–Ah, what the hell? Since it’s a fresh start and all, I’ll just repost the story from the beginning. >ignores the groans< I’ll repost one installment every couple of days or so, as to not rush everything. (And to give me plenty of time to get cracking with the next part. >grins<) I hope I’m not boring anybody, but I might as well put the rest of it up. My ego can’t take being out of the spotlight for long. >winks<–
Disclaimer: Yeah, yeah, yeah… I don’t own Final Fantasy 7, or else I would’ve put a better ending with it. >smiles< So, um, don’t sue. Oh, and I don’t own Metallica either, but I thought it’d be a better title than “Pradeciatio Vomica”. >shrugs< Ah well…
[i]Hero of the Day
“They’re off to find the hero of the day…
…but what if they should fall by someone’s wicked way?”
–Metallica, “Hero of the Day”[/i]
They clashed, Lifestream and Holy battling against Meteor’s dark intent. A sea of green flooded the area, growing in brightness and intensity until it was blinding. It was breath-taking; unreal in its beauty. The light died down as quickly as it arrived, leaving a darkness none had seen since the appearance of Meteor. To the warriors, clinging to various protruding objects inside the battered remains of the soaring Highwind, the darkness brought mixed feelings.
The ninja never really enjoyed flight in the first place, and this last installment, while she realized it was the only way to live, made her stomach do a series of backflips. Grasping blindly at a wall for support, she stared out of the main window. She grinned when she saw the black skyline. “We did it!” she exclaimed happily.
The ship veered in a sharp U-turn, heading quickly back towards Midgar, which they had flown away from minutes before. Everyone remained eerily silent, all gazing out of the pane. The ebon haired Wutanian knitted her brows, frowning at everybody’s speechlessness. Staggering forward, she was forced to use a slightly dazed Cid Highwind as her anchor, to keep from falling flat on her face. Much to her surprise, although little surprised her now, the brusque pilot said nothing. He merely held out his arm slightly to steady her before turning his attention back to the oddly blank scene.
She joined them; half wondering what they were looking at, half wondering what they were thinking. She wasn’t so full of herself to think she knew everything…at least, not anymore. But, she questioned, what they were seeing that she wasn’t. They won. What else was there? Yuffie sighed. “I don’t get it,” she muttered, gaining the attention of the man next to her.
“Get what?” he answered quietly, barely more than a hoarse rumble.
She motioned her head around the cockpit. Although she wanted to, she didn’t raise her voice above a whisper. Yuffie figured she didn’t want to see what would happen if she disturbed their thoughts. “What’s the deal with everybody?”
He shrugged slightly, frowning. “Guess they’re in a retrospective mood.”
She quirked an eyebrow in sardonic amusement. “Big word for you.”
“I’m foul-mouthed, not stupid,” he replied, annoyed.
“Sorry,” she mumbled.
He smirked weakly. “Big word for you.”
She sneered, staring out into the window for another moment before piping up again. “Still haven’t answered my question.” The figure remained silent, gazing out into the oblivion oddly; he looked almost pained by seeing the meteor was gone from the sky. He seemed sad that the sky wasn’t tinted a sickly red, that bane of life spiraling in the air without a care in the world. “And what’s with the long face? We won!”
Yuffie, when she witnessed his muscles tightening, realized that what she said must have tweaked his temper. Cid whirled his head around, glaring down to the teenager. “Grow the hell up, brat! Life ain’t like that!”
She took a step away, her eyes wide. If he had uttered that at any other moment in time, she would have either argued or become verbally abusive. In fact, she probably would’ve done both. But at that point, she was too tired to care. “What the hell are you talking about, old man?”
He continued to glower at her angrily, opening his mouth to prepare a flurry of expletives to flow. However, nothing came out. Chuckling bitterly, he shook his head, looking out the window. “Y’know, I almost envy you.”
She blinked. This was strange territory she was entering into, and she wasn’t entirely sure if she wanted to cross the threshold or not. “Why?”
Sighing, he patted his dust-covered jacket for a pack of cigarettes, dropping the remains of the one he had smoked beneath his heel. “Yer youth, kid.” Finally finding one half-smoked in one of his inner pockets, he fished it out, placing it between his lips. “Hmph. ‘Youth; wasted on the young.’” He searched again for a lighter, to no avail. “Aw, dammit.” Growling, he ripped the tube from his mouth, placing it back where he had found it.
Her eyes instinctively narrowed. “My youth? What the hell’s that supposed to mean?”
He nodded, chewing on his lower lip, for the lack of anything else to chew upon. “Yeah. ‘Cause you’re young. Ya don’t know how the world works yet.” She crossed her arms over her chest, his words pricking at her ire in much the same way a child would flick someone’s ear. Before she could protest his statement, though, he continued. “Look, kid, as much as ya might like to think ya do, ya don’t, trust me. I was in yer place once, and I thought the same damn thing. But when I got older…” He snorted to himself. “Never thought I’d live to see the day when I heard myself say that. God, I’m gettin’ old.”
She bit back a sigh of annoyance. “You still haven’t answered my question.”
The pilot stared at her for a moment blankly, before returning his cerulean eyes to the velvety darkness outside the remains of his beloved Highwind. Yuffie took the area in, mentally kicking herself. She may not have exactly liked the guy, foul-mouthed blow-hard that we was, but this was his pride and joy that had been almost completely demolished by Holy’s awesome power. It was his sweat and blood that went into this ship; the only remaining piece being the main body of it, wings unfurled along the latter edges, propelled by a jet engine in the back. It was his ship that had been reduced to a small escape craft. And here she was, barraging him with questions as to why he was feeling a little down.
The blond sighed, leaning his weight into his hands, which were perched on the top of the controls. “Ya wanna know what I’m talkin’ about?” She nodded, remaining silent. His eyes flickered out to the blackness before resting on her youthfully curious face. “Not everybody won, kid.”
She furrowed her brows. “What do you mean? I don’t get it.”
He smirked sadly, his eyes languidly traveling back outside to the fast approaching city. “Think about it for a sec. Midgar’s the biggest city on the face of the goddamn planet. And that’s exactly where Meteor, Holy and the Lifestream all went. Now, what’re the odds that the city’s still intact after all that?”
Slowly, as Cid explained, the ninja’s eyes widened, the true horror of what he was saying sinking in. That city had millions upon millions of people. It was strong and powerful enough to fight and win against her people. All of that, wiped out…? “But…Reeve just said a few minutes ago that he had everybody take refuge in the slums. There has to be someone alive.”
“I hope, kid, I hope,” he answered tiredly, sighing. “But, chances are, the entire city’s now a wasteland,” he finished, edged with a certain finality that she found very disconcerting. Out of the corner of her enlarged eyes, she saw some of the others tense, and some outright shudder.
Their movements were not lost upon the older pilot, who quickly fell silent, content with staring out into oblivion. For a moment, she was angry. So what if it was a wasteland?! They all would’ve died anyway if it weren’t for them! They made the world safe! Yuffie instantly took that thought back. That was purely naïve. She of all people knew the world was never a safe place. Maybe that’s what was picking at their brains; the thought that even though they saved the world, it would still be prey to such horrors and terrors as it was before, and that would never change. She frowned deeply, a dejected sense of hopelessness beginning to swirl in her now settled stomach.
Moments passed in electrifying silence, before the pilot’s tall frame straightened, inhaling deeply. Her eyes dropped to the metallic floors, feeling sick and guilty for not being able to do more. She was never one for chivalry. In fact, most of the time she could have cared less how others were suffering. Still, she felt hurt that somehow, despite all their work, everything still came out the same. The world was saved, but only to live in the way it had always been before; blind to its bruises and deaf to its cries for help. It was only when she felt his heavy hand fall upon her thin shoulder that she finally looked up to see his chiseled lips tugged up into a ghost of a grim smile. “Welcome to the real world.”
She harrumphed as he looked away, back to the helm. Gazing up, she watched him take manual control of the craft, lowering the module as cleanly as possible. “Shit,” Highwind muttered heatedly.
Finally, their leader, Cloud turned. “What?”
Yuffie felt the steel begin to vibrate through the soles of her shoes. Cid, no doubt, had noticed the shaking long before she ever had. “Systems ain’t responding,” he hissed, his hands whisking quickly about the helm as the shaking of the hull only became more pronounced. “And the landing gears’ve been shot to hell.” Cracked pipes hissed steam in defiance, a background thrum to the screaming of the metal beneath her feet. The sounds, utterly gruesome, did not dissipate as she barely made out a wall of charred dirt approaching ever closer. “Shit!” Cid roared, jerking the wheel violently to the right, sending the airship veering off sharply.
Yuffie was sent flying, and it was a testament to her years of training in martial arts that she was able to land on the unforgiving steel paneling without breaking anything. Still, she hit the floor hard, yelping in pain at the stabbing sensation in her hip. The largest man of their troupe, Barret, landed in a heap next to her, the heavy metal gun grafted onto his right arm slamming scant inches in front of her face with a thundering clang.
Warning sirens were now blaring as the two of them struggled to their feet, Yuffie clutching the first thing bolted to the hull. “Hold on everybody!” Cid shouted, desperately battling with the helm.
“Thanks for the warning!” Yuffie barked harshly over the sirens, clinging to a small hand-hold for dear life as she was flailed about like a rag doll. However, the ninja doubted he even heard her, either due to the inhuman noises or his concentration set solely upon trying to survive. Frankly, she didn’t care. If she walked out of this at all, she’d be content.
She kept the handle in a deathgrip as her entire body flew off the floor, lurching upwards. Gritting her teeth in pain, she felt spears of fire engulf her entire shoulder, a sickening pop reaching her ears at the same moment. Through slit eyes, she witnessed various members of the Highwind crew haplessly soaring upwards towards the back of the bridge at break-neck speeds. Their shrieks of fear were only adding to the barrage of sounds that pelted her ears.
Time seemed to visibly slow as the doomed ship plummeted ever closer to the ground. Her eyes locked upon the dark-skinned man that landed next to her moments before. His one good arm was clawing madly at anything he could grab, his fingernails scraping helplessly against the smooth steel. Slowly, inexorably, he continued to slide backwards, his own raven eyes widening in ever-growing shock. Not fear; no, Yuffie had learned early on that Barret feared nothing for himself. He feared only for his young daughter, Marlene, who was sitting at a strange home with a nice old woman, but was still not her father. Yuffie herself never truly understood how it felt to fear for someone else’s life, considering she had always been more concerned with looking out only for her own interests.
She abruptly decided to change that.
Taking out her weapon of choice, the Conformer, she hefted it in her hand. It was a truly fearsome looking weapon, one that was made especially for her hands alone. The large five-pointed, crimson tipped shuriken was held together by a band of gold below the sharp points, making it more aerodynamic and accurate. She was counting on that accuracy as she hurled it as hard as she could towards Barret’s skidding form. The razor sharp points dug into the steel with little effort, tearing down until only one small section of the weapon was sticking up from the metal. Gratefully, the rebel reached for it, his fingers gripping the object tightly, despite the fact it was slicing through his leather glove and calloused skin.
Time reasserted itself when a coarse, tobacco-thick voice boomed, “SHIT! Brace for impact!” Before her mind could even fully register what he’d screamed, the skin-crawling sound of steel grinding and buckling against stone and dirt filled her ears. The red emergency lights that provided the illumination went out in a shower of sparks, shimmering about her in a chaotic ballet of flame and metal whisking in the otherwise dark compartment. Her already mangled shoulder cracked loudly as her backside slammed against a bulkhead. She growled in pain, the tendrils of white-hot flame saturating her left arm only redoubling her efforts to hold on.
Several shouts and screams exploded all around her as she felt the quake of the landing through her entire body. Her legs swung forward against her will, her torso following suit. Yuffie still felt her grip on the iron rung as she continued into the air, careening farther into the darkness. For a moment, a light flashed, illuminating a steel vent that was directly in her path of the mass of crushed steel below hurtling towards her. The light disappeared as quickly as it came, and she was enveloped in darkness.
–There ya go!–