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AN: Yeah, I'm back and ready for action!! Ya see, I've been working on finishing this, that's why it has taken me so long to post this up ^_^. Be warned that I may skip back and forth in flashbacks (they will be as indicated). Like the other chapter, italics are thoughts, and bold italics are voices. Enjoy!

Chapter Twelve ~ Rain of Blood

 

"Sakura!"

Phoenix quickly went over to the controls and eventually released the lock to the chamber where her sister was imprisoned. Mist spewed out of the tubes, but Sakura still remained in an inner chamber inside the chamber.

They all entered inside, unaware of the pair of eyes that followed their every movement.

"...What the hell?" Lyly murmured as she looked around the controls that were hooked up to Sakura's prison.

Out of curiosity, Rinoa went over to reach out and touch one of the controls when Phoenix snapped her head up.

"Don't touch that!"

Rinoa jerked her hand back just in time as an energy field reacted with a bang.

"Dammit, the entire room in here is magically protected," Phoenix cursed to herself, glancing around the room. She had this feeling that someone was watching them. Sis, what do you think.

There is definetely someone here besides us, but I'm not sure who,Luna replied.

"Then, how do we get Sakura out?" Gene asked.

Only Mom and Dad can free me... his sister's words echoed in Alex's mind. He glanced over the controls for a while and noticed an impressment in one area of the controls. It was small, but noticeable. The pattern designs were familiar. They raced in swirls, capturing an image of a lion's head. It looked fierce yet cunning, strong physically but soft mentally. Maybe...

"Sakura said something to me about only Mom and Dad being able to break a seal," Alex said.

Squall and Rinoa looked at him.

"Us?" Rinoa asked.

"I understand, sort of...but how?" Squall added.

Alex gestured to the impressments on the main control panel. "Why don't you put in the rings? I think that they're probably the key to getting her out."

It might have seemed absurd to him before, but after witnessing the events of his "future", Squall tested out the boy's guess and inserted his ring. There seemed to be no resistance in the magic field as he did so. Immediately, the controls reacted with the ring and began to function on its own.

Lights flashed around the controls in a melodic sequence. A few minutes later, they all stopped and a large noise like something opening echoed in the room. More mist appeared, releasing all of the pressure inside the imprisonment and the liquid inside drained away. The chamber itself was opened, and Sakura Leonhart's still body slumped forward. Irvine, being the closest to the chamber, was able to catch her just before she was able to hit the ground. He was surprised that she was still warm.

Somehow, an alarm sounded, triggering all of the traps and other nice surprises that the highly advanced cavern had had.

"Oh, shit," Zell cursed.

The earth below them trembled. It was small at first, but then they got bigger each minute. Sparks started to spray out from the controls, trying to incinerate their prey inside.

"Let's get out of here and fast," Phoenix said.

"Good idea, but how?" Quistis asked. "We all came from different directions."

Follow me! a voice answered.

They all turned to face Sakura Leonhart. The same Sakura Leonhart whom Irvine was carrying on his back.

Zell looked back and forth between the two, the first to snap out of the silent confusion. "Huh? W-wait a sec..."

Selphie and Seifer jumped out fo the way as a massive piece of concrete crashed into the ground where they once stood. The earth began to rumble even more, splitting the ground into tiny cracks.

I have no time to explain! Sakura answered. Just follow me. I know the way out.

With that, she unlocked a secret passage and led them out, a fading image in the dark. The room in which they all once inhabited was convered in a pile of boulders and snow.

As they ran down through the corridor, the walls behind them closed in. Every person barely missed getting crushed by mere inches as the walls on both sides touched. It was like that for a while as the now recognizable holographic Sakura led the way through the narrow passageway. She was confident that she could lead her family and friends out of the cave, but Sakura Leonhart forgot one thing: there was another Ultimecia pawn awaiting them. Once that had changed the Leonhart family forever.

 

"Sakura, are we there yet?" Phoenix asked as she noticed that the others were starting to get short of breath.

It wasn't because that they were out of shape. Nobody was, really. But running through a narrow passage way in a single file line without any extra room to spare around them made air impossible to breath entirely.

Almost, Sakura answered.

After a couple of more turns and tweaks, the gang finally reached the end. The walls had stopped closing in as Sakura's holographic image stepped towards the door. She turned around to the others, gesturing towards it. You can exit from here. This will lead you outside.

"But wait a minute, how do we know that for sure?" Seifer asked suspiciously.

Sakura's image smiled softly. "Hey, I've been imprisoned here for over four years. You'd think that I wouldn't know the structure of this place and its secrets." She tapped the side of her head. "I may be sleeping, but my brain still works like clockwork. This holographic image I made just in case you guys would come, I could guide you out. Ever since I was revived, Ultimecia just left me here in that chamber you found me in. So, I decided to make some preparations during that time."

"Then, those images..." Rinoa began.

Sakura shook her head. "Those were real. When one from the present enters the Halls of Memoria, flashbacks occur. I didn't activate them; that was Shiva's doing."

Her image flickered a bit in the dark.

"Sis?" Alex asked.

The teenager smiled at all of them, waving. "Because you got me out, this holograph is no longer useful once outside of the cave. I set this up so that once my body is out of the ether chamber, it'll only activate for a limited amount of time."

"But then how're you going to wake up and help us??" Lily asked.

Sakura shrugged as the holograph flicked again. "I dunno. That's for you to decide."

With that, the holograph channeled off, a small computer chip taking its place: dead.

Lily clicked her tongue out of frustration. "Tch, she hasn't changed a bit."

Quistis regarded Lily curiously. It was amazing to her that the tomboy was able to regain her composure so quickly after she had seen her past no matter how blurred it might have been.

Squall pushed the door open. A cold rush of wing burst through, blinding everyone in sight with the snow and mild sunlight that seeped through. Then suddenly, the blizzard stopped. As their eyes were starting to adjust to the light change, Phoenix felt an evil aura in the air. Her eyes flickered between amber and her original eye color as she glared at the figure before them. The cruel smile and the crimson eyes that the figure possessed were all too familiar to her.

"My, my, my, what's the rush of escaping from here, hmm?" the man asked sarcastically.

"Just who the hell are you?!?" Zell demanded as his vision was beginning to fully adjust.

The man wore all black, making his eyes and snowy white hair stand out even more as it already was. If one was to look at a distance, he wasn't a very hard man to see. In his right hand was a sword. It was a cross between a gunblade and...something else that was not from this world. Even in the daylight, the sword seemed to glow blood red. Its internal organs moved around as if alive. Phoenix allowed her eyes to convert to amber as they narrowed.

"Alta," two voices came out from her mouth.

Rinoa started as she heard the voices. She stared at Phoenix in surprise. Was that...

The man named Alta smiled cruelly again. "It's been a long time, hasn't it?"

Something inside of Squall was ready to snap. It was an unconscious feeling, so he didn't even realize it. His hand was poised over the Lionheart's hilt, ready to strike when possible.

The rest looked in confusion. Surely, it seemed that they could all take Alta on, but there was something in the man's eyes and Phoenix's coldness towards him that made them to only watch.

"How did you escape alive?" the voices asked again.

Alex looked back from the man named Alta and his sister. Or rather, sisters. He wasn't sure if the others knew or felt it, but he could've sworn that he felt Luna's aura inside of Phoenix.

"...Sis?"

The earth shook, almost knocking him off of his feet.

"What the..." Seifer was about to say.

"This entire area will collapse in ten minutes," Alta informed. "There are only two ways out." He held up one finger. "One, defeat me in that time." He held up another. "Two, find the way that you came from. Both are rather impossible to do."

Phoenix/Luna took a step forward. "We'll see about----"

Kenji laid a hand on her shoulder to stop her. The amber eyes converted back to her ice blue. The tension in her shoulders relaxed as well.

"Don't be so rash," he said. "Even if you do fight him, he's going to go after the others. And if we all fight him, he's still got that Elixabrion of his."

Phoenix just stood in her place, unwavering yet contemplating on the words that her Knight had said. The earth rumbled again, but a lot harder this time. It was enough for the door that they had opened to begin to slide closed.

Lily was the first to react. "Shit..."

She pressed her back against the door to keep it open. Seifer, Zell, Quistis, Raijin and Fujin came to her aid. But even with six people, it was still a struggle as the massive door edged closer and closer. The rest, with the exception of Phoenix, Alex, and Kenji, also helped out.

Phoenix gritted her teeth and clenched her fists tightly together as a snarl escaped from her mouth. Kenji remained where he was while Alex grabbed his sister's hand.

"You guys, c'mon!"

"Well, what are you going to do, Lion cub?" Alta asked mockingly. He chuckled to himself.

I guess that this will be the last, Luna said to her sister. Sakura will have to show him the rest.

Phoenix closed her eyes. Are you with me, Kenji?

Hyne, I'm not going to leave you here, Kajimi, Kenji answered.

With the decision made, Phoenix shoved her brother back with Luna's strength. That had caught Alex by surprise as he was flung back and bowled over the crowd behind him. They all fell back into the passageway. Alex immediately sprang up, hand outstretched as the door began to close.

"SIS!!!"

That was the last time Alexander Leonhart would ever see her again.

 

Pitter, patter, splash, splash.

Squall stared dully out the window where rain poured down in thin, blurry sheets as the doctor was informing him and the others of Sakura's condition. He wasn't listening, really, but he did gather bits and pieces of the report.

"...in a state of comatosis, but the girl has a strong will to live..."

It had been three days since the incident at Mt. Leika and they were all inhabiting the semi-rebuilt Trabia Garden. The Ragnarok was somehow frozen in a big block of ice, and it took at least an entire day for Gene to fix it so that the plane could at least fly. They were low on fuel, though, and stopped by at Trabia Garden not only to replenish fuel, but to give Gene the ample time needed to reconstruct one of the plane's boosters that had been horribly damaged. Lily had received word from Atamos that three more castles had been destroyed, leaving only three more to take out. However, there had been no word of Phoenix and Kenji's whereabouts since then.

Just why the hell did they do that? Squall asked himself, instinctively frowning. It still bothered him: the fact that they had left him and the others to fight...to fight that man. He wasn't quite sure why Alta had struck him so harshly in his mind at first, but later realized that Alta was the one who had killed his future self and family. Once again, rage began to fuel inside him...

"Squall? Squall!"

He snapped back into reality to face a look of worry from Rinoa.

"Hmm?" he replied.

"Squall, are you okay? You seem kind of like....I don't know, always deep in thought recently."

His eyes softened, and he smiled at his angel's concern. Although the Ice Cold Lion when around others including his closest friends, he always somehow relaxed when around Rinoa. There was something about her ever since they met at the dance that made all of his defenses collapse. Wrapping his arm around her waist, they walked out of the infirmary.

"I'm fine, really. It's just that...ever since this whole thing started, I'm getting this feeling that I've lost something somehow," he answered as soon as they stepped outside.

"It's that man Alta, isn't it?" Rinoa asked.

He nodded. "I guess that I want to get revenge on him. Half of me does anyway. And I don't really even know who he really is..."

"But your future self does, right?" She winked at his reaction. "I'm kinda getting the hang of all this Time Compression. Concept wise, anyway. I'm starting to get like that, too. I think everybody is."

"Hmm..." He paused for a moment. "...How's Alex doing?"

Rinoa took her eyes away from him for a moment. "He's still that same. He won't talke to anybody at all, not even me now."

Squall nodded again. "I figured that."

When Gene finally had the Ragnarok up and running, Alex had locked himself up in his sleeping quarters. He wouldn't come out nor would he answer to anyone except for Rinoa whenever she had entered. He didn't eat or drink: just sat there staring at the ceiling in whatever thoughts were in his mind. Squall was surrpised that Alex was still able to stand and walk like a normal person once the plane arrived at Trabia Garden. But even after that, Alex still wouldn't do anything except stare up at the ceiling in the room which he inhabited. Squall wondered if Alex's silence had something to do about Phoenix.

 

He drudged through the snow, breathing heavily. Dull, lifeless eyes stared ahead, too emotionless to care about anything that was around him. The bitter wind that stung his open woulds, the chilling air that froze his blood, the way that the creatures around them looked at him yet kept a distance, they didn't add to the pain in his head.

How could've...why? his jumbled thoughts asked himself.

He didn't really care if the monsters were starting to creep closer. He would rather die than live with the pain that he was experiencing now but that wasn't her wish....

 

A bluish golden eye glowed in the dark and then flickered back to ice blue. Alex lay on the bed, staring at the ceiling. Griever's ring was chained to a necklace, hanging on his neck. The ring wasn't how Phoenix had shown it just before they had entered Mt. Leika. It looked new, shining brightly in the sunlight, and it was small like Rinoa's. It was the same with Luna's as well. Alex's Griever ring, however, looked antique. It was large and was too bit to fit around any one of his fingers even with gloves on. The ring he held was the only contact between him and his family.

When they arrived on the Ragnarok after agonizing hours of searching through the rubble, something within Alex had released. He felt as if gained something new. He realized this new ability when he was observing one of Ragnarok's boosters while Gene was thermalizing the plane. He was bored so then looked around at the plane to find something to do. Just barely grazing the cover with his hand, he took a second look at the plane and discovered that what he did wasn't just a graze. It scorched the booster's interior, smoke seeping out of the molten vents. This had happened once before and kenw all too well that his powers as a sorcerer were unstable again.

Not wanting to fry someone by accident, Alex locked himself up and concentrated on controlling it. Once in a while, Rinoa would come in to talk after she had figured out the code on the lock, but most of the time all she had said came in one ear and out of the other.

This was the reason why he was staring at the ceiling since it had nothing above it, eyes flickering colors as he contacted his sisters for guidance.

How much longer until I can actually not fry someone or something for once?

This takes time, Luna replied. You've never experienced this as a full sorcerer before.

Alex inwardly sighed. It wasn't going to be long until Ultimecia would reveal herself.

 

Ultimecia quickly doused the blue flame that had been the observer to all minds. Her plan had gone all wrong since the beginning.

Kurses, she thought bitterly. I should have known that those kubs were up to something.

Killing the Leonhart children at their peak stage of magic wasn't as difficult as she had thought, but the sorceress didn't realize until later that they were well expecting her plan. The boy was strong, but she didn't know tha the would be her main threat.

"Alta, Allundia, Phaetos," Ultimecia announced.

Three bursts of smoke appeared, each revealing her loyal servants.

"Yes, Mistress?" they asked simultaneously.

"Find the boy and those pathetik SeeD with him at once," she ordered. "I want them all dead."

They all bowed in respect, each thinking of their own way of torture. "As you wish, Mistress."

With that, they disappeared as soon as they had come. Ultimecia chuckled sinsterly to herself.

"And now, we will see what this boy kan do..."

 

As Trabia Garden reached his sight, flashbacks of the past two days returned.

<Flashback ~ Two days ago at the southern end of Mt. Leika>

Alta laughed sinisterly as he heard Alex's cry just before the door closed on him.

"Oh? You are abandoning them?" he taunted.

"This is only between us," the two voices replied. Phoenix's eyes once again returned to the cold amber. "They have nothing to do with our battle."

"Hmph, you just don't want me to kill them again," Alta replied. "No matter." He fell into an offensive stance. "You will all soon be dead anyway."

As soon as her eyes narrowed, Kenji realized who was actually in Phoenix's body when her crimson streaks changed to violet.

"Luna, get a hold of yourself," he said. "It's not going to do anything if you attack him blindly with rage."

"You don't understand, Kenji," Luna replied. "He was the one who took Shiguyou to his death."

"Wha..."

Alta chuckled, the delight in his eyes growing. "Oh, so you realized that after your death?"

Without answering, Luna's eyes narrowed even more. Her wind katana appeared by her side. Yet, there was something different about the weapon. Instead of its emerald green, it looked a bit aqua like how the Lionheart was.

Alta released a slice of wind from his weapon. Luna/Phoenix stayed where she was, trying to decipher what to do when Kenji stepped in and cleanly sliced the attack in half. The eyes reverted back to ice blue, back to Phoenix.

"Kenji..." Phoenix murmured.

"I'm not sure what you two promised each other, but I'm not going to let you do something stupid," Kenji replied. "Revenge doesn't solve anything."

<end of flashback>

Revenge doesn't solve anything. Hah. All he wanted to do now was get revenge against that bastard.

<Flashback ~ two days ago in Mt. Leika's southern end>

He was much more powerful than she had imagined. Kenji and Alta were duking it out now while Pheonix was regaining her strength. Using her body as a medium, switching back and forth between her self and her twin sister took a lot of energy. Typically when Luna would use her full abilities as a sorceress, it was getting harder to get back to normal and heal quickly enough.

Kenji was starting to slow, breathing heavily as the blood from his wounds seeped into the snow. Another temblor rumbled through the area, taking out a whole chunk of the mountain range. Phoenix stood on shaky legs as she saw the snow fly in the air and the mountain range sink into its frozen waters.

I hope they were able to get on the transporter in time...

She let Luna take over with the little strength that they both had left. Luna leaped into the air and charged, attacking with such a ferocity that it caught Alta by surprise. Kenji was knocked back by a mysterious shockwave. He quickly got up, using his katana as a cane. What the hell was... The shockwave reappeared, but he was ready for it and sliced the invisible Leviathan in half. The creature reappeared soon after its death, squirming and slithering in its own pool of metallic violet blood.

Luna skidded to a stop in the snow after barely avoiding getting her head cut off. She was thinking the same thing.

"You..." Kenji muttered.

A familiar sinister chuckle spilled out in the cold followed by two specks of black. Phaetos' invisible figure glowed in the distance.

"My, you're much better than I thought, Wolf," he said.

"You're still alive?" Kenji asked.

"I am not one who dies so easily."

"You bastards tricked us the entire time," Luna growled.

Alta smiled sinisterly, barely a scratch on his form. "You don't realize it, do you, little cub? Getting our most important threats out of the way will make conquering time and space much easier."

Phoenix's eyes widened in shock as she regained control of herself. The earth trembled underneath her feet without her realizing that the ground was going to split below her. Alta readied his sword in her shock, but Kenji carried her out of the way, hissing in pain as the sword sliced through his side. They landed on the other side of the gap made while Alta and Phaetos jumped effortlessly across.

"Dammit, this is not good," Kenji murmured. He kept his eyes on the advancing figures and the slight imprints in the snow.

Phoenix stayed where she was, curled in the safety of his arms. How could we be so stupid?

"Don't blame yourself, Kajimi."

Phoenix closed her eyes. There was only one reserve left for them, and she hoped that Alex would reach his true ability in time.

"Kenji..."

"This isn't time to say goodbye, yet."

She nodded and they both stood. Her Knight didn't know, but she knew that there was only one more thing to do. The last reserve that would solve everything...

The earth trembled for the last and final time. The sky changed red as ash and snow flew out of the volcanic explosion. With the last of her energy, Phoenix's katana glowed in a brilliance of blue.

To Kenji's surprise, Alta and Phaetos backed away form them, blinded by the light. He heard a lion roar behind him, and he was nearly knocked off his feet by the power behind it. Alta and Phaetos jumped before the shockwave cut through, but Phaetos's pets weren't as lucky. Screeching and howling in pain they were as cuts appeared everywhere on their severed limbs.

He heard a crack behind him and quickly turned around. Empty space had separated him from his sorceress. Kenji froze for that moment, eyes wide. Phoenix smiled softly back at him, her eyes a sapphire gold, her midnight hair catching the wind, her crimson streaks slowly disappearing as she and the patch of ice below her started to descend into the misty valley below.

"PHOENIX!!!!!"

<end of flashback>

Alex saw something out of the window as he made his way to get some food. Shocked, he quickly ran to the conference room where he knew the others were.

"Lily!"

He stood in the doorway of the conference room, out of breath.

"What the hell?!? Alex, you're talking!!" Lily exclaimed.

"What is it?" Squall asked. Like the others, he too was surprised that the young teen was back to normal.

"It's...it's Kenji!" Alex managed to say. "I was...I was about to go to the cafeteria to get something to eat when I saw him and..."

The others ran out and followed Alex's lead as they got to the Garden's entrance. What they saw was what they had dreaded:

Kenji staggering in the snow and rain, carrying Phoenix's body in his arms...


AUTHORESS NOTES: ::smiles sweetly at her readers:: ...Don't kill me please? R&R!

NEXT CHAPTER....The Final Descendants (huzzah, only five more chapters to go until the finale!)