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Fallacious Deity, Part 4/4 (1st half)

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: The last part! Even though I am in general displeased with how the fic came out overall, I may still write a small sequel covering the new AU that would take the place of Confessions of a Creator.  It was fun to write, so... I hope some of you enjoyed reading it, too. 

Had to break into two parts, because apparently this breaks the post size limit.  (Darn you HTML!)

Part 1
Part 2
Part 3

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Fallacious Deity

Part 4/4


______________________

 
Cecil looked betrayed – Sephiroth, intrigued.  The rest reacted with varying degrees of surprise and alarm, but Cloud didn’t pay them any mind.  His focus rested solely on the pale goddess before him.

 

“Then what are your intentions?” the Warrior of Light demanded. 

 

Cloud didn’t even look at him – instead addressing Cosmos.  “I came here to talk to you, not join your side.”  He paused, and added, “I want answers.”

 

Cosmos simply regarded him with a blank gaze and peaceable expression.  “What is it you wish to know?”

 

“I want to know what happens when the last of Chaos’s power is gone from this world.”

 

She closed her eyes.  “The fighting will end.”

 

“That’s not what I was asking!” he snapped.  Out of the corner of his vision, he saw several Cosmos warriors reach for their swords at his raised tone.  Sephiroth, in turn, adjusted his grip on Masamune, eyeing them with an eerie shadow of a smile.

 

Having Sephiroth guarding his back might have been the most unexpected development yet.  He definitely hadn’t remembered everything.

 

He tried a different tact.  “What exactly are your goals? What did you start this war for in the first place?”

 

“Wait,” Bartz interrupted, confused.  “Wasn’t it Chaos who started this?  You guys are the ones who want to keep fighting!”

 

“It was Cosmos who started summoning warriors to begin with.  Maybe you should ask why she never told you that.”  His fingers wrapped around the hilt of his sword, but he didn’t draw it.  Not yet.

 

A ripple passed through the warriors of Harmony.  They broke out into shouting and chatter.  Cloud ignored them – simply stared the goddess down, waiting for her answer.

 

“Cosmos.” Terra’s voice was but a whisper, but it slowly gained strength as she spoke.  “Is it true?”

 

“There’s no way!” Zidane protested. “Cosmos wouldn’t-”

 

And finally, she spoke.

 

 “There was… disagreement,” she replied, sorrowful.  “After we made pact with ShinRyuu, I could no longer contain his destructive nature.  There was no choice.”

 

Bartz nodded eagerly.  “See?”

 

“Sorry.  I don’t buy it,” Cloud stated flatly.  “It doesn’t add up.  Why would you care so much about ending the fighting, if you started it in the first place?”

 

Cosmos was silent for a long moment.  Then slowly, she raised her arm.

 

There was no warning.  His earlier caution was all that let Cloud bring his sword around in time.  Light blasted against the flat of his blade, burning with roaring white heat.  Darkness leapt from his form, swirling and lashing, as though to fight back.  Cloud grit his teeth, digging in his heels, bracing against shuddering energy.  His gloves smoked, fingers blistering in the wash of power as they struggled to hold the Buster steady.

 

“Cosmos?!”  The warriors of Harmony recoiled in shock.

 

Then there was a flash of silver and a whoosh of leather.  The light died, and a familiar form stepped in front of him.

 

“I see,” Sephiroth drawled, Masamune brandished somewhat casually.  “This explains a great deal.”  He slanted an amused glance in his direction.  “Have you reached the same conclusion, Cloud?”

 

He shifted his stance, and didn’t answer.  He thought he knew, now, but he still wanted to hear it for himself.  “Why is it,” he said, “that you so desperately need to destroy what’s left of Chaos?  I already said I hadn’t come here to fight.”

 

“You seek to create disorder.”  She had the air of a mother disappointed in a child. “You would rebel against harmony.”  She raised her arm again, and Cloud dropped into a defensive stance, Buster Sword held flat in front of him.

 

“Cosmos!” Cecil pleaded. 

 

She stared at the paladin as though perplexed.  “You desire peace, do you not?  Was that not the answer you gave your brother?”

 

Aghast, Cecil could not even bring himself to speak.

 

“So that’s how it is,” Cloud said.  “You’ll do what you were created to do, even after Chaos is gone.”

 

“What do you mean?” Onion Knight demanded.

 

Sephiroth smirked, and answered for him.  “Your beloved goddess is nothing more than an artificial construct.  A puppet, playing at god.”

 

If it hadn’t been for Cecil’s mention of Garland’s last words, Cloud doubted either of them would have figured it out – would have linked that comment with Chaos’s tortured soliloquies and raging rants, or Cosmos’s baffling behaviour.  But that blank, focused gaze, the deliberate and cautious manner of speech – he recognised it now.  In himself.  In Terra.  The ghost of it in Kuja.

 

Even, to a degree, in Sephiroth.

 

It was only a theory.  But clones and experiments had a tendency to react in certain ways.  Some struggled to discover their humanity and assert their free will.  Some, like Sephiroth – like Chaos - lashed out at the world and all who wronged them in revenge.

 

Some never made it that far, and forged ahead with their directive without ever truly comprehending why.

 

“It’s clear to me now.  Your goal is to impose order.” Sephiroth soaked the word in disdain.  “And Chaos…”

 

“He would not obey.”  Her voice had gained new harmonics – reverberations of power.  “That has always been my purpose.”

 

“Control,” Cloud murmured.

 

He’d started to suspect, when he saw Jecht and Tidus as part of the same group, and when Sephiroth had put in such a half-hearted attempt at a fight.  It had been all but confirmed when he saw the manikins.

 

Chaos had been a monster.  That fact was indisputable.  He was like a destructive child, filled with hate.  His grudge against Cosmos had been more than a struggle between forces of light and darkness – it had been deeply personal, full of resentment and rebellion and gloating, a history that spanned longer than even these cycles.

 

Cosmos, by comparison, had been impossible to understand.  Until now.

 

“To end the fighting,” she responded plaintively, speech cured with innocence.  “A world of Harmony.”  Her effervescent glow seemed to brighten at the words. "Eternal peace."

 

"No thanks," Cloud said. "I wouldn't want to live in such a place."

 

Now he understood why he’d wound up on Chaos’s side.  Why Golbez had.  Terra, and Kuja, and Tidus.  All the warriors who didn’t quite fit.

 

“I don’t understand.”  Onion Knight, again, trying to make sense of things in a world so lacking in it.

 

“Hmph.  It’s simple,” Sephiroth said, swishing Masamune once, as though to punctuate his words.  “Once the last vestiges of Chaos disappear, her powers are absolute.  Your opinions cease to matter.  Absolute harmony.”

 

“You mean our free will-?”

 

Harmony.  Fighting for peace.  Disorder.  Fighting for freedom.

 

He'd stay at war forever, if it meant the difference between being a blank puppet, and making his own decisions.

 

The Warrior of Light was first to notice the shift – he moved swiftly to stand by his goddess, sword at the ready.  “You will not harm Cosmos.”

 

Sephiroth smirked.  “So eagerly does the puppet give up its freedom.”

 

Cloud’s fingers twitched, but he reminded himself that for once, the words weren’t aimed at him. 

 

Jecht pulled his sword from where he’d planted in it the white sand.  “I don’t really get it,” he announced gruffly.  “But I don’t much like the idea of dancing to somebody else’s tune.  Guess I’m with Chaos after all!”

 

“Come on, guys,” Zidane pleaded.  “There’s gotta be a way around this!  We’re all friends here!”  He turned to the Goddess.  “Cosmos!  Can’t you just send us home?”

 

“…I cannot.”

 

Absolute silence.

 

“Cosmos, you mean…” Zidane’s grew hoarse on the last note.

 

She closed her eyes – long, platinum gold curls tumbling over her shoulders, light seeming to dim in response to their anguish.  “I know of no way out of this world.”

 

“But you summoned us here!”

 

“…I am sorry.  I do not recall how we came to this world in the first place.  I cannot send you home, as I do not know the way myself.” 

 

It wasn’t any news to Cloud, but the devastation in Cosmos’s ranks was stark.

 

Squall, who’d be quiet up until this point, scowled and rested his gunblade on his shoulder.  “I get it.  Once all of Chaos was gone, it wouldn’t matter anymore, would it?  We couldn’t bring ourselves to disagree with you.”

 

She remained unmoved, her expression filled with genuine incomprehension and confusion.  “An end to the fighting,” she recited.  “Is this not enough?  Was this not what you wanted?  To purge the evils from this world?”

 

"I think," Terra began hesitantly, "I think I would pay the price of evil, if it meant giving up who we are."


"That's right!" Onion Knight declared, quick to leap to Terra’s defence. "Harmony is pointless if it's forced upon us!"

 

"Which is better?" Cecil mused.  "A forced peace, or a free war?"


"I'll choose freedom, every time," Cloud said.  His fingers tightened on his Buster sword.  “Sorry, Cosmos.  But if that’s what you’re planning to do…”  He drew his weapon.  “I’ll stop you.”

 

The battle lines were drawn.  Terra and Onion Knight had moved to stand with the three Chaos warriors.  Squall didn’t join them, but the slight shift in his stance had him clearly on their side regardless.

 

The remainder dithered for a moment.  Then Firion squared his shoulders, and stood with Cosmos.  “I’m sorry, but my dream… doesn’t involve any more fighting.”

 

Bartz nodded, and joined him.  “Bartz!  Come on!  Why?” Zidane pleaded.

 

“Sorry Zidane,” he said with a shrug and a sad smile.  “I don’t think I really understand everything that’s going on, but so long as this world stays safe, I’m sticking with Cosmos.”

 

After a moment’s hesitation, Cecil too moved to stand with Cosmos, pearly-white armour glistening in the reflection of the goddess’s ambient light.  Onion Knight let out a small breath, a plea not given voice.  “You sure?” Cloud asked, in his stead.

 

Slowly, Cecil nodded, as though the motion pained him.  “My brother… he sacrificed himself, so that I might have this.  He knew he could not accept such a world, and so… I cannot turn my back on that.”

 

That left only Tidus.  Cloud eyed him.  He’d originally been with Chaos, but a lot could have changed since then.

 

Tidus looked between both sides, an uncharacteristically serious expression on his face.  Then, with measured, certain steps, he went to stand with Harmony.

 

“What’s that about, boy?” Jecht growled.  “This ain’t the time for another one of your petty grudges.”

 

Tidus clenched a fist – as always, his father drawing anger out of him when no others could.  “Shut up!  It’s not like that!”  He cut the air with his arm.  “What about you, huh?  How much have you remembered about where we come from?  What’s left for us if we… if we go back…”  His words faltered.

 

Jecht growled.  “Enough to know I’m not gonna let myself get controlled by some so-called god ever again!”

 

They glared at each other.  Cloud took quick stock of the situation.  Almost even in numbers.  And considering Cosmos was on the other side, that didn’t bode well for them at all.

 

That was ok.  Cloud was used to having the odds stacked against him. 

 

Besides, Tifa was gone.  He didn’t have anything else left to protect.

 

Sephiroth slanted him a glance. “We cannot rely too heavily on those affiliated with Cosmos.”  He made a small sound of amusement.  “Even I am starting to find her arguments attractive.”

Cloud nodded.  For a while now, he’d felt the mounting pressure – the urge to give in to passivity, to take the path of least resistance, the lure of peace.  Standing here before Cosmos, it felt almost crushing, an invisible fatigue sapping his will.  How much worse for someone without that shred of Chaos’s power sustaining them?

 

“Just keep them busy,” Cloud said.  I’ll take care of Cosmos.”

 

The Goddess, for her part, simply regarded him with a mixture of sad disappointment and incomprehension.  “Is your will to fight so strong?”

 

“I lost my will to fight a long time ago.”  He raised his sword.  “But I kept fighting anyway.”

 

…………………..

 

 

The katana glanced off his shield, the sharp ring whispering in his ears.  The Warrior of Light pivoted, striking with his sword, but Sephiroth whirled away with such casual grace it barely looked as though he’d moved at all.

 

“You will not harm Cosmos,” he stated firmly.

 

Sephiroth merely smirked at him.  “You are no different from her, in the end.  Allow me to do you the favour of ending your pitiful existence.”  He struck again, blindingly fast.  Honed fighting instincts had the Warrior of Light turning the blow aside on his shield, attacking in turn.  “Do you expect me to believe that you truly have no doubts?” Sephiroth goaded.

 

“I do not expect anything from you.”  The bold statement was followed with an equally bold strike.  He chanced the opening to glance away, searching for a glimpse of blonde curls and shining white fabric.  He needed to protect her!  He didn’t have the time to fight this cur!  Not when the forces of darkness had turned their own allies against Cosmos!

 

“You’re a fool if you think you can worry about others while fighting me.”  Sephiroth caught the slash, his blade angling for his throat in the lock.  Hastily, the Warrior of Light raised his shield, twisting away.  The sword sheared off the top half of one of his helmet’s horns instead.  It hit the ground with a metallic splash.  “At the very least, offer me the pleasure of a challenge before you die.” 

 

Then Sephiroth swept forward, a whirl of black and silver, and the Warrior of Light had no choice but to throw himself into the fray.

 

 

………………..

 

 

“We’re friends, aren’t we?” Firion asked.  “We shouldn’t be fighting.”

 

Gunpowder exploded in staccato bursts all around them, blasts ringing in their ears.  “It’s because we’re friends that I’m going to stop you,” Squall replied.

 

He ducked, feeling the scorching embers sizzle against his exposed fingers.  The rationale behind the black gloves Squall always sported made sense now. 

 

The gunblade was a bad match for him.  He’d mastered eight different kinds of weapons, yet Squall’s, while initially familiar, was more like fighting a short-range lightweight cannon than a sword.  The clouds of gunpowder he tossed in his wake nullified what little magic Firion could command.

 

He tossed his axe on a line – Squall side-stepped it, retaliating with a hail of ice.  Nothing too dangerous, but it ruined his aim and slowed him down.  Hastily, he reeled the weapon back in, barely dodging the following slash. 

 

With every strike, new memories flashed before his eyes.  It ached, a pain in his heart he could not reach.

 

Firmly, he set his emotions aside.  “That’s a shame,” he said, “I don’t intend to let you!”

 

Battle was not the place for regrets or doubt.  He’d fought comrades led astray before.  If necessary, he could do it again.

 

For the wild rose.  For the sort of world that can be filled with fields of flowers.

 

Firion notched another arrow.

 

 

………………….

 

 

Two friends.  Two comrades in arms.

 

Suddenly, enemies.

 

Standing across from him, Bartz scratched the nape of his neck, short brown hair sliding between his fingers.  “I really don’t want to fight you,” he admitted.  Explosions rocked Sanctuary, sending ripples through the still waters.  Squall, he guessed.  Maybe Terra.

 

Zidane struggled to understand.  “Then why side with Cosmos?  Can’t you see?  She’s been using us!  If we do what she wants, we lose everything!”

 

He shook his head.  “I hear you, but I can’t just abandon the cause we’ve been fighting for so long.”  He gave a determined nod.  “An end to the fighting is a cause worth fighting for.”

 

“Don’t you care about your freedom?!”

 

“What’s so free about being forced to fight for our lives all the time?”  Bartz gave a shrug, and a small smile.  He seemed to know already he wouldn’t be able to change Zidane’s mind – he didn’t even try. 

 

Bartz was a go-with-the-flow kind of guy.  He didn’t question the whys or hows – Zidane knew that.  Appreciated it, even.  He threw himself into the fight because it was asked of him.  It seemed like a good cause, so he stuck with it.  He might not have thought anything bad about the individuals on the other side, but he’d clearly decided, using simple logic, that they had to be mistaken.

 

Bartz had always been so free.  What few memories he had to share made that plainly clear.  Maybe, having never been truly denied it, he simply couldn’t appreciate what he had.

 

Zidane didn’t remember much, but it had been combing back in trickles.

 

Kuja.  Garland.

 

And he knew he could never accept such a world.

 

He flicked his daggers into his hands, unable to keep the pain from his voice.  “Stand aside, Bartz.  Just don’t do anything, and we won’t have to fight.”

 

A pair of daggers – mirrors of his own – appeared in the Mimic’s grip.  “Sorry Zidane.” There was regret there, laced with steely determination. “No can do.”

 

 

………………..

 

 

Onion Knight kept an eye on the whole battlefield.  A part of him – the intellectual part – said that he should really go help Cloud, who was going up against Cosmos all by himself.  The blinding flashes of white light that occasionally lit up Sanctuary reinforced that opinion.

 

There was a much louder part of him that insisted he stick with Terra.

 

He justified it – with he and Terra working together, they could incapacitate Cecil faster, and then go help Cloud.  Cloud would be fine – he’d defeated a god before, after all.  He might not even need their help!  Besides, he was Terra’s Knight, and he couldn’t leave her to fight on her own!

 

Clad in black armour, Cecil swung with his lance.  Terra skipped backwards, sending out a burst of flame that scorched his ankles.  He bit down the urge to cheer her – it was Cecil they were fighting after all, and he was fighting for someone too.  Onion Knight didn’t agree, but… Cecil had been one of those he trusted most.  He’d always been so sensible and knightly, not like some of the others.

 

His eyes caught the familiar stance, and he darted in, pushing aside the heavy strike from the dark knight’s lance with a quick slash of his dirk.  Terra caught her breath at his back.  “We can knock him out without hurting him too much,” he whispered to her.  “We just need to get him out of that helmet.  Can you keep it up a little while longer?”

 

She nodded, delicate features set in determination.  She let loose a salvo of lightning, then a barrage of ice.

 

“Cleansing Light!”  Swiftly, Cecil switched back to paladin, magic shimmering around his form.  He moved much faster in the lighter armour – thus was no longer a sitting duck for Terra’s spells.

 

Unfortunate for him, Onion Knight was quicker by far.  And now, Cecil was no longer wearing a helmet.

 

 

………………..

 

 

“You’re a brat, you know that?” Jecht bellowed.  His sword whooshed heavily through the air –Tidus jumped clear, not even bothering to try and block it. 

 

“I can’t stand you!” he shouted back.  “You don’t ever think about anyone other than yourself!”

 

“Look who’s talking!” The thick fist slammed into his abdomen like a blitzball made of lead.  The breath jumped from his lungs – Tidus was thrown back, and hit the ground with a shallow splash, momentum sending him tumbling head over heels.

 

Even under the circumstances, a grin tugged at his lips.

 

This was how it was supposed to be!

 

He dragged himself back to his feet, and in a blur of movement, dashed forward and returned the punch in kind.  His father let out a satisfying grunt of pain, though managed to keep his feet.  “Not bad!  But you’re gonna have to do better than that!”

 

It was satisfying.  Tidus forgot about everything else – about Cosmos, about Chaos, about the cycles or the similar skirmishes going on around them.  All that mattered was teaching his old man a long-overdue lesson.  “Bring it!”

 

Continued