Part I: As Light Fades
We all know this. All names, places, etc. are copyright by their respective owners, and I own nothing. Final Fantasy characters belong to SquareEnix, Disney characters belong to (surprise!) Disney. You can't sue me, so don't even bother trying. All quotes, marked or not, belong to the original person who said them… or whoever owns the copyright…
Yes. This is a prequel to Kingdom Hearts, set in the Hollow Bastion, 10-9 years before the game begins, between Ansem reports three and four. How many times has this been done? I'm not sure. I'm not sure what even inspired me to start writing this. The only thing you should know, is that it starts slow, but it gets better, I promise! I hope you enjoy reading this, as much as I enjoyed writing it. So, without further ado, here is Enter Oblivion.
Ones born of the heart and darkness, devoid of hearts, ravage all worlds and bring desolation.
-Kingdom Hearts, End of the World Computer
Aerith had lived in the grand castle all her life. She knew almost everybody, being very popular within the fortress, and only at the tender age of fifteen. She knew everyone, even the king, Ansem, who knew her on a first-name basis.
There was someone, though, whom she feared for her life for. Why though? What was it about him? Aerith could feel evil haunting him like a corpse, an unholy specter. He was shrouded in mystery, and it scared her.
His name was deceiving. It made one think he was a “shiny happy person”, and though he was mysterious, most thought him to be harmless. All except for Aerith. Perhaps it was his name that made her suspicious. As mentioned before she didn't know. His name… how it inspired a foreboding feeling of despair and pain into her heart…
Chapter I: Dark Clouds on the Horizon
“Every cloud has a silver lining.”
They had known each other all their lives. The four were inseparable, almost from birth. They had been friends ever since they could walk and talk, and were always seen around the library. Squall, Yuffie, Sephiroth, and Aerith. They weren't really a gang, and didn't really have a name, but everyone knew of them- they were children with renowned parents, loved by all… or not.
Aerith Gast, was taking the many lifts, down to the Rising Falls, where Sephiroth said he'd meet her. Aerith liked Sephiroth a lot, and wanted to maybe start a relationship, but, he never really shared the same feelings…
Aerith gracefully walked to the Rising Falls courtyard, which was empty, except for Sephiroth, who had his back turned to her. He was wearing his usual black pants, and white shirt, but the thing that perhaps attracted Aerith most to Sephiroth, was his mysterious wing. It was a black, yet angelic wing that was on the right side of his back. He had his unusually long sword, what he called the Masamune, sheathed at his left side, which kind of made Aerith nervous, and still made her feel secure around him. At the sound of Aerith's footsteps, Sephiroth turned.
“Hey,” he greeted, in his- what Aerith thought- melodious voice. “I'm glad you came.”
“You didn't think I would?” asked Aerith, cocking her head to one side. Sephiroth shrugged.
“I dunno. . . I. . . I have something important to talk to you about.” He said, turning his back once more. Aerith's heart leapt.
“What is it?” she asked, not able to hide the anticipation in her voice.
“I-I want to date Yuffie.” Said Sephiroth, turning to face Aerith, yet again. At those words, Aerith's world crushed around her. She was no longer at the Rising Falls, but sinking into the eternal abyss below… “I wanted your consent. Y'know, she is your best friend and all. . .” There was a very long pause. “Well?”
“What?” asked Aerith, trying to keep her tears from tearing their way out.
“Have your consent?” asked Sephiroth, his voice full of hope. Aerith couldn't do it. She couldn't say no, and pour out her feelings. . . She eked out a great deal of self-loathing at two words.
“Of course!” she said, pumping false happiness into her voice. Of course she didn't mean it. She didn't hate Yuffie now, and didn't want to distance herself from her, to make her suspicious, but. . . there was no time to think about it.
Something happened. . . three or four small creatures, all jet black, with glowing yellow eyes, and wriggling antennae jumped up into the courtyard from the water!
“Seph!” yelled Aerith, panicked.
“Stay back Aerith!” Sephiroth drew the Masamune, and quickly disposed of the small creatures. But that wasn't all. A boy, around Aerith's age came up from the dark depths below. He held a large sword, and was clothed in all black. He had a demonic wing, almost like Sephiroth's, only it was bat-like, and had spiky blond hair. He looked to Aerith, then to Sephiroth, and raised his sword.
Sephiroth tried to block the oncoming attack, and tried as hard as he could.
“Who ARE you!?” demanded Sephiroth, struggling to fight off the boy.
“Get out of here! You! You are the source of the Heartless!” yelled the boy.
“What?!” asked Aerith, confused. “Heartless” was what King Ansem had called the monsters that were now nesting at the base of the Hollow Bastion, the ones that had tried to attack them. The two continued to fight, swords clashing together, until the boy had knocked Sephiroth onto his back. When he was about to impale the fallen Sephiroth, Aerith dove into his way. The boy stopped.
He looked into her eyes, and slowly put his sword down, then dropped it completely. Aerith was far from enchanted by him, though. She feared him. He had tried to kill Sephiroth! Though she had mixed feelings about Sephiroth right now, she couldn't let him die.
“Who are you?” demanded Aerith.
“My name. . . My name is Cloud. . . Cloud Strife.” He replied. His name. . . It seemed familiar. . . like she should fear him, yet somehow feel comfort in him. . . But right now, she was leaning towards the former.
“What do you want?” she demanded again. Sephiroth slowly came to his feet, using the Masamune for support.
“The Heartless are everywhere. . . They must be stopped. This world is in danger!” Cloud said. “And he is the cause of it!” Cloud was pointing at Sephiroth.
“What? Me? What did I do?!” he asked, shocked. Cloud scoffed.
“It's written! 'In the Hollow Bastion, the One With Silver Hair shall start it all. He is the source of the Heartless. He will plunge the world into darkness.' It's taken from the Tomes of Mava. Look for yourself,” suggested Cloud.
“Tomes of Mava? Where did you come from? What does this mean?!” Sephiroth asked, confused.
“The Tomes of Mava should be in that castle's library.” Said Cloud, pointing to the Hollow Bastion. “As for me. . . Where I came from is not important. I'm here now, and I plan on staying. If you're not the Seeker of Darkness, then there must be someone else, with silver hair that will bring destruction to this realm.” It hit Aerith. Could it be. . .?
“King Ansem. . .?” said Aerith to herself.
“What?! The king?! No way!” replied Sephiroth incredulously.
“Tell me about this king.” Ordered Cloud, picking up his sword. Aerith didn't like this person. He seemed. . . she shuddered.
“Ansem is the king of the Hollow Bastion. He's a brilliant leader, and extremely smart. Though, he couldn't bring chaos to this world! He loves the Hollow Bastion, and everyone here!” explained Aerith. Cloud laughed, mirthlessly.
“See that's the thing about darkness. . . Once you seek it, it takes you. . . and you'll never escape. It grows, consumes. Such is its nature. There is darkness in all hearts. Even yours.” Cloud explained. Aerith thought she saw Sephiroth shiver, but shrugged it off.
“Why are you here?” Aerith asked.
“I must stop it. And I will, one way, or another. I'll do it if I have to kill everyone in this castle.” Said Cloud, coldly. “Take me to see this Ansem.”
“Well, nobody can see him now. He's busy a lot lately. He's doing research on hearts and Heartless lately, and is rarely seen.” replied Sephiroth. Cloud shot him a glare that told him not to talk.
“Fine. I'll wait. . . But if I wait too long, then this world will be consumed! It already has been connected. . .” said Cloud, thoughtfully. “SHE could arrive at any time…”
“Why. . . Why don't we go back to the castle, and um, talk about all of this. . .?” asked Sephiroth cautiously. Cloud squinted his eyes at Sephiroth, then nodded in reluctant agreement.
“Let's go.” ordered Cloud. The three took the many platforms back to the castle. Aerith was confused about everything that happened recently, but couldn't shake the feeling of her heart slowly began to break.
Chapter II: Squall- Hostility
“Squall is something of an enigma in the Bastion. Don't get me wrong, the kid more or less wears his emotions on his sleeve, but his lineage is what makes him so infamous. His mother murdered, his father is unknown to him- he thinks that he died with his mother and Laguna adopted he and Ellone… Poor guy… He is so oblivious…”
-From the journal of Sid Kramer
“So, who's this new guy?” asked Squall.
“Some homicidal maniac.” Replied Aerith, quite bluntly.
“I dunno. . . He seemed quite calm and collected to me. And his name… It sounds too… I dunno, happy,” replied Squall, leaning against the wall of the waterway. Aerith shook her head.
“He tried to kill Seph and I. . .” explained Aerith, scuffing her shoe on the floor.
“She's right! Seph told me all about it!” Yuffie piped in. “He came out of nowhere with a really big sword.“
“Are you all talking about that loser?” came a loud voice behind them. The three turned to face Rufus, Seifer, Lulu, Fujin, and The Voice belonged to Rufus, leader of his own little gaggle of friends- destructive, damnable delinquents who each had one vendetta or another against Aerith and her friends.
Seifer gave Squall a cold glare, grinned, held out his hand, and beckoned to Squall, drawing his gunblade, the Hyperion. Squall replied with an icy stare.
“C'mon, Leonhart. Let's go! You and me! You, the villain, and I, the sorceress' knight!” As he said this, Seifer threw a cocky grin to Lulu, who smiled back at him.
“I'll pass.” Squall replied, crossing his arms and looking down at his boots. Seifer scoffed, disappointed, his head hung for a split second, until it lifted, an evil grin plastered on his face.
“Than I suppose you don't mind that your girlfriend left you because you never stuck up for her. You were never her 'knight'. She went to someone who could always protect her. Ain't that right, Yuff?”
Yuffie turned a deep crimson, but didn't say anything, and Squall's eyes opened and widened, as if he couldn't believe what Seifer just said. Aerith knew that Seifer struck a nerve, deep within Squall's mind. Squall had been teased for his pacifistic ways of thinking, but never insulted, nor challenged.
In a blind rage, Squall drew his gunblade (which was usually reversed) and charged at Seifer. The others cleared out of his way as he and Seifer fought.
The two's battle raged on and on. For a pacifist, Squall fought amazingly well, almost flying through the air, his battling a fierce waltz. Seifer kept up with him, the two slashing incessantly, the firings of their guns echoing amongst the abandoned waterway.
It wasn't until a gunshot echoed through the tunnels of the sewer did the two freeze. Laguna Loire stood, dueling pistol pointed at the ceiling, his look stern, not at all like his usually laid-back goofiness.
“What exactly's wrong?” he asked, the sternness unwavering.
Seifer jumped away from Squall, and swiped his gunblade in a horizontal motion, then shrugged.
“Nothing… nothing at all…” Seifer drawled. Squall shamefully sheathed his gunblade.
“Nothing's wrong, Laguna, just go home.” Squall half-ordered half-pleaded. Laguna stayed, and Squall said, quite bitterly, “Fine. I'll go.”
Squall walked away from everyone, throwing a nasty glare to Laguna on his way out. Laguna looked at them all sternly, and nobody said anything. After a few more moments of silence, Laguna holstered his pistol and followed Squall.
When Seifer was sure Laguna and Squall were out of earshot, he talked with his friends about Squall, and the fight.
“He was a pitiful fighter. I made sure to hold back, as to not hurt him.”
“You fought wonderfully, Seifer.” Lulu said wistfully.
“And Squall. . . What a moron.” Rufus jeered.
“FOOL.” Fujin agreed. Yuffie, who'd been turning pink since Seifer spoke, finally grabbed her large shuriken from her back and charged at Fujin. Fujin, with lightning quick reflexes, drew her own shuriken and the two stars collided. Yuffie, although fueled by anger, was no match for Fujin's immense strength. Yuffie was thrown backward into the waterway wall. Rufus and his gang left the waterway, leaving Yuffie and Aerith alone.
Yuffie gave Aerith an 'I want to be alone' look, so Aerith left. Yuffie thought back to two years ago, when she and Squall were still dating… Fujin and Lulu were picking on her, and Squall just stood, and watched. He didn't fight for her. After that, Yuffie broke ties with Squall… Tired of fretting on the past, Yuffie left the waterways.
“Hey, Squall, wait up!” Laguna yelled after Squall, who was not in the mood to talk to Laguna. Squall pretended he didn't hear Laguna and continued walking. Laguna started to run, and caught up with Squall, a leg cramp being the price.
“Errgh, ow!” Laguna muttered, grabbing his leg, and catching his breath. Squall stopped, exasperated, and still not wanting to talk to Laguna.
“What do you want?” Squall asked sharply.
“Why were you fighting Seifer?”
“-my business?” Laguna finished faintly, cutting Squall off. “C'mon Squall!”
“Leave me alone,” Squall ordered.
“No,” Laguna refused.
“Fine.” Squall ran away, leaving Laguna in the waterway. Laguna smiled.
“He looks so much like his mother. . . Acts a lot like her too. . . Heh, good thing he takes after his mother and not his father. . .”
A stone stood in the farthest corner of the world, in a solitary meadow. The stone read:
“May she ascend to Heaven with the courage and pride of a lion.”
Author's Notes: Say wha-? Notes? Yes, notes. Now, I know Aerith's name is Aerith Gainesborough, yada yada yada, but no, nay! Nay I say! My fanfic, my rules. And I know I spelled Cid Kramer's name with an “S” but for good reason- there's already Cid Highwind, and I felt that Edea still needed a husband, so ha. I gave Professor Gast a first name, Remus- a name I always thought sounds intelligent. So, I'm sort of still obeying some brand of rules or another. Alright, onward!
Chapter III: Family Values
“It's truly a shame. This generation of children has completely abandoned the idea of a family sitting down and eating dinner together. They go gallivanting off with their friends and leave their poor families to tend for themselves. When I was a child, I sat with my family, ate my food, and was happy for it. One can only hope that this generation is just a fluke, and children will soon learn good family values.”
-From the journal of Queen Lace, third monarch of the Hollow Bastion
Who was the father of Sephiroth? Hojo? Vincent?
That's the thing- nobody knew. It wasn't that Sephiroth's mother was a slut- no, it was just that both claimed to be the boy's father. Lucrecia Valentine died after being killed by Hojo- without telling anybody who the father was. Hojo claimed to have mixed his genes with that of Lord Ansem's and implanted the embryo in Lucrecia's womb. . . But Vincent would never believe that lie. He loved Lucrecia with all of his heart, mind, and being. And he knew she would never volunteer for such an audacious experiment.
It was around then, fifteen years ago, when the first Heartless rose up from the abyssal bottoms of the castle, below the labyrinthine waterways. Hojo and Ansem worked and experimented on it. Hojo had taken genes from the Heartless and injected them into the baby Sephiroth, which sprouted his one wing, the wing that siphoned all of the black from his hair.
The castle had gone to investigate odd sounds from the lab, but Hojo had injected Heartless DNA into himself, transforming him into a great monster, the Behemoth. Hojo as the Behemoth, destroyed much of the castle, and killed many people. Remus Gast, Raine Leonhart-Loire, and Lucrecia to name a few. Queen Sorceress Dalaar, Ansem's sister, then banished Hojo to some unknown place of darkness.
Afterwards, Vincent then raised Sephiroth alone.
“Father, I'm home!” Sephiroth's voice- almost as harmonious as his mother's- called from the front door of their small home. Vincent was cleaning his collection of dueling pistols, the pistols used to protect the Lord Ansem.
“In my room. Did you have fun with your gang?” Vincent asked, putting a cleaned pistol back together.
“Wasn't with them. I went to the library. . . did some research on things. Although, while I was in the library, I heard Squall got into another fight with Seifer.” Vincent rolled his eyes.
“Squall, the pacifist, and Seifer the antagonist, I presume?” Vincent asked.
“As usual. Laguna stopped the fight.”
“So, he's useful for something, Praise be to Yevon,” Vincent said without thinking.
“Say what?” Sephiroth asked, confused.
“You spent the whole day in the library, and didn't even find out who Yevon is? Old Hollow Bastonian mythology. They once thought a god named 'Yevon' built the Hollow Bastion.” Vincent explained, still cleaning a rather large rifle. Sephiroth scoffed.
“That's ridiculous. Lord Velsco proved that the Hollow Bastion was built by Lord Nomura and his council, The Staff of Squaresoft.” Sephiroth countered.
“So at least you learned one thing today.”
“That's more common sense than anything.”
“What did you learn?” Vincent asked.
“Not a whole lot. . . I half thought about going to the Depths of the Bastion.” Sephiroth admitted thoughtfully. Vincent dropped the gun he was cleaning.
“What?” Vincent asked shortly.
“Oh! Erm, I meant to the waterways to join the others!” Vincent was not convinced.
“I've told you thousands of times, that the Depths are forbidden, not only by Lord Ansem's laws, but more importantly, by me!” Vincent raised his voice only a little.
“I know, I know, that's why I went to the library instead!” At that time, the bell in the Bastion's chapel rang, signaling dinner time in the Dining Hall.
“All right. Let's just go eat. I'm so hungry I could eat a whole chocobo.” Sephiroth gave Vincent a look of disgust and horror, then sighed and shrugged.
“Alrighty.” And the two set off for dinner.
Things at the home of Yuffie were not as happy. Yuffie lived with her father and grandfather (Godo and Gala, respectively) and she fought with her father constantly. Her grandfather always stuck up for her, though.
With both father and grandfather constantly training her to be the successor of the Line of Wutai, Yuffie hardly had any time to her friends. But she made time. Dinner for example.
Tonight, she wanted to look nice for Sephiroth. At thirteen, she thought she should be worried about boys, her looks, and the latest gossip within the HB, but she couldn't.
“Yuffie, you are the heir to an infinite line of ninjas. You've not the time to be worried about such things.” Her father would always say.
But then her mother would always cut in and say “She is but a child, Godo. She is a child, before a ninja.” That was before her mother had died of pneumonia, and her grandfather moved in.
Her grandfather took the defensive stance for her, in the place of her mother. But her father never stopped to remind her of her heritage. Speaking of which. . .
“Yuffie! What ARE you doing?!” her father screeched. Yuffie, with her hair tied up in a bun, which was erupting with locks of blue hair, looked to her father innocently.
“What do you mean?” Yuffie asked, perfectly aware of what he meant.
“You are ninja. Yet here you are prettying up with makeup, worried about boy who can't love!” Godo always had a strange way of speaking, and it was only accentuated when he was angry.
“Father! Please!” It was not a request, but an order.
“Yuffie! You dare talk-back to father this way?!”
“Godo!” Grandfather had interjected. “That is enough! Yuffie is girl. Not boy. You must learn she is different. She not like you nor I.”
“Father! Keep out! Yuffie is my daughter, not yours! And-“ Godo was interrupted by chapel bell, calling everyone to the Dining Hall. “Ooh! Dinner!” Godo ran out of Yuffie's room, out of the house, towards the Dining Hall. Godo did enjoy his rice. . . Gala gave Yuffie a proud smile, and the two went to go eat.
Aerith Gast was an orphan. Her mother, Ifalna, died shortly after giving birth to Aerith. She caught pneumonia while recovering from giving birth, and died only two weeks after Aerith was born. Her father, Remus Gast, was killed a few months before Aerith was born. The Behemoth that Hojo became had impaled him with his horn, during his rampage.
So Edea and Sid Kramer took her in. They had adopted many children over the past few years. The kids in the orphanage were Aerith, Seifer, Lulu, Rufus, Fujin, and Zack.
Aerith and Zack had dated briefly before, but the relationship ended when Aerith discovered her feelings for Sephiroth. Though broken up, the two remained friends, and Zack defended Aerith against Seifer and the rest. Aerith loved Edea and Sid dearly, but she wished she'd known her mother, or father. But she knew they were happy, wherever they may be.
Aerith was combing her long brown hair when a knock came at her door.
“Aerith? Are you in there?” It was Edea.
“The dinner bell rang a few minutes ago, are you ready to go?”
“Yeah, just give me a second.”
“All right, we'll be on our way.”
Aerith wanted just a few more minutes. . . She gingerly picked up a framed picture of Seph and her in the library. Getting teary eyed, she opened up the back, took the picture out, and dropped it in her wastebasket. Using a tissue, she dabbed her eyes, then walked out of the orphanage, catching up with Matron and the others.
A knock came at Squall's door. “Who is it?” he called.
“It's me.” Sis's voice.
“Come in.” Ellone. . . Sis walked in, dressed in her white and blue gown, and her short green cape was draped around her shoulders. Using her left hand, she tucked her hair behind her ear, and crossed her arms. “This isn't about Seifer, is it?”
“It is.” She replied crossly. “What exactly happened?”
“I already explained it to Laguna,” Squall replied shortly.
“All right, now explain it to me.”
“Seifer challenged me. Real formal, and all.” Squall hated lying to Sis, but. . .
“All right. . . Couldn't you have turned him down?” Ellone asked.
“I couldn't have just walked away. . .”
“Isn't that what you usually do?” Squall didn't answer. “You wanna be cool, huh? Just don't get hurt in the process. And don't hurt anybody else. But, you know, if I can't control you, then I won't be seen fit to raise you.”
“All right. I promise- no more fighting. It's just that. . . You know how Seifer is. . .”
“Yeah. . . I suppose he claimed he was 'the sorceress' knight'? Who's the lucky gal this year?” Squall couldn't help but to grin.
“O-oh. . . I see. . . So I guess the Sorceress' Knight is taking it up a notch- being a knight for an actual sorceress. . .” Again Squall grinned.
“Yeah. . . Sorceress Lulu. . . Hmmm. . .” Both were in silence.
It was about five years ago. Lulu was eleven, Ellone was fourteen. Sorceress Adel was looking for a successor, and wanted Ellone. Lulu became jealous, as she was Adel's daughter, and tried to cast a spell on Adel, but it backfired. Adel went mad with power, and tried to destroy the Hollow Bastion. She was incredibly powerful, even killing Queen Sorceress Dalaar, orphaning the infant Princess Kairi. She was so powerful, that she couldn't be killed.
It was Laguna who came up with a plan to seal her in the Depths of the Hollow Bastion, thereby ending his prison sentence of attempted murder on Queen Sorceress Dalaar. Doctor Odine made the device, and something to steal her powers with, just in case. Adel came into contact with the brooch that Odine made, killing Odine in the process, and Laguna was able to imprison her within the seal. Lulu stole the brooch, and released the powers, thereby inheriting them.
As the two were reflecting upon this, the chapel bell broke their silence, and the two set off for the Dining Hall, neither saying a word. It wasn't an awkward silence, but, rather, a mutual quietness.
Chapter IV: Seeds of Obsession
“The more things become different, the more things stay the same.”
Dinner started out like it always did- the people were served the dinners they ordered that morning, and that night, it was served to them. Godo had ordered rice, Edea lobster, Ellone pasta, and so on.
The four sat together, as always, and they were talking about the day's events, among other things. But the next thing that happened would really give them something to talk about.
A creature, the size of a small box appeared in the Dining Hall. It looked much like the boy, Vivi Oruntina, but it floated, wore purple robes, purple pointed hat, and carried a small staff.
Reactions occurred everywhere. Anybody who had a weapon drew it and used it. Vincent Valentine and Laguna Loire both shot their pistols, Yuffie throwing one of her smaller shurikens, Edea and Lulu began preparing spells, but the first one to reach the creature was him.
Cloud Strife burst through the Dining Hall doors, sword pointed forward. He stopped for a second, and shot forward with breakneck speed. He impaled the creature, which dissipated into a cloud of black smoke, with a glowing heart rising from the smoke and vanished.
Lord Ansem rose from his meal, and jumped down from his table, set upon a dais, and ran to Cloud. The two spoke just below a whisper, nobody could hear them. Cloud was giving Lord Ansem an angry stare the whole conversation. After a few more minutes, the entire Dining Hall watching them, Ansem beckoned to Sephiroth.
Sephiroth pointed at his chest, and mouthed “Me?” and Ansem nodded. Then Ansem, Cloud and Sephiroth all walked out of the Dining Hall.
Then all began to clamor, and eat, some interested, some not, some kind of shaky, and some skeptic.
“Where did they take Seph?!” Yuffie asked, her voice thick with concern. “Who was that guy that killed that. . . thing?” Both good questions.
“That. . . was Cloud.” Aerith replied. 'For a homicidal maniac, he is kind of-' Squall interrupted her thoughts.
“Cloud. The guy that tried to kill you today?” Aerith nodded tiredly.
“He should've stayed and eaten dinner with us!” Yuffie exclaimed, somewhat disappointed. Aerith shot her a nasty glare and Yuffie turned red. “Well, I didn't mean it if he was gonna try to kill you again. . . Then his invitation would've been rescinded immediately!”
“One should hope,” Aerith replied dryly.
“I don't like this. . . There's something. . . unnerving about this Cloud. . .” Squall said slowly, carefully choosing his words.
“I agree wholeheartedly.” Aerith agreed. “I don't like him.”
“Um, guys? Shouldn't we follow them? I mean, if we don't trust that Cloud guy?” Yuffie asked, curious and concerned.
“You're right! Ugh, why didn't I think of this?!” At her words, Aerith stood, and ran out of the Dining Hall. Yuffie stood, and started to follow Aerith, but stopped and turned to face Squall.
“Aren't you coming?!” Squall shut his eyes in response.
“I think. . . I'll pass.”
“C'mon Brood Master! We don't have time for this crap!” Yuffie ran back and grabbed Squall by the arm, and dragged him along. “Who knows what Cloud might be doing to Seph and the king!”
“Interesting. . . interesting indeed. So you've lived in the heart of this world your entire life. . . What was it like in there? Were you raised by the Heartless? And can you tell me anymore about them?!” Ansem was frantic- one might say obsessed- about his pursuit of knowledge.
“I learned one important thing- the silver-haired one shall bring chaos and ruin to this world. . . I believe you two are the only silver-haired ones in this castle?” Cloud looked from Ansem to Sephiroth, from Sephiroth to Ansem and back. Then Ansem and Sephiroth exchanged glances and looked back to Cloud.
“Did you learn anything else?” Sephiroth asked curiously.
“I also learned that. . . he and I are 'connected' somehow. . .”
“Connected?” Ansem and Sephiroth questioned simultaneously.
“Yes. . . Many here are 'connected' somehow. I could feel them all while I was in the feeding area. . . So many people. . . Are there, perhaps, other worlds where we are all separated, but connected at the same time? Unaware of this life, dealing with other trials and tribulations of our own? And something strange, Ansem-“ Sephiroth corrected him here, with a quiet 'King Ansem'- “you are not connected to anybody. . . Except for that child at your table. . .”
“Lady Kairi?” Sephiroth asked.
“Lady Kairi is my niece, Mister Cloud,” Ansem confirmed. “She is the daughter of my deceased sister, Queen Sorceress Dalaar.”
“Ah. . . Blood ties are some of the strongest. . . Most of the time. . . If one never- let's say- becomes too curious of the unknown. . .”
“Are you challenging me, Mister Cloud? I'm warning you, the consequences could become drastic for one side,” Ansem warned. Cloud looked upward to the ceiling of Ansem's laboratory, as if thinking, then walked out of the room without a word.
“What do you make of it, sire?” Sephiroth asked.
“I do not know. But I do know one thing- this boy knows much. I need a favor of you Sephiroth.” Ansem requested.
“Go to my library. Find any books on separate worlds, darkness, and/or the Heartless. We have work to do.”
“What sort of work?”
“Well, if either of us is going to destroy this world, I want to know which one of us. In the meantime, speak nothing of this to anybody. I must even exclude it from my report, should it fall into the wrong hands,” Ansem explained quietly. Sephiroth hesitated for a moment, then nodded.
“All right, all right. I'll do it. Won't my friends and father get suspicious if I'm constantly in the library?”
“These are matters that could effect everyone in the Hollow Bastion, and you're worried about the trivial matters?!” For a moment Sephiroth thought Ansem's eyes changed color, from their deep blue, to sickly yellow orbs. . . just for a moment. . .
“Sorry, Your Majesty. You're right. I'll be in the library all night. If I find anything interesting, I'll report back.”
“Excellent.” Sephiroth bowed and headed for the door. “And, Sephiroth?”
“Tell your father I'm still up for that rematch at cards. . . if he's not afraid.”
“Will do.” As the door to Ansem's lab closed, Ansem's eyes did indeed change color. Slowly, but surely, he was going mad. . .
Sephiroth met up with Aerith, Yuffie, and Squall on his way to the library.
“Where have you been?!” Yuffie scolded.
“We've been worried something might've happened!” Aerith exclaimed, staring at Sephiroth somewhat angrily. Sephiroth looked from Yuffie to Aerith and repeated this several times, then looked to Squall.
“What about you, Squall?” Sephiroth asked.
“. . . Whatever.” Squall replied, cracking a half-smile.
Cid Highwind was tinkering with some gears used for the lifts, when Laguna entered his workshop. Cid looked up from his work, noticed it was Laguna, and put down his wrench.
“Well, if it ain't Laguna Loire! What brings you back up 'round my parts?”
“I need a favor, Cid.”
“Ugh, of course you do. . . You know you still owe from when we borrowed Odine's experimental magic oven?”
“Borrowed! What?! We stole that- oh. Yes. . . borrowed. . .” Laguna scratched his head, and shifted his eyes side to side.
“What'd you ever do with that thing anyway?”
“HEY, what'cha workin' on over there?” Laguna asked. Cid raised an eyebrow and looked at the gears.
“That? Eh, nothin'. Though, I did do some modeling of. . .” Cid dug through various gizmos and gadgets until he found the one he was looking for. “. . . whatever the heck this is.”
Laguna took the gadget from Cid, and examined it carefully.
“Wow! What is it?” Laguna asked, scratching his head again.
“See that's the thing- I dunno. I saw it in a dream. A dream where me, a whole bunch of people I've never seen before, and that new guy were all riding on this thing.”
“Riding on it? How do you ride on a little thing like that?”
“It was a lot bigger in my dream, you blockhead! It probably would've taken up more space than the Entrance Hall, Library, and Castle Chapel combined. And watch this.” Cid used a needle to fiddle around with a microscopic something near the front. He set it down, and a few seconds later, it lifted into the air on its own, and hovered shoulder-level from the workshops cluttered floor.
“Wow. . . What do you call it? Kids would get a big kick out of this toy.”
“It's not a toy! And I think they all called it the 'Highwind'.”
“The Highwind? Tch, the name sucks.”
“Hey, shut up! Or else I won't help you with this 'favor'.” Cid threatened.
“All right, all right. We're gonna sneak into ~'Ultimecia's castle, then that's when you have to defeat her. Time Compression-'~”
“Say wha-? What are you talking about?” Cid asked, bewildered.
“Mm? Oh, I meant we're gonna sneak into Ansem's lab, and see what he's been workin' on.”
“Now wait, Laguna, don't you think we're pushing the limit here?”
“Nonsense! He's been so secretive lately, it's his fault!” Laguna replied indignantly.
“I see. . . Well, I'm always up for a good adventure. What the heck? Count me in.”
“AAAAAALLLLLRRRRRIIIIIGGGGHHTTT!!!!!!!!!” Laguna yelled jumping into the air, shouting loud enough to wake every soul in the Bastion.
“Shut up!” Cid hissed. “You're going to wake the dead!” 'Cid, m'friend, that's exactly what I'm hoping for,' Laguna thought, his mind on Raine.
Chapter V: The Seekers of Knowledge
“Everyone thinks of changing the world, but no one thinks of changing himself.”
“Where's Seph?” Yuffie asked. It was more to herself than to anyone else, but Squall spoke up nonetheless.
“The library,” He replied, leaning against the wall of the waterways.
“Again?! He's been in there every day for the past week!” Aerith moaned.
“I think Seph needs a nice intervention! Who's with me?” Yuffie cheered, holding up a fist. Aerith looked at Yuffie as if she were insane, and Squall quirked a very confused brow. “All right, all right. Maybe he doesn't need an intervention, but he sure as heck should get something!”
“I'll go talk with him,” replied Squall, stepping away from the wall he was leaning on. He started for the library, his footsteps echoing through the castle corridors.
“Do you think he can set Seph straight?” Yuffie asked.
“I hope so… I'm really worried about Seph…”
Ansem dashed into his lab, quickly as he could, and he locked the door behind him. He had experiments to conduct, and he couldn't let anybody disturb him. That, and he had two cats in a sack.
“All right, Heartless… Let's just see what you like…”
With that, he set a cat down in a fenced area, walked over to the other side of the lab, and pulled a random chain, that was hanging from the ceiling. Upon pulling the chain, a cage door rose, and a small Heartless hobbled out. Being sure not to hit the cat, or the Heartless, Ansem tossed a fairly large rock into the fenced area.
The Heartless walked around the closed off area, circling the cat. It completely ignored the rock. The Heartless then hobbled next to the cat, which hissed at the Heartless. Then the Heartless stole the cat's heart.
If Ansem blinked, he would've missed it, but the cat's heart left its body, and went into the body of the Heartless. With that, the cat turned into a Heartless itself, feline in nature.
“Fascinating… It seems those who lose their hearts to the Heartless, become Heartless themselves… But… I wonder…”
Ansem walked over to his desk and began writing.
”The Heartless appear in groups, and are multiplying rapidly. I've provided them both living and nonliving samples. They've responded only to the living. They seem to multiply after absorbing something from the living creatures. Their prey vanishes without a trace.
Ansem titled the document, 'Report, Page Four', and filed it with three other similar pages. And Ansem continued with his experimentations.
Squall walked through the library quietly. He started to worry when he saw almost every book had been taken off the shelves, and he could've sworn that almost every shelf had been rearranged, making the library an unknown labyrinth.
Sephiroth sidestepped from a bookshelf, blocking Squall's path. Squall jumped in surprise, but Sephiroth wasn't phased.
“Hello, Squall Leonhart.”
“Erm… Hello, Sephiroth. Are you all right?”
“I'm just fine. And yourself?”
“Oh… um… I'm good…”
“All right, then…. Have a glorious day.” And with that, Sephiroth walked away. Squall tried to follow him but got lost. Somehow, the library had changed, and became a labyrinth, very dissimilar from how it was before… None of the book shelves were where they should have been… Eventually, Squall backtracked, and went to find the others.
Sephiroth was so indulged in his reading, that he didn't even notice it when He arrived.
“What are you doing, Sephiroth?”
“Hm? Oh, it's you…” Sephiroth spat. Cloud arched a brow.
“What do you mean? What about me?”
“You. You are a warrior for the light.” Cloud arched his brow again. “You will be one of the few who will try to eradicate the darkness. Oh, excuse me, the coming darkness, anyway.”
“Is that such a bad thing?” Cloud asked.
“It is. You don't see… Nobody sees it!”
“Sees what?” asked Cloud, scratching his head.
“That darkness is the heart's true essence! Darkness is the ultimate power! And you all want to destroy it? To stop it from coming into being?!”
“Yes,” Cloud replied firmly.
“Impossible! Darkness will come! It will take everything and all! Including you.” Cloud only smirked at Sephiroth's rant, but on the inside, he was terrified.
“I'm leaving Sephiroth. I hope you enjoy yourself and your delusions.” With that, Cloud walked out and left Sephiroth to his reading. It was not five minutes after Cloud left, that Sephiroth was Gone.
Laguna and Cid were outside Ansem's laboratory. It was just past one in the morning, and cold air was rushing from the Rising Falls. Laguna's teeth were chattering, but Cid, on the other hand, stood as if it were summer day.
“I'm cold!” Laguna whined. Cid shot Laguna a 'shut-up-if-you-know-what's-good-for-you' look, and knocked on the laboratory's door. After no response, Cid, again, rapped softly on the door. Again, there was no response. Laguna shoved Cid out of the way, and loudly banged on the door with his fist. Nothing.
With his pistol, Laguna shot the door's handle and kicked it open.
“Wow, that was loud enough to wake everyone in the castle,” muttered Cid.
“Shh! Someone might hear you!” Laguna hissed. Cid rolled his eyes, and followed Laguna into the dark laboratory. Ansem was waiting for them.
“Hello, Aerith.” The voice behind Aerith made a chill run down her back. She tensed her shoulders, and turned to face Cloud.
“Oh… hello Cloud… What brings you here?”
“I spoke with Sephiroth in the library.” Cloud replied, scratching his head. Aerith cocked a brow and crossed her arms.
“And…?” Aerith's voice was cautious, as Cloud still made her nervous.
“He's become obsessed with darkness. I think he needs help… Have you spoken with his father?” Cloud asked curiously. Aerith scuffed her toe on the stone floor. The two were standing in a section of the Bastion that overlooked the ocean. A slight breeze ran through the windowless corridor and beat against Aerith's skin.
“No… I haven't seen Vincent around for a few days.” Aerith replied, the cautious tone never leaving her voice. She may felt a tad bit of physical attraction to Cloud, but she still feared him. Cloud, sensing this held out a gloved hand.
“That first impression of me didn't go very well, did it?” Aerith, fear in her eyes, shook her head slowly. “I'd like a chance to make that up. If you'll let me.” Aerith stared at Cloud for a long while until she reluctantly shook Cloud's hand. “Thank you, Aerith.”
Squall entered his room and closed the door behind him. He ransacked his room, looking for one thing he knew would bring Sephiroth back- a drawing of Yuffie.
Gala had drawn the picture of Yuffie six months ago, and Yuffie gave it to Squall as a present when their relationship ended three months ago. Squall found the drawing in the most obvious of places- his nightstand. It was framed it a frame carved from a piece of the Bastion itself.
Squall lifted the drawing from his nightstand, and walked out of his room, only to literally run into Ellone. Ellone clutched her nose in pain, and Squall rubbed his forehead.
“Hey, why don't you watch where you're going, klutz?” Squall asked bitterly. Tears were streaming down Ellone's cheeks. “Oh, Sis, I'm sorry, did I hurt you?” Ellone sniffed, a mixture of mucus and blood running up her nose.
“I'm fine, but Uncle Laguna, he… He's missing!” Squall's expression went from concerned to grim.
“So?” he asked in response. Ellone looked mortified, and without thinking, she slapped Squall. A red print of Ellone's hand burned on his left cheek, the pain stinging. He hated to see Ellone like this, and understood her worry, but Squall just didn't care.
“What was that for?!” he asked, annoyed, instead of rubbing his forehead, he now rubbed his cheek.
“You know damn well what that was for! Uncle Laguna is the closest thing you have to a father, and you treat him as if he was nothing!”
“Stop. Leave this house. Now.” Ellone ordered, pointing towards the door. Squall glared at Ellone, and picked up his gunblade, holding the drawing of Yuffie close to his chest. He walked to the door, violent turning the knob, and as he walked out he slammed it forcefully behind him.
Squall was storming through the halls of stone, some people staring at him as he walked past them, but Squall didn't care. He was too angry to think of others, his mind was only on Laguna, and his poisonous hatred towards him.
'Who cares if he's missing?! I hope he is dead. I wouldn't give a damn if he was attacked by a Heartless and killed.' The dark thoughts about Laguna, and the mentioning of the Heartless in his mind finally attracted them to him.
Squall wasn't paying attention, not even to the people who were running away in fear. He was suddenly attacked from behind, and sent sprawling forward, his gunblade impaling him through the stomach, the framed drawing of Yuffie flying through the air.
It landed on the stone floor, and cracked, then shattered. Squall looked at it with a great despair, not even noticing the blood oozing from his wound. Not even noticing as he coughed blood. Not noticing as he vomited on the stone floors, the acrid mixture of blood and bile, stinging his nose. He landed with a thud to the floor, and his eyes fluttered closed.
A mournful dirge, a melancholic echo was what Laguna woke up to. His eyes opened and he sat up, groggily.
“Where am I?” he asked loudly to nobody in particular.
“We're in jail, moron.” Cid replied bitterly. Laguna looked around for Cid but couldn't find him.
“Where are you?” Laguna asked dumbly.
“In the cell next to yours, jackass. Your little night raid landed us both in jail.”
“Will you stop with all of the stupid questions?! Apparently, it's a law that the laboratory is forbidden.” Cid's voice echoed through the dungeon.
“Oh… Why don't I remember anything?”
“You hit your head on the way in- the door was kind of low. You conked out after that.” Cid could be heard striking a match and lighting his pipe.
“Oh. Did you see what Ansem was doing in the lab?” Laguna asked excitedly, feeling a large bump on his forehead.
“He had one of them little Heartless buggers. Poking 'im with a stick, seeing how it'd react.”
“Oh.” Laguna was disappointed that Ansem was locked away in his lab, poking black stuffed animals with sticks. He stood, and shook the bars, then tried to see if he was thin enough to slip through, and, of course, he wasn't. “So, Cid, m'friend, how're we gonna get out of this one?”
“Not a damned clue. Last I checked Ansem doesn't keep a key for the dungeons.” Cid replied from the next cell over.
“Yes he does. I've been in here before. Remember when I tried to kill Queen Dalaar?”
“How could I forget? You had the entire castle in an uproar.”
“Well I was thrown in here. But when Ansem came down and personally talked to me, he let me out, on accord if I swore my life I'd never steal again.”
“Then he should've thrown you back in here long before now- you still haven't returned my tool set. What do you do with those, anyway?” Cid asked.
“Hey, has anybody come down to see us?” Laguna replied quickly.
“Nope. Not a soul. Though, when we were thrown in here, I remember someone else was in another cell. He was screamin' up a storm.”
“Torture, I guess. Who was it?”
“Don't know. But the screaming was reduced to muttering a few hours ago, and he stopped talking altogether a few minutes ago. Bastard was driving me nuts. Hmm… HEY, BUDDY, ARE YOU ALRIGHT?!” Cid's yell got no response. “Must've fallen asleep or somethin'…”
A chill ran down Laguna's spine as the dungeon was cold and damp- that had to be it… “Yeah, I suppose. So, how're we gonna get out of here?”
“Didn't you already ask that?” Cid asked, annoyed.
“Yeah, but you never answered. Do you think we'll be tortured or killed too? If so, we'd better come up with something quick!”
“You're the non-brains here, you figure something out. I'm taking a nap.” Laguna opened his mouth to say something, but thought better of it. As Cid started snoring, Laguna started plotting.
Sephiroth went home, more tomes, journals, scrolls, and other things under his arm. Black circles hung below his eyes, which themselves were bloodshot. He had been awake for the past seventy-four hours, reading. He decided to go home for rest and restoration, followed by reading.
As he walked into his home Vincent sat at the kitchen table, his expression sad, yet grim. He looked at Sephiroth as the door opened. Sephiroth could see a mix of emotions and paused, waiting for his father to say something. After a few moments of silence Sephiroth spoke.
“What is it?” he asked impatiently.
“You haven't been home in more than three days. You said you were going to the library.”
“I was in the library.” Sephiroth replied shortly.
“Liar.” Vincent replied.
“I was. I was researching something for the king. Ask him yourself.”
“I did. He said he asked a favor of you. He didn't think you'd take it so seriously,” Vincent countered. Sephiroth scoffed.
“He's lying,” replied sharply. Vincent got to his feet angrily, his chair sweeping across the floor and hitting the wall.
“Don't even start!” Vincent snarled ferociously. After a pause, he sighed, and sat back in his chair. “There's something else… Squall, he… tried to commit suicide earlier today. He impaled himself with his gunblade. The drawing of Yuffie was near his body.
Sephiroth seemed apathetic but he replied anyway. “Is he dead?”
“No… They've got him in the infirmary. Yuffie, Aerith, and… um… Cloud… they're at the hospital right now. Do you want to go?”
“I'm tired, and I've got research.” Before Vincent could reply, Sephiroth stormed in his room, slamming the door behind him.
Chapter VI: Ruptured Barrier
“Humans… You live in a small world and box yourselves in rooms even smaller…”
It was early in the morning. Very early. Nobody was awake, except for the castle sentries that patrolled the corridors, but they wouldn't hinder Ansem's experiment. Only a few minutes earlier had Ansem selected a Heartless. It was a small black creature, something a child may find “cute”. It had glowing yellow eyes, and wriggling antennae. These breeds of Heartless (Ansem learned earlier that there were many different kinds, such as the feline variation from his experiment, and the wizard creature that interrupted dinner) were shockingly small for such dangerous creatures, but Ansem knew to keep up his guard.
The Heartless' antennae began to vibrate intensely, and it ran off into the depths of the castle. Ansem pursued the creature with no immediate hurry, just merely following it. The Heartless passed through the castle chapel, and into a room that Ansem hadn't noticed before now, which was very plain. The Heartless stopped- its journey was done. Rather than taking it back for study, Ansem merely conjured a small wave of energy, and sent it towards the Heartless, which dissipated in a cloud of black smoke. From the smoke rose a glowing “heart”, that vanished with the smoke.
Ansem was disappointed. The Heartless led Ansem into an abandoned room. But-
“Hello, what's this?” he muttered to himself. A solitary door stood there, set into the wall of the room.. The door had a large keyhole, and a doorknob. Ansem pondered for a few moments what lied beyond the door, but couldn't think of anything- he'd never known of this room's existence, let alone the door and wherever it lead… After thinking of all possible outcomes, Ansem opened the door, and began the Hollow Bastion's slow decline into darkness.
Squall was better in a few days after his incident. Nobody believed it was accidental, so Squall was placed in the worst possible place: the insane asylum, or, more like, the jail. And that was where Laguna was.
Squall just stared at Laguna, and Cid too, who were in separate cells. Squall was placed in a cell across from Cid's with clear view of Laguna. After the guards left, Squall broke the silence.
“You know, everybody up there thinks you're dead,” He said simply. Laguna looked at him wryly, and Cid scratched his head in confusion.
“Y'mean to tell me that Ansem didn't tell anybody he put us here?”
“Ansem put you here?” Squall asked. Now it was his turn to be confused.
“No, of course not. Vivi Oruntina tricked him in here, he said the prison was made of candy. Naturally Laguna went into that cell, curiosity claimed the poor fool.” Cid's little sarcastic rant confused Squall even more.
“Really? Because I think Laguna would be foolish enough to fall for it,” Squall replied. Cid threw his arms up in exasperation and Laguna looked at the floor forlornly.
“I want candy…” Laguna whimpered. Squall grunted to himself. He truly wished the Heartless had finished him off- nothing was more tortuous than this.
Ansem had returned from sending the Leonhart boy into prison and was tired. Kairi was tucked in bed, asleep. Her nanny, Ma Dincht, had told her a story earlier that afternoon, and it was Ansem that had to tell her what foolishness it was. The story entailed of a chain of worlds all being destroyed and recreated by the light in childrens' hearts. Ridiculous. Once Ansem told her the story was nonsense, she stopped worrying about it and went to sleep.
Ansem was on his way to his laboratory, when he saw it. A single falling star. Falling from the sky. It was fairly large, a jet stream of light. But more followed. Soon, the sky was filled with the falling stars. The stars came alarmingly close, one hitting the castle chapel, the other hitting the catacombs, both leaving gaping holes. But Ansem was too mesmerized. Once the meteor shower was over, Ansem noticed something peculiar- every star in the sky had vanished…
Ansem proceeded to his laboratory and quickly scrawled on a scrap of paper:
“To study the Heartless behavior, I picked one out for observation. It wiggled its antennae and, as if sensing a target, headed deep into the castle. In the deepest part of the castle, its antennae began vibrating, as if searching for something. Suddenly, a strange door appeared. I'd never known of its existence.
Ansem filed the page as “Report, Page Five”.
The next day, Ansem rounded up some more Heartless, to try and find that door again. They all lead him back to that same room, to that one door. After disposing of the Heartless (by use of a very sharp lance), Ansem opened the door once more. After staring at the lights and colors that lied beyond the door, Ansem closed it and rushed back to his lab.
The days following Squall's incident, Ellone didn't say much. She and Squall hadn't said much in the hospital room, and that is what was tearing her up inside. The last real conversation they had was a bitter one.
What if he had died? Was it her fault? Ellone couldn't handle all of the guilt. She merely stayed in her house, sobbing, and didn't come out.
Sephiroth didn't get to sleep a whole lot, but he got some sleep. As luck would have it, he was awake for the meteor shower. Such a fascinating occurrence! Sephiroth wondered what it would be like to able to control the stars. To bring love to the world, or bring destruction at whim. Such power… If only he could have it…
Ansem wrote even more sloppily than the last time, on the page that would be titled, “Report, Page Six”:
“A massive core of energy lay beyond the door sought by the Heartless. It may be the ultimate goal of the Heartless. But what is that energy? I have devised a hypothesis, based upon my observations of the Heartless.
Chapter VII: Revelations
“Ignorance truly is bliss.”
Laguna, Cid, and Squall stared at the meteor for several minutes, all of their heads, poking out between the cell before one of them spoke.
“What is it?” Laguna piped up softly.
“It's an- erm, that is to say, it's a-“
“Meteor,” whispered Squall, fascinated. He grabbed his sore chest, and coughed raspily, blocking his cough with his fist.
“Meteor? How do you know?” Laguna questioned, not taking his eyes off of the glowing rock.
“If fell out of the sky. Rocks don't rain from the sky for no apparent reason,” Squall replied annoyed. 'I swear, he's a complete idiot,' Squall thought to himself.
“Ah, yes, I see….” Laguna said wisely, nodding sagely. Squall shook his head, rolling his eyes in the process. He looked at the bars, shook them violently, and thought for a moment.
Cid and Laguna looked at him oddly. “What are you doing?” Cid asked, lighting his pipe. Squall ignored him as Cid puffed lightly, his cell filling with vanilla scented smoke.
Squall cleared his throat, rolled his neck, cracked his knuckles, and slipped through the bars. Cid dropped his pipe, and Laguna applauded.
“Thank you all,” Squall said, smiling lightly.
“I'll thank you once you get me out,” Cid said lustfully.
“It would be a nice gesture,” Laguna pleaded. Squall thought for a moment. 'I don't mind letting Cid out. But if I do that, Cid will want Laguna to get out… decisions, decisions...'
“Let me think about it,” Squall replied, sitting on the cold, damp, prison floor. Laguna grunted in disapproval, and Cid shook the bars of his cell. He yelled, cursed, and threatened Squall, until Squall stood, and looked around for a key.
“YOU LET US OUT RIGHT NOW, YOU RAT BASTAR-“ Laguna cleared his throat loudly, cutting Cid off. Cid looked to the wall of his cell, as if it were made of glass, and he were staring at Laguna. “But, Laguna, friend, he could be our only chance to get us out,” Cid said through clenched teeth, ever so calmly.
“He'll make the right decision,” Laguna responded comfortingly. Squall shrugged.
“See, you guys,” he said standing, and turning to walk away.
Ansem set the page into a portfolio with the other six, this page titled: “Report, Page Seven”:
“I am studying material from the meteors that rained down that fateful night. What a find! The material is foreign to our world. It is elastic to the touch, and when two pieces are combined, they bond easily.
And Ansem believed it. Uncharted, worlds… How many worlds were there? Two? Three? Forty-seven? Five-hundred-sixty-two? Or even 1,253, 739, 295 worlds? It fascinated Ansem to no end.
Were there multiple worlds out there? And, if so, how did he end up at the Hollow Bastion? And continuing on that, say there were 1, 253, 739, 295 worlds, couldn't he just have easily ended up somewhere else?
But, if there was any chance of leaving the Hollow Bastion, Ansem was sure he would take it. For now, he would wait.
Ansem was tired of waiting. He captured some more Heartless, scouring the rocky abyss below the castle, where the Heartless were innumerable.
'Simply astonishing. I wonder why they are all down here? Why haven't they all been attracted to the surface, where everyone is?' Ansem thought to himself. With a few 'Shadow' Heartless- the variety that appeared most frequently, the small ones that had glowing yellow eyes, and wriggling antennae- stuffed into a sack, Ansem traversed through the crags of the cliff, where he finally came to a cave.
'So many aspects of this world even I haven't discovered…' Ansem's thoughts were put to a halt as he saw what was in the cave.
A statue. Not just any statue, but a memorial. And not just any memorial, but the memorial of King Tetsuya Nomura, the first king of the Hollow Bastion. The statue was sculpted in marble, but marble that was tainted black. Many Heartless were stuffed inside the cave, some clawing the statue, some trying to absorb the statue, any way they could.
All were very hostile towards the statue. Many different kinds of Heartless, some that Ansem hadn't even seen before, were packed inside the cave. One Shadow's antennae vibrated, and straightened out, pointing directly at Ansem. It turned, and got the attention of the other Heartless, who were all soon staring at the king.
Ansem swore, turned and ran, the Heartless quick on his heels.
“Not a good day,” he grunted to himself as he ran, throwing the sack of Heartless over the side of a cliff trail.
Sephiroth was in the library.
“Go figure,” Yuffie said, her eyes stinging with tears. “I thought you'd be here.”
“Where else would I be?” Sephiroth responded, not looking up from the book he was reading.
“I don't know, with your friends, maybe? With- oh, say- me?” Her voice was sharp and cold.
“Why would I be with you?” Sephiroth asked incredulously, his nose still in the book. A pained wince crossed Yuffie's face, but Sephiroth didn't see it…
“We are dating!” Yuffie replied, her voice cracking as tears slowly slid down the contours of her face.
“What do you mean 'so what'?”
“I mean, what's the point? Of dating?”
“To… um… have fun. To get to know someone.” Yuffie's voice was becoming more indignant than hurt.
“Alright. Go, erm, have fun.”
“We're supposed to be together,” Yuffie responded crossly. “We're supposed to have fun, being together.”
“We're together now.”
“Not all of us. You are reading a damned book!” Now anger seethed into Yuffie's tone, and was deepening, as Sephiroth continued reading.
“Mm,” was Sephiroth's reply. Yuffie couldn't contain her anger, as she found one of her shurikens, and threw it at Sephiroth. The bladed circle dug into Sephiroth's angelic black wing, driving blood out, as it forced its way through feathers and into his flesh.
Sephiroth growled in pain, lowered his wing, and with one hand removed the shuriken, and his other hand turned the page. He dropped the shuriken, and it clattered to the library floor, the impact echoing through the walls. Sephiroth continued reading.
Yuffie, turned away, and ran out of the library, bawling to herself. She ran through the entrance hall, through hallways, through chapel, through the bowels of the castle. She ran for hours, and when she stopped, she was in an unfamiliar place.
Rocky cliffs surrounded her, and she looked around, her face mottled, saturated with tears.
'Great… Now I'm lost…' she thought bitterly. Thoughts raced through her head, some of her current situation, some of her bitter rage towards Sephiroth. Loud footsteps broke her train of thought. 'Who the-?'
“Ansem?” she muttered softly, confused. He was running from a stampede of the creatures… the “Heartless”.
He was gesturing for her to run, all the while running himself. Yuffie stood, growling. Now her king was being attacked???!? Was nothing meant to go right today?!?!?
Yuffie screamed, and drew her Four Point Shuriken, a shuriken the size of a large dinner plate, somewhat resembling a cross, and ran into the stampede. Ansem tried to pull her to follow him, but she didn't budge.
“Come with me, Miss Kurasagi!” Ansem ordered, looking frantically back to the herd of Heartless that were pursuing him.
“Go,” she snarled. “Run, now!” Yuffie's voice was saturated with distaste, and Ansem turned and ran, not in fear of the Heartless, but in fear of Yuffie. As Ansem ran away, Yuffie turned to face the Heartless.
It was only a few minutes later, and black dust, the only remains of the many Heartless, were blowing in the wind, and Yuffie was kneeling, wide-eyed, and breathless.
Her eyes were bloodshot, and her breathing was labored. So much anger and hate had been released, and Yuffie's mind was empty. She hated nobody, and nothing. In fact, she felt nothing, either. Her heart was gone… Sephiroth destroyed it… Her heart was dead. Upon realizing this, Yuffie's vision went dark, and she blacked out.
When Yuffie awoke, she was falling…
did i fall off the cliff…. no… darkness… im in… darkness… abyss…cold…
Yuffie's body vanished, becoming a cloud of black smoke. A glowing heart rose from the cloud and dissipated. The cloud conformed, and twisted, into that of a Shadow Heartless.
Squall didn't get very far. As he started walking, he glanced over to cell two over from Cid's. Inside was a Heartless.
'Is it a Heartless?' Squall thought to himself. His mere presence caught the creature's attention, and it “faced” Squall (this breed of Heartless was the small wizard type that had interrupted dinner a few weeks earlier, the day Cloud came to the Hollow Bastion).
The two stood motionless, until the Heartless disappeared. Squall scratched his head in confusion, ignoring Cid's screams of anger. 'Where did it-' Squall didn't compete the thought as a blow struck him in the back of the head. Squall, rubbing the back of his head, angrily turned. The Heartless floated there, brandishing a small staff.
Squall growled, and punched the creature, which seemed to have no effect, as the Heartless tried to hit him again. Squall dodged the attack, and dashed over to Laguna's cell.
“Laguna! I need a weapon! A Heartless is here!” Squall exclaimed urgently, yet calmly.
“H-H-Hang on,” Laguna stammered nervously. He fumbled around his boot, and after a few seconds, produced a small derringer. “Here,” said Laguna raspily, handing the small gun to Squall. “It only has one shot, so be careful,” Laguna warned.
“Ugh, fine,” Squall replied, taking the pistol from Laguna's outstretched hand. He cocked it, aimed, and pulled the trigger. A loud pop issued from the gun, and the Heartless, who was approaching menacingly, swinging its staff, fell to the ground twitching. Squall dropped the pistol, and ran to the trembling creature.
He wrenched its staff from its hand, and beat the creature until it was unmoving, and finally turned into a cloud of black smoke, from which a glowing heart rose, and vanished.
Squall was breathless, and was gripping the staff tightly. He looked to Laguna, then to Cid, then back to Laguna. Squall then jammed the staff's bottom end into the cell's keyhole, and moved it around, until the cell unlocked. Squall pulled the door open, and Laguna ran out, cheering and praising Squall.
Squall, rolled his eyes, and walked over to Cid's cell, unlocking it. Cid opened his door, and as he walked out of his cell, he glared venomously at Squall.
“Why did you turn to leave?” he asked scathingly.
“I was… oh, I dunno… uh… getting the key to let you guys out,” Squall replied slowly.
“Really?” asked Laguna, crossing his arms.
“No. But, hey, if it's not broken, don't fix it, right?” Squall asked.
A brief flash- a much younger Laguna and two other young males, were all dressed in odd military uniforms, blue vinyl, with silver armor placed here and there. They were all standing in a tunnel of a multi-colored cave.
“There! Like killing two pigs with one stone!” Laguna cheered. The large male cocked his head to one side, looking critically at Laguna.
“Two pigs…” he started
“…with one stone…?” a dark-skinned man finished.
“Yeah…” Laguna replied slowly. “Never mind, let's just go…”
Laguna and Squall both stumbled backward, Squall putting a hand to his head, Laguna, leaning against a cell door for support.
Cid remained motionless, staring at them both. He cleared his throat, to get the duo's attention.
“You were saying?” he said gruffly.
“Hm? Oh, never mind,” Squall replied, his mind a bit jumbled. A brief pause ensued, and Laguna piped up.
“Cid, a few days ago, you said a man was screaming in the cell close to you…”
“Yeah, why?” Cid asked, re-lighting his pipe, and taking a long puff.
“Well...” Laguna pointed to the cell that was two away from Cid's- it was empty.
“Wait… there was a Heartless in that cell…” Squall murmured slowly.
“You don't think that….” Laguna trailed off, his eyes slinking over to the Heartless' staff, resting on the stone floor.
“Heartless are actually people?” Cid inquired, furrowing a brow. He puffed on his pipe sagely, chewing on the end.
“And I'll bet Ansem did this… I can't believe it…” Squall said bitterly. “Ansem was our king. Our leader… One who puts his people and kingdom before all else…”
“Maybe,” Laguna replied loudly, his voice chillingly drawled, “Ansem should have been put in the cell, and not you, Squall.”
“Let's face it, you guys- Ansem has gone insane,” Squall agreed.
“What are we gonna do?” asked Cid, puffing his pipe, chewing on its end nervously.
“The only thing we can do,” replied Laguna, “We have to kill the king… We have to kill Ansem.”