both its paws.

"….I didn't know Griever could get that big!" Zidane stared in disbelief.

"This fight is between the two brothers; stand down Seifer, Garnet, Zidane!"

The three braves knew for certain this wasn't their fight now; and took cover inside the tower.

Seeing his plan to crush the braves and kill Bahamut thwarted by the emergence of the new GF, Tiamat flew into a rage at Bahamut, slashing and biting like a wild animal.

Taking Tiamat by the throat, Bahamut did the best he could to disable his brother and not kill him, he was the older brother after all.

Performing a backflip in mid air, Tiamat kicked Bahamut away. Then charged up his Dark Impulse attack, massive grey orbs of energy struck Bahamut like massive explosions. Stunned and losing flight balance, Bahamut grabbed the edge of the clock tower for support. Swinging himself up on the top of the tower and taking off again, he spearheaded Tiamat right in his stomach. The force knocked the two dragons further away from the castle. Tiamat clawed away at his brother's scales as they grappled in mid air. Luckily, Bahamut's scales were near impenetrable.

"Don't make me hurt you, brother…"

"Bahamut, we are no longer brothers, I will never forgive what you did, siding with the humans…"

"Father....I'm sorry…" Bahamut seemed to shed dragon tears as he threw his brother away, and charged up his most powerful attack....Terra Flare.

The massive energy that emitted from Bahamut ripped across the sky, practically burning the clouds that surrounded the night sky. The beam of light hit its mark…and felled the dark dragon, once Bahamut's brother, and the beast fell into the sea.

Bahamut swooped down to the balcony and looked upon the sea surrounding the castle, then he did something surprising for a dragon, almost human.

He knelt down and wept for his brother.

Silent, but standing still behind the Dragon King was Griever. The Lion-Angel placed a solitary paw on Bahamut's wing, Bahamut turned, and to his surprise, Griever had a look of understanding in its eyes.

"We've lost someone great this day, let us never forget him." Griever said.

Bahamut silently nodded, then both Guardian Forces spread their wings and took off, leaving a half sad, half stunned party with the Soul Key.

Garnet looked at Zidane and asked, "Is it worth it? All this death? Is it really worth it?"

Zidane was silent for a moment, "Someone once told me: those who die, choose their own path, and those who live, choose their path as well. We choose to fight against Altima, that is our path."

Garnet was beyond tears at this point, "Then we have to win. For all those who gave their lives."

The two embraced to comfort themselves, while Seifer did something no one had ever seen him do, nor had any noticed.

Thrusting his gunblade Griever into the stone ground, he knelt in respect for the loss of the Dragon King's brother.

After the three had rested they headed back down the tower, walking in silence toward the rest of the party.

Elsewhere in the castle, Cloud, Aeris, and Agrias had just entered the fountain room where it seemed as though the Armory Door was locked.

"Not for long eh?" Cloud smiled.

Taking the Armory key, he put it into the door's keyhole.

Nothing happened. The door was still locked.

"What the?" Cloud said.

Agrias smiled wryly, "Did you forget the riddle, we're supposed to 'give' the key back to fountain boy's brother." She pointed at the fountain.

The party examined the statue for keyholes, but couldn't find any. Then Agrias found out that one of the statue's hands was an open palm.

"I think he wants his key back." Cloud said smugly.

"Oh be quiet!" Agrias said gruffly, and put the key in the statue's hand. The weight of the key worked, the hand lowered, and the door to the Armory opened.

"Key of Death, here we come!" Aeris said.

Marching in the Armory, they found a strange head and withered looking hands, staring up at them from the floor.

"My name is Visage, I am the guardian of the Key of Death, any who wish to challenge me must never underestimate my power."

"Alright, then we challenge you!" Cloud drew his Ultima Weapon, which now glowed in the presence of the fiend. "Prepare to be destroyed!"

The fight was rather easy at first, the face was completely immobilized, and therefore rather easy to dispatch, the left and right hands were a little difficult as one cast magic, while the other was purely physical in attacks.

Aeris cast Silence on the left hand while, Agrias dispatched both hands with her powerful Stasis Sword strike.

The hands and face seemed to disappear, yet no death key was given.

"Something odd about that Visage!" Aeris said.

All of a sudden the ground started to shake, and the former Visage rose up out of the ground, now a massive Gargantua.

"I told you not to underestimate me! Now Die!"

The Gargantua took its now massive hand and slapped Cloud aside like so much meat. Agrias charged forward and thrust her Save the Queen deep into the Gargantua's chest. Crying out in pain, the massive being grabbed Agrias and threw her aside, slamming her against a wall.

"And now for the little girl."

"Beings of light delay impending darkness, Seal Evil!" Aeris yelled.

The being froze immediately in its tracks, completely stopped!

Cloud and Agrias got back up from the ground and readied their swords for…nothing?

The being had just been turned to stone. Cloud, testing the spell Aeris cast, tapped on Gargantua with his sword, and it crumbled into dust.

Inside the being was the Death Key. Which made the party very happy they didn't need to fight a huge battle to get it.

"Thanks a lot, Aeris, you were great back there!" Agrias said.

"I'm glad I could help." She replied confidently.

Cloud, sheathing his sword, looked into Aeris's eyes and wondered why it was he loved her so much, he knew it wasn't for her power with magic, it was just because she was there with him.

"As long as you're with me, Aeris, I'll never be alone."

Blade's Fanfiction