World 18: Final Fantasy VII

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Previously: Easy Fix

Themesong: Eh Cumpari by Julus La Rosa

As an elf, I could have sailed on the white ships to the undying lands, and believe you me, it was tempting. The elves can sail back and forth to the Undying Lands after all. In the end I chose not to. I didn’t know, and was unwilling to risk that that would be counted as either dying or (more likely) choosing to stay. As an elf, I could, in theory have remained in Middle Earth until the rise of modern civilization, as Tolkien always claimed that Middle Earth was the history of our own world. But by the end of my stay I’d had enough of Gondor, enough of Rohan, enough of Erebor and Harad and all the other places that had filled my youthful imagination. It just wasn’t that big a place, and woefully underpopulated. Had I wished, I probably could have met every living person in Middle Earth.

Instead I went Legend hunting. Three things I wanted, three things I claimed. A Spider, a Balrog, and a Dragon. The first two were… well… not easy… but I knew where they were. The Balrog was within the Mines of Moria, the Spider in the high path near Cirith Ungol. The Dragon took longer. Much longer. Even with magical scrying and a shuttle craft’s scanners, Dragons aren’t easy to find. I had thought to use Smaug’s remains to get a DNA sample, but the Dwarves of the Lonely Mountain were… idiots. They’d left the entire dragon at the bottom of the Lake where he’d settled after being shot. That lake is deep. I had to go Argonian and even then… not fun. Still, I froze big red and all his jewels and bones and horns into an iceberg, then floated it to the surface. Took weeks to pull everything out of the ice and it smelled… unpleasant to boot. All the surface DNA was compromised. Had to go to the bones with a decidedly un-lore friendly bonedrill.

I found them, eventually, but that mostly led me to other dead dragons. I collected their bits for later whatever, but I wanted a live one. I eventually found one, far to the north, an Ice Drake named Belagar. It didn’t go down easy and I didn’t even try stealth on it. I challenged Belagar in straight up battle, an honor I hadn’t given to Shelob or Durin’s Bane. Both of them had earned their deaths long before I arrived in Middle Earth. Shelob, an ambush predator, I ambushed with fire and spellcraft. Durin’s Bane I lured to the bridge of Khazad Dum, as had Gandalf, and like Gandalf, I shattered the bridge and dropped us both into that deep unnamed lake with waters as cold as death. And there, in my element, I drowned the flaming beast then locked it in shackles of ice as hard as any ever winterborn. And then Soul of Ice was quenched and tempered in their blood.

The Balrog’s Skull I presented to King Dane, along with the news that Moria had fallen to goblins… goblins who were now dead. Shelob’s head I brought to Thranduil. And Belagar’s bones I brought to Gondor. Of the Dragon’s wings, I made a suit of armor for Zane, enchanted against even the harshest elements. And of the Dragon’s claws, I made swords, swords as sharp as thought itself.

In my time in Middle Earth, I fought men and orcs, met kings and heroes and restored Aragorn to his rightful place… a tricky thing to do without the War of the Ring. I considered the course of history, and whether I had any right to usurp the author’s will as I had… then I shrugged. These were my stories, my lifetimes… the Author’s will had played out as the Author willed it countless other times.

Still, I was anxious for the next jump to begin as this one ended. By mutual agreement, we all decided to Jump straight in. I knew the music coming from the Vending Machines the moment we stepped into the Warehouse. The victory theme from Final Fantasy is unmistakable.

The Golden Saucer spinning wheel for age and the Midgar spinning wheel for location might also have been clues. I gave them both a spin as I stepped over to the machine. Final Fantasy VII is one of my favorites. I’d collected every Materia, every limit break, everything there was to collect in that game. I bred Chocobos, defeated the Weapons, saved the day. Now, if only I could keep Sephiroth from killing Aerith. But I was getting ahead of myself.

I looked through the whole tree… then grunted. This was going to take more planning than I’d thought. The import option gives each of my companions 400 CP of their own. It was like outfitting a group for war or planning an RPG Loadout. And one Drawback gave me all the extra CP I needed… without undue hardship. All I had to do was kill Ruby and Emerald Weapon… sometime in my jump. Or it’s game over.

With that in mind I grabbed Cetra (Aerith’s race, making us the last two alive). That cost [200] and came with Hunted, but let’s be honest, I was already going to bring down Shinra; having them hunting me was a foregone conclusion. The wheels had pegged me at 21 and placed my starting location as the Golden Saucer, which kept me safely far from Shinra’s main base at least at first. Would have prefered Wutai (Ninja town) or Icicle Inn, but at least it wasn’t Midgar.

Being a Cetra made me a Mage (You’re very good at using Materia and have a massive MP pool.) and Voice of the Planet (You can hear the voice of the Planet, are aware of what state the planet is in, including if it is hurting and what is hurting it. Plus, you occasionally hear from the recently departed.) Bonus MP is always nice, and extra skill with using Materia can’t be bad. The Voice of the Planet is nice… should help in future jumps if I end up on Pandora or Alpha Centauri or Deadworld… or any other sentient planets.

I snagged the discounted True Magic for [300], that would allow me to cast the spells of any green Materia that I have ever used, even if I don’t have them equipped, if at a slightly lessened effect. They’d cost as much MP as they normally would, but I also didn’t get the stat mods from the Materia either.

I considered the Improved Materia Growth, which made Materia mature faster, but that wouldn’t be much use in later jumps, so I skipped it. Instead I plunked down another [300] for Limit Break (After taking enough damage in battle, you can overcome your own limits to unleash a devastatingly powerful attack. By practicing and continuously using your Limit Break, you can learn new, more powerful ones. However, training alone won’t be enough to learn your ultimate Limit Break.) I checked my bank. With the [300] to import my companions and the [+600] from Optional Bosses, I had 500 left, which was enough to buy Ultimate Limit Break… but that just guarantees finding the book that would teach me how to push my Limit Break to its limit. Otherwise I’d have to search the whole planet to find the book, but either way, the book existed. 

I considered taking the council of my fears, but ultimately decided that if I didn’t find the book, I didn’t deserve the Ultimate Limit Break. A dose of Felix Felicis or two should be enough to guarantee finding it. So I turned that down… and the Airship too. And even passed on the Ribbon, which was discounted for Cetra. Same for the Jenova Cells (not sure I trust myself with them.) And the Chocobo. I even skipped the Multiple Lifetime Pass which would have given me limitless Disney tickets.

In fact, the only Gear I took were the free Armor and Weapons (each comes with 2 Materia slots and aren’t particularly impressive.) and the Packet of Phoenix Downs which is free to Cetra… which is just cruel! It’s a collection of Healing Items meant to revive someone from the brink of death… they don’t work on the dead, just the nearly dead.

And some starting Materia. Everyone gets the big four; Fire, Bolt, Ice, & Cure… all are Green Spell Materia. Cetra get a pack of Summoning Materia as well; Choco/Mog, Shiva, & Ifrit. A stampede of horse-ostriches, plus Ice and Fire. Suits my motif down to the bone.

As a Cetra, I got a discount on any two additional Materia purchases. Sure. I’ve played the game… several times. I have a perfect memory. I knew where each and every Materia is to be found… in theory. But I had 500 burning a hole in my pocket. I snake Advanced Summon Materia for [300] (Which nets me the Materia for Alexander (Holy Attack), Hades (Status Attack), and Bahamut ZERO (ZOMG Non-Elemental Fuck you and your donkey Attack… from Space!) and the Added Cut Materia [100] (which is a Support Materia that allows me to perform an additional physical attack when I use whatever Materia it’s linked to (If I link it to Cure, I’ll be able to attack and cure at the same time… somehow). And since I’d have to pay full price for anything else, I snagged the Long Range Materia for [100]… which gives my physical melee attacks a range of 20 meters… at no MP cost. Insanity.

Zane comments on the foolishness of spending 500 precious points on something I’m going to pick up in from the setting as it is, something that, thanks to the Giant Master Materia can be found in an all but limitless supply from inside the jump, and I frown in annoyance. “But if I don’t take them, I’m wasting my discount.” I respond petulently. 

“That’s the dumbest reason for taking them I can think of.”

“You’re the dumbest reason for taking them.”

“Very mature,” he drawled.

I stuck my tongue out at him. “Well, what would you recommend instead?”

“Honestly? Two Ribbons would be good.”

“I can get one of those in the Jump.” I protested.

“How many?”

“Umm… one… Temple of the Ancients…”

“And how many copies of Summon Master Materia can you get?”

“If we can find all 16 normal Summon Materia? As many as we want, since every time you master a Materia it splits off another. Oh, and defeating Emerald Weapon gets you a complete set of all the Master Materia… if everything plays out like it does in the game.”

“The 16 Materia you know the exact locations of. Those ones? And aren’t we going to kill Emerald Weapon according to your plan?”

“Yes… well… fiiiiine.” I felt like sulking, but he was right. Cetra even got a discount on Ribbons. I switched my purchases and that spent me out, but that meant I was only a third of the way through the madness.

I paused then, considering. My plan to grab the Materia could weaken the party trying to save the world from Sephiroth. There seemed to be only one solution, but it meant giving up on a lot of autonomy, since it made me part of the plotline. I didn’t know how much I’d be able to change things, but honestly, I love the game and it would be awesome to fight besides Cloud, Yuffie, Tifa, and Barret. Plus, I kinda wanted to pet Red XIII. I hit the confirm on “Ain’t No Gettin’ off this train we’re on.” but leave the Ruined Forever option (which makes some of Crisis Core, Dirge of Cerberus, or Advent Children canon) unselected. I don’t need the tsuris and I hadn’t played either side-game and had fallen asleep during my only viewing of Advent Children. Still, joining the plot was bad enough. I was a Cetra, dropping deep into Midgar and AVALANCHE. I must be out of my mind.

Still, I had companions to import. Maybe we could make a difference? But I wasn’t sure. I tossed things out to my companions, asking for volunteers. I got them. No big surprise. The Bosses decided to infiltrate the Turks, though it meant giving up their CP and just starting with the Freebees… Dirty Fighting, Specialty Weapon (6 slots), Basic Armor, The Big Four Materia, and 200,000 Gil as starting cash. Admittedly, Dirty Fighting wouldn’t be much a boost to either of them, but Joy selected a Rapier for her specialty weapon… fairly normal really… but Ahab decided to get into the spirit of things and selected a freaking Harpoon Gun. Not a spear gun… a Harpoon. Welcome to Midgar indeed.

Team Hibiki decided to go Mercenary, netting them both Monster Hunter (Your skills at fighting all the horrible beasties that inhabit this world has been improved. You know how to hold your own in a brawl, and could reasonably expect to come out on top in a battle against the monsters of this world, provided you’re not horribly underleved.) and Advanced Weapons and Armor which were pretty much like basic, but stronger, less realistic and with 4 Materia slots each.

Ryoga got Mage so he’d have a ton of manna to go with his boatloads of stamina, and SOLDIER First Class, which made him part of the same freakshow as Cloud and Sephiroth, gave him enhanced physical and magical abilities, extreme combat training, and glowy eyes. He seemed pretty stoked by the idea. Yoiko, showing slightly more sanity than her brother, went for Limit Break, Loot (the ability to find more money and rare drops when killing things), and a Map of the planet. She said “It says it could be useful if you get lost easily!” I couldn’t argue with that. The map even shows where she is at all times.

Zane picked AJ as his partner for the roll of Drop-Ins. That snagged them both Survival Kits (a small supply of healing potions, status restoring items, and rations), as well as the PHS ability (The Party Handling System which lets one summon their companions to their side once every 12 hours.) Both should be useful. Zane snagged the Mage package too, because he’s no fool, as well as 50k Gil in starting cash and the Lifetime Pass to the Golden Saucer. He also picked up the Inventory Perk, which will allow him to send and retrieve items to / from the warehouse as long as they’re small enough to fit in his hand… like healing potions, grenades, and magazines (dirty or ammo, your choice).

AJ also snagged Mage, but he went with Final Attack. It functions like the Materia of the same name, allowing a person to reflexively lash out with a single technique when they’re KO’d, but unlike the Materia, it can be any spell, technique, or power AJ knows. It might not be easy to target, but it does come with a guarantee it won’t attack us or aid the enemy. And the keyed ability can be changed with a little focus. It made sense for a little goober who couldn’t be killed to have a suicidal retribution attack.

That just left Bao and Uriel, who were still very much a couple to the degree it sometimes got on my nerves. Sure, the Hibiki’s and I were still… together… but we were pretty open and casual about it. Anyway, the former detectives decided to be Shinra Scientists, with Bao assigned to the SOLDIER program, giving him Knowledge of Experimental Biosciences, and Uriel assigned to Weapons Development Division, which was just scary as that gave him knowledge of Weapons Design. Both of them also started with 200,000 Gil and both snatched up Mage.

Bao grabbed Trade secrets, i.e. the intimate knowledge of the inner workings of Mako Reactors, how to build them and how to make variations, like small personal reactors or Materia Forges. Sure, the process wasn’t fast, and if abused it could serious damage or kill a living planet. It would be interesting, he said, to find out what kind of Materia other planets could produce.

Uriel snatched up Dirty Tactics as well, plus the Add Slots Perk, which will let him modify equipment to add Materia slots to armor, clothing, or weapons, in proportion to how powerful the equipment is, how receptive it is to magical energy, and how big the damned thing is… up to a maximum of 8 in any one piece of equipment. That should come in handy. Apparently Uriel has decided he wants to be our Weaponsmith. With the last of his points, he picked up the 1/35th scale model of a Shinra Soldier. I’ve no idea why, but it seemed to amuse him.

Of course, I’d paid for 8 companions and was importing 8, but I still had two tickets, all expenses paid, to Midgar, just ripe for swapping out if anyone got bored… and if they didn’t, well, no point letting the CP go to waste. The final “honors” to be in Team Warehouse went to Petra and Francy.

Petra went Mercenary, picking up Monster Hunter, then snagged Loot & the Beach House (a villa in Costa Del Sol. Francy went Drop-In, picking up PHS, then took the Multiple Lifetime Pass and Mage. At least someone gets into all the parks free.

WELCOME TO MIDGAR

We ended up running out most of the clock on our downtime anyway. This was going to be a massive operation and we needed to have all our ducks in a row. We dropped in right where we expected, 5 of us on the AVALANCHE Train, 4 of us in Shinra HQ. I hadn’t been sure about the Rules of Encounter in this setting, the first based off a videogame I’d actually played. Would some force limit us to 3 on 5 or so? As it turns out… no. We were free to use our entire party and the enemy was free to use all of theirs.

It rapidly became clear that, I at least, was massively overleveled, so I held myself back, using my basic weapon, armor, and Materia. Of course, I say Weapon, but they were brass knuckles and my armor was a spiked collar, leather jacket (with spikes) and leather pants. I looked like the world’s smallest punkrocker. I even had a foot high mohawk that seemed to have absolutely no gel or hairspray in it. The back of my jacket had the Shinra logo in the mouth of a steel skull. I guess that was this world’s version of a red circle.

We hit the reactor and broke it good. Somehow, and this happened even though I knew it would, Cloud and I got separated from the others, running into Aerith in the slums. There was a spark of recognition between the flower girl and myself, and I barely opened my mouth before she slapped me. “Where have you been!?” I had not been expecting that. I’d been too caught up in the… Woooo… this is cool… and analysis mode to think too much on my overlay memories. “Sorry Mom! I was- oww oww!” She yanked my ear hard “Don’t call me mom. I was worried about you.” “Sorry Sis. I joined up with those guys over in Sector Seven who are trying to bring down Shinra… this is Cloud. He’s kinda hunky, even if he’s a bit of a mercenary.”

My elder sister glowered at me, then greeted Cloud politely. She agreed to join us, or rather drafted him to take us home. Everything was on track… which meant it was just about time for Shinra to drop a plate on Sector Seven. Hopefully the rest of my team had convinced Barret to evacuate the sector.

Reno (a Turk commander) showed up with his goon squad before I could check on that, with Joy and Ahab among them. I took the Turks out while Cloud got my sister out of the chapel, though of course my allies threw the fight (and handed over most of their cash which I stashed in the Warehouse). Cloud walked Aerith home while she flirted with him and I tried not to gag. After a night’s sleep… or them and a bit of light recon for me… I got back to the house to find that Cloud had snuck out and Aerith had followed. I caught up to them in Sector Six as they were turning Cloud into a woman so they could sneak into some pimp’s mansion. I tagged along, amused, sorting through my memory for my past. I appear to have been the daughter of Ifalna and Professor Hojo, Shinra chief scientist, murderer of Aerith’s father (Professor Gast, another Shinra scientist) and general horrible person who experimented on Aerith, Ifalna, and I for years before we escaped, and were taken in by Elmyra Gainsborough, who raised Aerith and Me after Ifalna died.

Well… that was weird. We invaded the mansion with Fem-Cloud (and yes, I’d thought about offering them the use of my J-Water, but decided against it), with me expecting Tifa to say that Don Cornhole picked his lover for the night from one of three girls (Tifa, Aerith, F-Cloud)… but the story had adjusted to make it four. Minor change, couldn’t tell if that was good or bad. We still ended up in the sewer… or rather the three of them did and I, curious to see what would happen to the story, shot Corneo a couple of times in the head, then dropped down after the others, arriving just as they’d finished off the sewer beast, Aps.

As we made our way through the Train Graveyard, I made it a policy to protect the others, taking blows from them and healing them while they attacked, but unlike the game, this clearly wasn’t “Take Your Time.” Still, we arrived with the Pillar still standing, just in time to watch Wedge fall from the platform high above. I “leaped” into the air, catching the falling Fatso, who landed on me as I cushioned his fall. Aerith and I ran off to rescue Marlene, Barret (the leader of AVALANCHE’s) daughter.

Unfortunately, as the story demanded, Aerith and I were forced to surrender ourselves to protect Marlene. I held off reducing the Shinra thugs to powder as I verified that everyone was okay and that the evac had been mostly successful. Still, that meant we had to wait to be rescued. Which gave us time to get to know Red XIII, who is very nice and fairly fluffy in the flesh… and not at all polygonal.

Dad, Hojo, was being actually almost nice to me… or at least nicer then he was being to Aerith, who he was totally planning on breeding with Red. Seriously. Dude thought a human and a… ummm… Red… could interbreed. Fucking lunatic. But then again, I knew that. He left before I could smash my way out of the test chamber… which I actually proved incapable of doing, which was frustrating. Apparently it had been built to contain magical super strong beasts… and to suppress magic. And there even appeared to be a freaking anti-HF barrier in the floor. This was insane… it was as if Hojo knew of my abilities… maybe he did. I could access my warehouse, but since I couldn’t move the entrance I was stuck… or so I thought. After the fact, I realized I might have been able to open a portal out of the warehouse wider than the cage… but hindsight is 20-20.

The alarms started not long after Hojo left, letting me know everyone was on the way. I pulled out a snackbar and waited. If luck was with us, my companions inside AVALANCHE would be hooking up with my companions in Shinra’s science departments. Soon enough, they burst into dad’s lab, freed us all, then we headed up to the top floor for a showdown with Shinra CEO.

“Did you set the explosives?” I asked Zane in Hebrew. “Of course.” he responded, grinning. I didn’t know if it was going to work… and in a little bit I began to know what a player with a railroading GM must feel like. I’d had Zane rig the Jenova sample with enough High Explosives to vaporize a main battle tank and set to go off the second anyone messed with it. The building shook violently as it went off, while we were still in the elevator on the way up. That wasn’t supposed to happen. We were supposed to get some exposition from the Shinra CEO then get thrown in a cell. A few minutes later, the elevator resumed and we found the Shinra President dead, impaled by Sephiroth’s sword. Somehow Jenova had survived the blast.

And speaking of a tank, the one in the elevator fight is soo much worse when it’s actually firing weapons that are anti-monster attacks instead of anti-personnel. Still we managed to escape the city and the railroading eased up a bit.

The game became significantly more TYT once we were outside Midgar and could explore as we wished, events only triggering once we entered new areas. Still, if we lingered anywhere too long, Shinra started closing in, with SOLDIER units and the Turks. Yet, thanks to our infiltration, we had warning of their movements and managed to stay one step ahead. Of course, Barret kept trying to split us up into groups of 3 or less because apparently 12 people draw more attention than 3 groups of 4… which might be true, but let’s face it, together we were much harder to defeat in detail.

Uriel, once we had a little time, upgraded Soul of Ice and Victoria to 8 Material Weapons and Armor. Yoiko and I and the classic party were totally spamming the Limit Breaks, while everyone else was practicing magic. Cure is waaay too useful a spell, and I’d bought a looot of tents and ethers and status refresh items. It was strange letting enemies attack me, but in game terms I have a metric boatload of HP and thanks to Rolling Counter I was regenerating almost as fast as the monsters could harm me even though I was suppressing my damage resistance.

Things progressed in fits and starts, with me constantly finding things had spun out of control every time I went off to do any grinding. It was like a train I could leave but would have to catch up on. In fact, the best way of doing that seemed to be to keep Zane and AJ with them so they could summon us at need. Still, whenever something would come up that my abilities could easily solve, I always seemed to be away or distracted, or some enemy or problem that wasn’t in the game would spring up to throw itself in my way.

I even threw myself between “Sephiroth” and Aerith… only to be absolutely skewered by that sword, though it didn’t kill me as it plunged completely through me and then through my sister’s body… mother fucker! Aerith wasn’t that lucky. Her body was not designed to survive being impaled… her spirit may have been strong, but her body… alas, was weak. But if I couldn’t stop that omnicidal fuckhead from summoning Meteor, I guess someone would have to shield the planet with Holy. And, yes, I searched for Aerith’s Holy Materia for hours, diving into the lifestream again and again, but I couldn’t find it. Not even with the Materia detector I’d built into Victoria. I’m not sure how many of my tears flowed into that greenish glow… but it wasn’t a small number. I was down there for almost three weeks until Zane dragged me back to the surface and sat on me until I calmed down.

For the first time I cursed myself for taking the plotbound drawback… I hadn’t expected the bindings to be this tight. Hell, even Don Corneo came back, scarred, half cybernetic, but he came back just as the story demanded he would, just to die in a humiliating battle with the TURKs.

Finally, my first change to the timeline in any meaningful way came after the defeat of Diamond Weapon. With Shinra effectively destroyed, Hojo slain, and Midgar in chaos… we stole the Sister Ray. Fucking huge cannon, it had been used to kill Diamond and Sapphire Weapon. If anything could take out Ruby or Emerald, it was that thing. Took bringing the Black Jenny out of drydock to lift the thing, but we did it it. I figure the story was done with it, so it was fair game.

We collected everything, all the summons, all the PCs, all the rare Materia, including all four Huge Materia. Getting the PCs to do that was easy. They were on Rails but shopping side trips and souvenir collecting was apparently okay.

I tried to stop Meteor. Not as hard as I could have most likely, but my warp field generator failed to notably slow it and I realized the force of plot was against me completely. So I saw things through to the end. Cloud’s idiotic betrayal, despite all the attempts I’d made to fix his mental problems, to adjust him, and in the end my attempts to wrench the stupid Black Materia from his idiot hand before he could hand it over to the real Sephiroth.

We killed Sephiroth, avenged my sister’s sacrifice. We freed the lifestream from his block, Holy saved the planet at the cost of Midgar. Two years had passed. Nothing had changed. But the world was at peace, right? Not even vaguely. Huge power vacuum, messed up ecosystem, all the power systems shutting down. Society starting over in the ruins. It wasn’t a fun time.

Free from being hunted, I gave Cid and Barret Cold Fusion technology. Gave it to Wutai too. We said goodbye to the others and buckled down to training, pushing on to max level, though of course it was impossible to judge. The only reason we could judge when we’d maxed out a Materia is because the damned things spit out (usually) a basic copy of themselves every time you maxed one out. Get enough maxed out Materia of a given type (all the Spell Materia for example) and you can take it to the Huge Materia of that color and get a Master Spell Materia.

We did that a lot. We also scoured the world for Yoiko and my Ultimate Limit Breaks. Books about punching and bears. Turns out there are a lot of them, but fewer about martial techniques. Scrying magic helped… as did the Palantir of Orthanc. I knew it would come in handy. We found Yoiko’s in a mountain cave being guarded by a giant ass bear. Yoiko snuggled it into submission and declare its name was Sweetums. Sweetums looked confused as to why the strange girl kept hugging her. We took the book and had to drag Yoiko away from the bear before she tried to keep her.

I also refused to allow anyone to get attached to any of the Chocobos. Didn’t need a Wark Machine Warking up the Wark… errr. Warehouse. I’m not fond of birds… especially birds twice my height.

We only had two goals left. Ruby and Emerald. Both were giant pains in the butt. One hid in the sands of a desert region and had to be fought mono-a-mono, the other hid at the bottom of the ocean and often had a time limit. Ruby was the easy one. I faced it alone, drawing it out of the sands of the desert, then distracted it until the final moment before apparating away to get out of the blastzone as the Jenny Ray smashed a giant hole in BigCrimson’s chest. I jumped back in and cut off its head with Soul of Ice… well, not so much cut as hacked. Damned thing was a Kaiju. Its neck was 20 feet thick.

Emerald Weapon… it took… longer. Much longer. First, the game makes it seem like it will hold still. It didn’t. The ocean is a damned big area and while it would attack us if we went to the right area, it fled once we’d done enough damage. Six times we hunted the great green one. To the point where Ahab was asking me if we should start calling it Moby Dick. I flicked a pea at him.

“From Hell’s Heart I scoff at thee,” I muttered.

It wasn’t that Emerald was tough. He wasn’t just tough, he was a juggernaut. The fight was only tangentially like the game, which wasn’t unexpected, a lot of the fights had been more realistic, less turn based. It was that he was fast and tough and attacked relentlessly… and he was a great big coward too. Sorry, I mean he knew when to retreat. So finally, I had to divide my group… I know, I know… into three groups. The important thing was that Zane, AJ, and I weren’t together. Zane and AJ were waiting at either end of the narrows that Emerald dwelled in.

My primary group attacked him, buzzing around the giant Kaiju like… sea wasps. We had limited mobility, which was a big problem, but we could, most of us, survive the crushing depths thanks to various magics and the Underwater Materia. Ain’t magic grand?

We hammered him with everything we had, mass attacking him with Bahamut ZERO and Knights of the Round and Neo Bahamut, support members healing the front line and generally staying back from combat. It was a grindfest, just like the first six hunts. We’d even called in Cloud and Yuffie and Vincent to help. Then BigGreen bolted. I judged the direction and called AJ. “Now!” He ported us to him with the PHS just as Emerald Weapon reached him, and we hit the beast again, making him flinch back from us.

Zane, meanwhile, had moved up to our original spot and when BigGreen fled again, we ported to him one last time, hoping the monstrosity didn’t have much left. We certainly didn’t, I’d run out of MP, and using PK Games so much had drained my PP pretty completely. True, the cold water was keeping me in pretty much infinite Ice, but Emerald has an attack that knocks out Regen for a while, so I was feeling every stomp and blast. and spamming potions in real life tends to make one violently ill… and they’re not actually instant. Finally, reeling, he turned to flee once more, slowed perceptibly, and I struck, lancing through the water as fast as a turbine propelled Argonian can swim, landing on the beast’s back, and hacking with my sword as fast as I could. I wasn’t going to let this giant green asshole end my chain.

He rolled, thrashed, dived, did everything within his power to throw me off, to grind me to paste, but I clung to him, HFLFsword cleaving chunks of carapace off him. I burrowed into him like the world’s most pissed off scarab beetle, and there, deep within his chest, where I hadn’t actually been looking for it, I found the god damned book! Asshole Programmers!

I grabbed it and pulled it into my Mind Palace. I wasn’t sure if I could do that, it wasn’t another person, but I’d pulled equipment and clothes in with me before. It worked. I read the book… then read it again. It was mental, but it made perfect sense. I sheathed my sword, pulled on my Elven Enchanted Materia Knuckles (Made from real Balrog Horn and Burstone) and tried the attack out. “TOTAL BITCH MOTHER FUCKER PUNCH FEST” might be a mouthful, but apparently the secret is to just… let all your anger, rage, and frustration out in one thousand supersonic punches. I don’t know what their normal range is. I’ve not been pissed off enough to use the attack since, and even if I had been, I doubt I’d have thought to run experiments. But that’s beside the point. I was in direct contact and my blows blasted the Weapon’s body to fucking smithereens.

I giggled, drained, exhausted. “Fucking Pwned!”I said as I created an ice chunk to lift me to the surface. My friends found me floating there. Zane asked, “Zo? Optional Bosses better or worse than general badstuff?”

“Better. Sure, they put time pressure on us, but we get to prepare. So yes, I’ll take cosmetic annoyances over any of them… but the real pain in the butt? Plotline. When you can’t do shit to stop it… christ. That’s three times. I couldn’t stop the Reapers from coming, but I could prepare, could kill Saren only once he’d fulfilled his purpose. I couldn’t stop the Seed of Magic from being shattered… because of Plot… not… armor… but you know. Couldn’t stop what happened here. Fuck… next time I sign up for Plot Tracking… smack me one. Wouldya?”

“You Got it… but what if the jump has it built in?”

“We’ll worry about that when it comes to it. Come on. I can still feel the planet griping about the Jenova taint. Bao? How’s that reactor coming along?”

Bao, unlike the rest of us, had spent most of his time refurbishing one of the Mako Reactors still attached to Midgar’s Ruins for a specific purpose. This Reactor wouldn’t burn Mako… it would purify it. It was a giant Jenova filter, and it incinerated any foreign matter it pulled out of the Lifestream. It also attracted the Jenova Cells through a synthetic Reunion signal. It wasn’t perfect, and it wouldn’t work in the time we had left, but hopefully, if time continued in this world, the clean energy and purified Lifestream would help Gaia recover, thus fulfilling the vision from 500 years in the future where Red XIII and his child looked down upon reclaimed ruins of Midgar.

It was with some regret that we left behind the world of Final Fantasy VII. It had been an interesting place, limited in many ways, and very much like being inside a video game. At times stifling, at times frantic, full of sadness and beauty in equal measures. We took with us power, but felt light on learning, and utterly lacking in enlightenment. We also took with us a small pool of the Lifestream with which we surrounded our garden and suffused our meditation pool. We did not know if it could be transplanted into other worlds, but it seemed a worthy experiment.

If Jenova and the Lifestream were compatible, and Jenova an interplanetary parasite, perhaps the Lifestream was an interplanetary symbiont. Only one way to find out… find a suitable host world. But that would have to wait. For now, it was on to another brave new world… If only I didn’t have this nagging feeling I was leaving something behind.

Next: World 19 – Destiny Manifest

Resources: Build, Document

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Sharjis and Aerith, The Gainsborough Sisters… Happier Times.

 

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