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Fallacious Deity, Part 3/4

Title: Fallacious Deity

Rating: PG, mostly for violence. Contains spoilers for Duodecim. Probably also helps if you've played the 6th and 7th reports.

Summary: If Cloud killed Chaos in the twelfth cycle...

Author’s Note: This part gave me no end of trouble, I want to be rid of it.  It's all very talky, and also very long, but I hope you enjoy anyway.

Part 1
Part 2

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Fallacious Deity

Part 3/4

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It was fair to say, there was visible recoil.

Onion Knight, for his part, thought he did well keeping it down to a slight widening of the eyes.

It made sense. They’d fought nearly all of Chaos’s remaining warriors, but none of them had said anything about killing Chaos. And they weren’t exactly the modest sort – if any of them had defeated a God, there would have been some fairly grand taunts thrown about.

But in the thrall of their progress, they’d all forgotten about it. The ones who’d gone after Garland assumed one of the party that attacked Cosmos had done it. The ones defending Cosmos all assumed it must have been Garland.

His gut churned with apprehension. It was a reasonable response, he justified to himself. You didn’t pick fights with people who could kill Gods without a really good plan.

“How is it that we didn’t know about him?” Onion Knight asked, distracting himself with the riddle to squash the monster growing in his head.

Jecht shrugged. "According to what the others said, he normally stays out of the fight. Whatever prompted him to take on Chaos, well..." He left that thought unfinished.

“In that case, maybe he’ll be sympathetic to our cause. He did kill Chaos, after all,” Firion suggested.

Tidus scoffed – still grumpy at the prospect of having to endure his father’s presence, no doubt. “With our luck?”

“We can at least try to convince him… maybe…” Terra offered uncertainly.

Onion Knight nodded his agreement firmly, helmet plumes swaying with the motion. He really didn’t want to fight the guy who killed Chaos if he could avoid it. He wasn’t scared! It was just… sensible. “Do you know anything else? Something that might help us track him down?”

“Not much. I never really properly met the guy! Most of what I know is second-hand from the Emperor. There was something, though…” Jecht spent a moment thinking on it. “Oh yeah, that’s it. Yeah. That’ll work. Two birds, one stone and all that.”

“What is it?” Patience wasn’t a strength of Tidus’s at the best of times – it seemed even shorter where his father was concerned. “Hurry up with it, old man!”

Jecht, for his part, grinned like a shark. “If you want to find Cloud, find Sephiroth.”


……………………


“Cosmos,” the Warrior of Light knelt briefly. “I’ve returned from my patrols.”

“Thank you.” Her words were whimsical, with a strangely musical twist. “But you do not need to worry so. Sanctuary is safe.”

“Your strength has returned?” he asked.

She closed her eyes, as though listening to a distant song. “Yes. I have regained much of what I lost. With Chaos gone, I can expand my influence.”

Indeed, the air around her seemed to glow with an energy that had been missing when they first gathered. Wisps of light curled and glimmered around her form like nervous butterflies. The stretch of blue sky overhead reached further towards the horizon.

“Even so, I cannot relax until the last of Chaos’s forces have been defeated,” he stated firmly.

“Your dedication is admirable. But please, do not push yourself.” There was a note of motherly admonishment in the words, a hidden plea.

“Any sacrifice is worth it, if we can at last end the fighting,” he assured her.

“An end to the fighting…” she recited, as though the words were poetry unto themselves. “…Tell me. Do you resent me? For bringing all of you into this conflict?”

He paused, thinking the matter through carefully, giving his answer the weight it deserved. “…No,” he eventually replied. “I believe, in the end, you have this world’s best interests at heart.” A sensation – a ghost of a memory, perhaps – pressed against his throat. “That you have our best interests at heart.”

She stared at him, her expression strangely difficult to read, and folded her hands in her lap. “Thank you.”

“There is nothing to thank me for. I am simply doing my duty.”

It was duty. He didn’t need to think about it. That was what a Knight did.


……………………


“I don’t see anyone,” Firion observed quietly, palm resting on the hilt of his axe. “You sure about this?”

Streams of glowing green energy swirled around them. The footholds were tenuous and few – floating chunks of broken earth and crumbling pillars of rock.

“If he’s anywhere, he’s here,” Jecht replied gruffly, then raised his voice. “Hey! Sephiroth!”

His voice echoed through the cavernous gateway, met only by constant rumble of the energy whirling around them.

The warriors of Cosmos remained in a tight knit group, wary of an ambush. Terra stood in the centre, hands clasped to her chest. She could throw out a spell from there without breaking formation.

The silence was protracted, until at last, there was the rustle of leather and whisper of steel.

Firion looked up, and immediately dropped into a defensive block.

He needn’t have bothered. Rather than plummeting from the sky in an attack, the silver-haired warrior of Chaos floated to the ground, tall black boots landing like feathers on the ground. “Hmph.” Cold, green, cat-like eyes studied them with comfortable contempt. “You’re keeping some rather unusual company.”

“Yeah. Things have changed,” Jecht said easily.

“I see.” He angled his sword slightly – the long, thin strip of metal reflecting the green glow surrounding them. “So you’ve fallen back in with Cosmos, then.”

“Whaddya mean, back?”

Sephiroth looked bemused. “Oh, that’s right. You don’t remember, do you?”

“What the hell are you talking about?” An annoyed edge began to creep into the swordsman’s voice.

He didn’t answer, instead turning to look at wall of swirling green. “So much of this world remains a mystery. I wonder… how do we know that we ourselves are not merely copies?”

“You mean like the manikins?” Onion Knight wondered.

“Who cares about that?” Tidus interrupted, stepping forward. “We need to know where to find this Cloud guy.”

At the name, something sharpened in Sephiroth’s expression. “Cloud.” His gaze hardened as he regarded them more seriously. “You wish to kill him, then.”

“Depends!” Tidus’s tone was bright – either oblivious of the threat, or pretending to be. “If he wants to fight, then yeah. If not…” He shrugged. “You and he and my old man are all that’s left of Chaos.”

“If you help us find Cloud, we can give you amnesty, like we have with Jecht here,” Firion offered.

He considered them for a long moment. “Hmph. I don’t care to thrown in my lot with you. And yet…” He lowered his sword. “Cloud and I have unfinished business.”

Enemies, then. Firion had been starting to wonder.

Onion Knight caught on, too. “Why haven’t you fought him yet, then? You don’t know where he is either?”

Sephiroth regarded them with an air of condescending amusement. “Not at all. I know exactly where he is.”

Puzzled, he asked, “Then what’s the problem?”

“…The teleport stone has been… unreliable.”

Jecht grimaced. “Oh yeah, I forgot about that.”

“But we used the teleport stone to get here!” Firion protested.

“I get it. It’s because you’re with Chaos,” Onion Knight guessed.

“Right.” Jecht stabbed his sword into the earth, keeping a loose hand on the hilt. “Teleport stones used to be neutral, but now Cosmos is head honcho, they don’t always react to those of us reliant on Chaos’s power. Makes getting around tough.”

“It was a similar situation when it was Cosmos in decline. Unfortunately, I did not have the opportunity to take my revenge before the end of the last cycle,” Sephiroth said. “And with the head start he has now, I wouldn’t be able to catch up without the teleport stone.”

“So you want to come with us,” Onion Knight surmised. “Hitch a ride with us through the teleport stone.”

Sephiroth said nothing – merely tilted his head in implied agreement.

The idea obviously unsettled the others – Terra in particular seemed to withdraw into herself. Firion wasn’t sure if he liked it either. It could so easily be a trap, so he could stab them in the back when their guards were lowered. Or maybe he even wanted to meet up with this Cloud guy to improve his odds.

He wanted to take the chance, though – to believe that even their enemies wanted an end to the fighting. And if they were wrong… It would still be five-on-two. Good odds. Six if you counted Jecht.

“Okay,” he agreed. “The teleport stone’s not far away. Let’s get going.”

One left, and the war would finally be over.


………………….


“Hey Bartz!” Zidane waved, running up to the mimic.

“Zidane!” Bartz grinned. “Find anything interesting?”

“I found a stray manikin, but it didn’t put up much of a fight.”

Bartz slumped theatrically. “I didn’t find anything. This is getting kind of boring.”

“Heh, yeah. You know what that guy’ll say, though.”

They grimaced as one. “He’s definitely dedicated.”

“Yeah.” Zidane scratched the back of his head sheepishly. “We should probably go report in.” Squall would be getting cranky by now, too. Both of those guys seriously needed to lighten up.

They headed back towards Sanctuary’s heart, grassy plains giving way to white sand and clear, shallow water.

The thief had gone quiet as they walked. “Something bothering you?” Bartz asked eventually, tone light but gently probing.

“Eh? Oh, sorry. It’s just… that manikin earlier. It seemed kind of familiar, but there’s no one like that on our side, or on Chaos’s side.” The crystalline feather in the hair, the rings of light – he even thought he’d caught a glimpse of a tail. Like his.

“Some of your memories came back?”

He rubbed the bridge of his nose, giving him a rueful grin. “Maybe. I’m slowly remembering more as time goes on, you know? But it seems like so little compared to what there must be.”

Bartz sighed, fishing out his ‘good-luck charm’ – the bright yellow feather he’d found inside one of the gateways. “I know what you mean. You know some of the other manikins we fought, back when we were protecting Cosmos? I recognised some of their moves – I can even use some of them. But that shouldn’t be possible, unless the manikins are copies of people we’ve forgotten.”

Zidane thought it over. “You think maybe it’s related to that stuff Garland was talking about? About the cycles?”

Bartz shrugged. “Could be. Your guess is as good as mine.”

They fell back into companionable silence, each mulling over the mystery. Zidane twirled his daggers lazily in his hands. After a few minutes, Bartz started doing the same, right down to the wrist flicks.

Zidane yawned, and slipped the daggers back up his sleeves. Guard duty might have been important, but it was also a bit of a drag. “…I wonder how the others are doing.”


………………….


Cornelia Plains?” Firion asked, looking around them. “But that’s almost at Sanctuary!”

Sephiroth was laser focused – barely aware of the rest of them. “He’s here.” He strode towards a gateway to the west. It glowed a steady crimson – one of the few remaining not a luminescent blue.

As they approached, the gateway flashed, and an unfamiliar figure stepped from it.

Cloud.” Sephiroth seemed to relish the word.

This was the man who defeated Chaos?

He looked a lot less impressive than Firion had imagined.

He was mostly human, aside from the glowing blue eyes, but considering Sephiroth’s eyes wore a matching luminance and Zidane sported a tail, that didn’t seem so weird. His clothes weren’t anything outlandish, either - no ornate armour, no cape, no headgear. His sword was rather large, especially for his stature, but Jecht’s was about the same size, and Garland’s massive cleaver put them both to shame.

Cloud, for his part, seemed only mildly wary at their arrival. “Sephiroth. What do you want?” His voice was soft, and slightly coarse, as though he didn’t use it much.

Raising his impossibly long katana, Sephiroth replied, “I told you, did I not? That there would be time to exact payment for your betrayal later.”

There was no further warning. The speed at which he struck made Firion’s fingers twitch for his rapier. Steel rang against steel – impossibly, Cloud had caught the flashing blade on his unwieldy sword. With an ease that belied the weapon’s surely massive weight, he darted to Sephiroth’s flank, slashing at his stomach. Sephiroth leapt above it, raising his hand, gathering magic – but he didn’t have the chance to finish whatever spell he was trying to call, as Cloud bent his knees and jumped to meet him.

“Should we do something?” Firion asked, eyes tracking the battle, though both fighters at times seemed to blur before his eyes.

Jecht scoffed – barely audible over the clashing metal. “Nah. Let ‘em kill each other.”

“No wonder Chaos is losing.” Onion Knight remarked. “If they’re always fighting among themselves.”

Without warning, the two fighters sprung apart – Cloud skidding on his back heel, hand braced against the ground, Sephiroth seeming to gently break on the air itself. Neither looked worse the wear.

Cloud straightened. “If you hold back, you’ll lose.” It wasn’t a threat – merely stated as simple fact.

Sephiroth, for his part, lowered his sword, face pensive. “Strange,” he murmured. “I went to this much effort to put you in your place… yet now that I’m here, I don’t much feel like fighting you.”

Cloud’s expression darkened, but he didn’t say anything.

Sephiroth inclined his head slightly, and turned from the battle. “…Accept your good fortune on this rare occasion. It may not last for long.”

“You’re not even interested in reclaiming more memories?” Cloud’s stance was as guarded as his eyes.

“I have reclaimed much already,” was all he would respond to that.

Not everyone was so reserved. “The hell is that all about, huh?” Jecht demanded. “After crossing half the damn world, you change your mind?”

Tidus crossed his arms and scowled. “As though you’re one to talk, old man!”

“I don’t see how it’s any of your business,” Sephiroth replied smoothly.

Jecht shrugged irritably, turning to the spiky-haired blond. “Fine! See what I care. So, Cloud, huh? It’s up to you, then. What happens now?”

With some reluctance, that glowing gaze was dragged away from Sephiroth to focus on the rest of them. “What do you mean?”

He didn’t appear openly hostile, at least.

“You know. What are you gonna do now? And that goes for you too, Sephiroth. Are we enemies, or what? Us three, we’re all that’s left of Chaos,” Jecht explained.

A brief pause preceded his response, as he appeared to mull over their words. “You’re with Chaos now? I’m surprised you made it through the Purification. Kuja didn’t.”

“Hmph. I suspect it’s because he was summoned by Cosmos originally,” Sephiroth dismissed. “He’ll likely outlast us both.”

“That’s the second time someone’s gone on about that,” Jecht grumbled. “What’s that all about, huh?”

They both ignored him, Cloud turning his attention elsewhere, studying their group more closely. “…Is Tifa with you?”

Firion blinked. “Tifa?” He turned to the others. “Do any of you remember anyone called that?”

He was met only with similarly blank expressions.

And for just that one moment, Cloud looked utterly stricken.


………………….


It didn’t take a genius to figure out what must have happened.

Cloud closed his eyes, turned away, and took a deep, shuddering breath.

He’d done it for Tifa. If she was gone… what was the point?

“Are you ok?”

He opened his eyes and turned back around. It shouldn’t make a difference. He’d been doing this for so long now… he’d passed lifetimes in this world. “Yeah. Sorry.”

It was the warrior with all the weapons who’d spoken. Something about his demeanour felt very familiar – Firion, that was his name. “This Tifa, she was important to you?”

“It doesn’t matter.” Thankfully, Sephiroth was staying out of it and keeping quiet. That situation was alarming in itself, but he had to remind himself that the rules of allies and enemies were constantly rewritten in this world.

Chaos was dead, after all.

He pushed aside the ache in his chest, refusing to acknowledge it. Nobody seemed to know what to say. Eventually, Firion ventured, “I know we’re from opposing sides, but Jecht has agreed to join us, and Sephiroth…” He hesitated there, but forged on determinedly. “-What I’m saying is…”

“I’m not interested in fighting you,” he interrupted. “I just want to talk to Cosmos.”

That sent the warriors of Cosmos in a hasty huddle, with equal parts relief and suspicion on their faces. “Excuse us for a minute,” Firion apologised.

Sephiroth smirked, giving him a sidelong glance. “They don’t trust you. They think it’s a trap.”

“It doesn’t matter what they think,” he replied, then eyed his long-time enemy warily. “What are you planning?”

Relax, Cloud,” he said, in a manner that made him do the exact opposite. “We are supposed to be allies, are we not? The last of Chaos’s true Summoned.”

He frowned, and looked away.

It was too out of character. It was amazing in itself Sephiroth formed any kind of alliance with Cosmos’s champions. That half-hearted, aborted fight earlier was downright unbelievable.

Cosmos’s group broke apart and faced them again. “Okay,” Firion said. “We’ll bring you back to Sanctuary with us.” He paused, but when Cloud didn’t comment, continued, “I guess I should introduce everyone. I’m Firion. You already know Jecht, I guess… That’s Onion Knight, Cecil, Tidus, and Terra. The others are back guarding Cosmos.”

He already knew everyone, of course – had fought many of them in previous cycles. His gaze was drawn to the half-esper. "You broke free of him," Cloud said to Terra. "Good for you." The girl had been stunningly powerful, though wielded it awkwardly. Cosmos had gained a strong ally indeed.

“I… what do you mean?” Terra asked. Her eyes were clearer than he could remember, but she still seemed genuinely confused.

“You don’t remember?” he asked. Then… “I guess not. If you all fell last cycle, you wouldn’t know.”

“What are you talking about?” Onion Knight demanded.

He gave him a blank look. Wasn’t it obvious? “Terra used to fight for Chaos. Tidus, too. Jecht – he used to fight for Cosmos. I don’t know what happened there.”

“What, seriously?” Tidus blurted.

Cloud shrugged, and didn’t say anything more. Aside from a suspicion the Emperor had something to do with it, he had no idea how either of them wound up swapping sides. Tidus had been fairly new to the cycle, so Cloud never got the chance to get to know him – aside from his single-minded determination to fight his father. Maybe he just switched to whatever side let him do that.

“Are we going?” he asked flatly. That prompted the group into movement, as they arranged themselves into a loosely defensive formation – two of Cosmos flanking both him and Sephiroth, and one on Jecht, and began heading south.

Tifa was gone. Sephiroth was acting strangely. And apparently all that was left of Chaos stood here – not even Golbez had been spared.

Vague suspicions had begun to form in the back of his mind.

He’d survived a lot of cycles. Not as many as Garland, or even Golbez, but more than most.

Enough for his memories to become distressingly complete. Enough that he’d started to wonder about the deeper truth behind this conflict. Enough to doubt.

Tifa was gone.

Now, he truly didn’t have anything left to lose.


………………….


Cecil walked quietly alongside Cloud. It wasn’t a long journey back to Sanctuary – three days at the most.

Terra and Tidus ghosted near Sephiroth– they seemed the most at ease with the warriors of Chaos, and having learnt of their former allegiances, that made sense. An innate sense of familiarity made them less prone to nervousness; no doubt in the same way the rest of them had found it comparatively easy to accept Jecht. Hadn’t that been a shock – to discover the sweet timid girl and the bright, cheerful swordsman had once been their enemies.

It made him rethink everything they thought they knew about Chaos.

He wasn’t the only one undergoing a major shift in perceptions – Onion Knight had, after a good deal of indecision, torn himself away from Terra in order to appoint himself one of the sentries watching Cloud, apparently so he could badger him with questions more so than keep an eye on him.

“So how come you remember everything, then?”

"If you survive to the end of the cycle, you don't undergo Purification. You keep your memories."

Talking to Cloud was an education on how this world worked. None of Cosmos's champions could remember the previous cycles. Jecht couldn't either. Sephiroth had at one point claimed to remember as far back as the beginning of the last cycle, but rarely deigned to acknowledge their existence, much less their questions.

It proved everything Garland had said true. And that was more disturbing than any of them wanted to admit.

“So how far back can you remember then?” Onion Knight soaked up the information like a sponge – Cecil could see the wheels spinning behind his eyes. He was clearly in his element.

The shaky intake of breath at that question caught him by surprise. When he turned to look, however, Cloud’s expression was carefully neutral.

"…I've seen the dragon's coming nine times."

Nine cycles?

“You were undefeated that long?” Onion Knight was clearly flabbergasted.

Sephiroth had drifted close enough to hear. "Hmph. It's easy enough to survive when you spend all of your time hiding."

Cloud glowered at the swordsman, but didn't say anything in his defence.

He didn't need to. He'd gone up against Chaos, alone. They could accuse Cloud of many things, but being a coward wasn't one of them.

“What does he mean?” Cecil asked, in an effort to diffuse the building tension.

“At the start of the last cycle, I pulled myself out of the fighting,” he muttered.

“Because of… what was it… Tifa?” Onion Knight asked.

There was a hitch in Cloud’s step, but he didn’t otherwise react. “No. I only found out about her later.”

He didn’t volunteer any further information. He was much quieter and withdrawn than the other Chaos warriors they’d met. Not unfriendly, not exactly. Just… standoffish.

Cecil realised, in a moment of insight, that he’d probably fought most of them before, even if they couldn’t remember it. He would have just as much trouble relaxing around them as they did him.

“I don’t understand.” Their youngest comrade couldn’t let it go. “If what you’re saying is true, and that even if we die, we’ll just get reborn without our memories again every Purification, why isn’t this Tifa person isn’t around anymore?”

"Sometimes, if the body is too damaged..." Here his expression grew tight, and closed off. "...They won't survive the Purification."

"It looks as though if Chaos or Cosmos were weakened, that too has an effect,"
Sephiroth added from a short distance away, sounding intrigued. “From what I heard, Kuja was not so badly damaged, yet still he was lost.”

Cloud sent another half-hearted glare in Sephiroth’s direction.

“Kuja?”

“One of ours,” was all Cloud said on that topic, and then very deliberately steered their path further away from Sephiroth. The swordsman watched them go with a wry smirk.

“You’re still worried about him?” Cecil was not nearly as insatiable as Onion Knight, but he couldn’t entirely contain his curiosity.

“He probably hasn’t remembered as much as he thinks he has,” Cloud muttered.

They walked in silence for a few minutes – Onion Knight was clearly busy mulling over the new information he’d learned. Cecil gathered his courage, and took advantage of the lull to ask the question that had been haunting him for days.

“Did you… did you know my brother very well?”

Glowing blue eyes turned on him in question. Hastily, Cecil explained, “Golbez.”

Comprehension dawned. “So that’s who...” he murmured. “What happened to him?”

His throat grew tight, but he forced the words out all the same. “When we found him, I tried to convince him to switch sides. But he refused, and I was forced to…” The words died on his tongue.

“…I see.” Cloud watched the horizon as they walked, gaze turned distant. “He had a plan to end the conflict, I think. I might have messed it up when I killed Chaos. But I don’t know what it was.”

“I’ve been trying to understand what he was thinking,” Cecil confessed. “You and Jecht and Sephiroth could put aside your allegiance with Chaos. Why couldn’t he?” A note of frustration crept into his voice.

“Did he say anything?”

“He asked me… if peace was what I desired most,” Cecil recalled softly. It had seemed like such a pointless question at the time, and grew only more incomprehensible in light of his brother’s actions afterwards.

“Peace.” Cloud muttered. “I wonder if that’s what he meant.”


……………………..


As one, the three warriors of Chaos convulsed. The rest of them stopped, hovering anxiously as wisps of darkness seeped from their shuddering forms.

“It’s happening more frequently,” Tidus commented in a low voice, casting a nervous eye over his father. When he noticed the others looking, he scowled and turned away.

“Cosmos will be able to help, right?” Terra asked, hands clasped. “They shouldn’t have to just… fade away.”

“It’s nothin’!” Jecht grumbled, hauling himself back to his feet. Sephiroth and Cloud followed suit, and kept walking without another word. “We’ll be fine.”

Tidus followed along quietly, mood unusually subdued – luckily, no one noticed, or if they did, put it down to concern about his father.

No one had said anything about it yet, but the conflict was over now, wasn’t it? Once they returned to Cosmos, that would be it. Cosmos would accept them into their ranks, or they’d have to fight. Either way, it would all end.

What would happen then?


……………………..


They were less than a day away from Sanctuary when they came across the first manikins they’d seen in weeks.

“Manikins!” Firion warned.

Most of them dropped into defensive stances – bar, of course, the three agents of Chaos.

Then felt rather foolish when the trio of crystalline dolls continued their aimless wandering – clearly aware of their presence, but apparently completely nonplussed by it.

“They don’t seem to be attacking,” Terra said softly.

“I didn’t even think there were any left.” Onion Knight walked up a little closer, just out of arm’s reach, but the manikins drifted away from him, rather than making any move to attack.

“Heh. Guess old goldie didn’t manage to round them all up,” Jecht gruffly remarked.

Cloud simply watched the manikins’ listless wandering in silence.

“That’s not normal behaviour,” Sephiroth drawled. They all jerked at the unexpected words. He glanced at his fellow Chaos warriors curiously. “Did either of you issue them any commands?”

They both shook their heads. “Interesting,” he murmured, then wandered back to the outer edges of the group.

“What exactly are the manikins, anyway?” Onion Knight sent a questing look at Cloud – he had turned out to be their most reliable source of information in this world, after all.

He caught the glance, and sighed. “I don’t know. The manikins are fairly new. We only found them a couple of years ago.”

Firion made a choking sound. “Years?”

A horrid new thought began to settle over them.

Cloud, misunderstanding their reaction, nodded. "This cycle's new – only a few weeks old. The last one lasted maybe a couple of years. Normally, the cycle goes a lot longer.” His voice dropped. “Maybe because of the manikins. Or maybe because I killed Chaos."

“But you’re not that old!” It was hard to guess, but he couldn’t have been more than a couple of years older than the rest of them. Certainly not as old as Jecht, or even Sephiroth.

"Time doesn't flow naturally in this world," Cloud murmured. "The sun doesn't rise, doesn't set. People don't age."

Their gazes turned as one to the overarching sky, a gradient of blues and reds locked in perpetual twilight.

"We've been here that long?" Onion Knight's voice trembled.

Glowing eyes skated across the group. "Not all of you." He didn't specify who.

Firion seemed almost faint. "Exactly how long, for you?"

Cloud’s stare looked hollow. "…I lost count a long time ago."

Not months. Years. Decades. Maybe even centuries.

Nine times he’d seen the dragon come, he said. And those were only the ones he could account for.

“Garland did say as much,” Cecil reminded them shakily.

“Yeah, but he said all kinds of crazy things!” Tidus shuddered. “Didn’t you say he was going on about how the experiment was a failure and how he’d rather die than keep living in a world without Chaos?”

Cloud stiffened at the word ‘experiment’. Sephiroth, too, seemed to tense – though he was so disaffected by everything around him, they weren’t sure if he was even listening, sometimes.

Jecht cracked his knuckles a few times, as though itching for a fight he couldn’t have. “Yeah, I didn’t know him real well, but he sure was a weird one. Some kind of mad scientist lurking in there. Heh. First scientist I ever met that could fight like that, though!”

“So it was true.” Firion murmured. “I didn’t really believe it, honestly.”

Cecil bowed his head, white hair shrouding his pale face. “What I don’t understand is why Cosmos never told us any of this.”

"You have too much faith in your goddess," Cloud stated bluntly. "Seems to me, she hasn't sent you home like she promised."

They didn’t have an argument for that. They were left only with tense silence.

Sanctuary was only hours away.


…………………..


“Agents of Chaos!” the Warrior of Light stepped in front of Cosmos, shield raised.

“Hey, wait! You don’t need to worry,” Tidus said, running to the front of the group. “We brought them here.”

Which failed to make the Warrior of Light relax at all. He eyed the newcomers with open disapproval. “What is the meaning of this?”

“We’ve taken care of everyone else, but these three don’t want to fight,” Cecil explained. He nodded towards the remaining champions of Chaos. “This is Sephiroth. This is Jecht – he’s Tidus’s father. And this is Cloud – he’s the one who killed Chaos.”

That caught the Zidane, Bartz, and Squall’s attention – their eyes swivelled as one to focus on the spiky-haired blond. The Warrior of Light raised his shield. Cosmos, for her part, stared at them in solemn silence.

Cecil appealed to her. “Cosmos, isn’t there any way you can share with them some of your power, and bring them over to our side? They’ll vanish without Chaos, and they’re not our enemies anymore.”

“Impossible,” the Warrior of Light cut in. “It would be foolhardy to accept traitors into our ranks.”

“Hey, it turns out me and Terra are traitors too!” Tidus protested, crossing his arms. “And my old man used to work for Cosmos!”

The revelation seemed to rock the knight. “Is this true?”

Terra nodded, as did Cloud. They turned to Cosmos next, who merely intoned, “It is good to see you again, Jecht. I was sorry to lose you to the darkness.”

“Heh.” Jecht grinned, rubbing the back of his hand against the stubble on his chin. “Wish I could say the same, but I can’t remember a damn thing!”

Zidane scratched his head, tail curling. “Really? Huh.” He turned to the others. “This is a good thing then, right? The fighting’s over!”

Everyone broke out into chatter, until Cosmos folded her hands in her lap. A hush fell over the group as they looked expectantly towards their Goddess.

“Very well,” Cosmos said, her voice tinkling like bells. “If they truly wish for an end to the fighting, then I will-”

“Wait a minute.”

The quiet voice cleaved through the air like a scythe.

Cloud stepped forward, Buster Sword resting on his shoulder and glowing eyes unusually bright. “I never agreed to anything like that.”



Part 4

Comments

( 16 comments — Leave a comment )
sanctumsfw
Jun. 19th, 2011 05:12 am (UTC)
I think, at some given point in time, everyone's wondered about what would be some of the possible outcomes if you kill off both of the gods of this realm. Guess we're about to find out. Fantastic job so far!
sinnatious
Jun. 19th, 2011 06:20 am (UTC)
Technically, that did happen, right? It's just all been reversed. Thank you!
sigart
Jun. 19th, 2011 06:18 am (UTC)
You know... despite not having played Dissidia or knowing very much about it, I am thoroughly, -thoroughly- enjoying this ^^ This Cloud is love. Also, I had to look up the cutscene you spoke of, and it is indeed heart-breaking.

Also, rereading the reason why Sephiroth constantly lost his memories after this is very entertaining. ...Just saying.
sinnatious
Jun. 19th, 2011 06:39 am (UTC)
Thank you! That is good to hear. Though I'm amazed you could follow along at all, since I haven't been very mindful of describing or explaining things for those not familiar with the canon.

That cutscene was incredible, though, I keep going back and rewatching. ;__; Cloud!
sigart
Jun. 19th, 2011 11:59 am (UTC)
Well, having read the Onion Knight and Sephiroth intros (along with a quick cursory look at the ff wikia ;) ) it's not difficult to follow at all. It's not a complicated setting is it? And I know Zidane and Squall and their worlds besides, so.. And even so, I don't think knowing how the worlds work is essential to following the story. It's... kinnda like the Samurai X OVAs, Trust and Betrayal, right? A lot of stuff happens around the story of Kenhin and Tomoe and while it does have influence on them, you don't need to understand it very much to follow the romance and angst and action.

I actually rather kind of like this kind of story. Stories that hint at a bigger world, but where the bigger world isn't really the issue so much as the setting.

Cloud angst is always somehow a good tier above regular angst. Well, not always, but in canon it is. It's always believable.
sinnatious
Jun. 19th, 2011 12:09 pm (UTC)
I find the canon for Dissidia frustratingly complex, but I guess once you take a step back it's much more simple. It's easy to overthink things when writing! So long as you're following along, no matter. :)

I get what you mean, I like those kinds of stories too. Probably part of what makes Dissidia fascinating to me - I want to know everything, but there's so much they don't tell us, or they only hint at.

Isn't it though! Square are kind of excessively mean to him, really, even outside of his canon world. Kingdom Hearts, Dissidia, even Tactics... he gets a tragic deal every time! I love it though.
sigart
Jun. 19th, 2011 12:45 pm (UTC)
Ahaha, indeed.

...Don't we all?
tenshinoakuma
Jun. 20th, 2011 01:32 pm (UTC)
This contained an unexpectedly large amount of Onion Knight. I approve.

You're right in that it is quite talky, though I'm not entirely sure how you'd structure it otherwise. I think ideally it'd be split in half because of the large amount of content, but then I think the chapters would be a bit too short. And you'd have the dilemma of not being able to end it on a lingering sentence that makes the reader keep hitting f5 for the next chapter. Like the last paragraphs in this chapter fas;dlfhg /excited for the last chapter!

Reading this chapter read a lot like... well, peeling off layers of an onion. Slow revealing of little truths throughout the whole chapter. Not just for Cosmos' side, but for Chaos' too. It was interesting watching it gradually unfold as I read more of the chapter.

I also really like the teleport stones idea; it makes a lot of sense and answers the question of why Team Chaos could teleport everywhere, while we had to trek all over the countryside >8(

huhuhu I eagerly await the dramatic ending!
sinnatious
Jun. 20th, 2011 01:53 pm (UTC)
Ahaha, he's one of my favourites too, so he sneaks in more than his fair share. <3

Ideally, I'd go back and split the whole fic into five parts, which probably would have helped. This is clearly suffering scope and cast blowout. With a bit more editing I probably could have fixed it, but I've been making a lot of value judgements with my time lately, so... :(

\o/ I am glad the information did not overload though, that was one thing I was being very conscious of, trying to feed it a little bit at a time.

I'm basing the whole teleport stones thing off the random vague comments the Cosmos side in Duodecim kept making in regards to 'hoping' the teleport stone would work. Naturally it did, but I was expecting some sort of plot twist that never eventuated there. (Like, bam! Booby-trapped the teleport stone!)

Thanks! Hope it does not disappoint!
tenshinoakuma
Jun. 20th, 2011 02:23 pm (UTC)
Fair enough. There really are just some times you just have to acknowledge your own works' flaws and move on, instead of editing forever, otherwise nothing else will get done.

Ah, I wasn't aware there was mention of teleport stones in 012, since my knowledge is mostly of the cutscenes. But trapped teleport stones, you say? Now I'm wondering why the Emperor hasn't done that.
sinnatious
Jun. 20th, 2011 02:37 pm (UTC)
Yup. I can very easily fall into the trap of rewriting and revising things endlessly, and sometimes the time/reward ratio is just not worth it, so I either force myself to abandon it, or if I can't do that, post it to remove the temptation and let myself move on. What's your solution to that dilemma?

It's right up his alley, isn't it? How disappointing, Emperor. :P
tenshinoakuma
Jun. 20th, 2011 02:51 pm (UTC)
Depends on how far I am with the story.

If I've written bits and pieces of it, but can't seem to get the parts to connect into a proper story and I'm just not feeling the idea I had any more, I generally post it incomplete to my journal. Mostly because I might have liked the ideas and want to share them; I don't mind not being the one to eventuate the ideas.

If I've written bits and pieces of it and can't get them to connect, but I am still feeling the idea, I generally let it sit around on my computer or under private lock in LJ for a few months before coming back to them. That way, my mind's a bit fresher and it's easier to overcome the roadblocks. Sometimes I just end up scrapping and redoing whole sections from scratch, though.

If it can be pretty much read as a complete story, albeit with some parts that could be better (but I can't seem to figure out what to type), then I post it to inktrain. Same reason as you, basically. To remove the temptation to tweak forever, though I'll generally still continue to tweak it, even after posting, for at least one more night |D

That post-Game Rhyme story I wrote was a little bit of the last two. I'd written up parts of it, but they just wouldn't flow right. I waited for a few weeks before coming back to it, then scrapped the whole Joshua section and redid it. Then found some parts a bit stiff, but posted it anyway xD
sunnepho
Sep. 5th, 2011 03:17 am (UTC)
Aww... T-T

Does Cloud get cookies for being more angsty than anyone else? I still tear up when I think about what happened in 012, to seal up the manikins, I don't need this, too!

I snickered at how Zidane and Bartz think of Squall and WoL. The funnier thing is that it's SO TRUE.

Cosmos knows all of this is going on, doesn't she? That's why she's acting so shady. If this turns into some huge Thanatos gambit, I will laugh and laugh.
(Anonymous)
Jan. 5th, 2013 09:12 pm (UTC)
The ones who’d gone after Garland assumed one of the party that attacked Cosmos had done it. The ones defending Cosmos all assumed it must have been Garland.

Aw, ha ha. Hey, it happens!

It was duty. He didn’t need to think about it. That was what a Knight did.

:(

I think you are doing a good job with Tidus and his dad too, but maybe I'm just impressed because I never really got them myself.

“So much of this world remains a mystery. I wonder… how do we know that we ourselves are not merely copies?”

Sephiroth is smart. It's easy to forget that in the middle of all the psychological games and fighting and sword and hair and leather and stuff.
sinnatious
Jan. 5th, 2013 11:50 pm (UTC)
Thanks! Tidus and his Dad have a complicated relationship, to be sure.

Yeah, in light of everything else, the whole 'genius' angle of Sephiroth gets buried a lot. But it's really what makes him the most dangerous! I mean, that's why he's so good at psychological games in the first place.
(Anonymous)
Jan. 18th, 2013 04:47 am (UTC)
True! I keep forgetting it because my first idea is that he uses the mind connection he had to his clones, but that sort of thing definitely requires scary levels of intelligence and cleverness.
( 16 comments — Leave a comment )