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AUTHOR'S NOTES: Woo hoo, it's the end!! ^_^

Chapter Sixteen ~ A Battle to the Death

 

"The air feels odd," Quistis murmured.

Zell backed away from everyone to get a better look at their surroundings when his hand felt the coarseness of a human skull.

"Holy shi---," he hissed, jerking his hand back.

That was when he realized that they were all in a graveyard of human bones.

"What in the---" Seifer started to say.

"They're SeeD," Squall interrupted, recognizing the uniforms scattered across one some of the skeletons. "They're all SeeD. Look at their uniforms."

"That barrier that I broke were the souls of all those you see here," Sakura managed to say. "Ultimecia...used them for that purpose."

"I don't see the ocean below us anymore," Gene said as he looked over the side. "It's all just a swirl of clouds."

"The hell're we suppossed to do, then?" Lily asked. "We don't have that much time left before the entire world disappears into Ultimecia's hands."

"Then we have to fight our way through the castle like before," Kenji answered.

"But what about Sakura?" Sakura Wolfe asked in concern.

"I'll...be fine..." Sakura Leonhart replied. "Go on ahead without me...I just need some rest..."

"I'll stay with her," Lily volunteered.

Are you SURE you're going to be okay? Alex silently asked his sister.

I'll be fine; just go.

"Let's go, guys," Alex said as he headed towards the massive door in front of them.

"But Alex---" Rinoa protested.

Alex ignored her and opened the door. Reluctantly, the others followed. Before them was the front foyer. It still looked as it did two years ago except that there was no seal to break, no monsters to fight. All there was inside was silence, their deafening footsteps echoing in the large area. The once tattered paintings that hung on the walls looked fairly new, the smell of pain still lingering in the air. It was the same castle two years before yet different somehow.

"So, what do we do?" Irvine asked. "Split up and see who gets to Ultimecia first or what?"

"Splitting up's too dangerous, cowboy," Seifer replied.

"I didn't mean splitting up into ten different directions," Irvine pointed out, a bit annoyed. "I meant splitting up into two groups."

"There's no transporter here like the last time where we can communicate with each other," Rinoa said. "Her castle looks the same...but..."

"It looks different at the same time," Zell finished, nodding in agreement. "Yeah, I know what you mean, Rin."

Alex opened another door, guiding the way. However, he remained silent.

"Hey, Alex," Gene called out to him. "Do you know where we're going?"

"Kind of," the boy replied as he let his eyes glow a dark amber in the semi darkness of the hallyway. "If I just follow where Ultimecia's aura is, we can reach her in no time."

Rinoa noticed that although Alex had the dark amber glow AROUND his eye, they weren't IN his eye. Odd...Why do his eyes not change like the others did?

Alex continued walking and felt a bit uneasy as he followed Ultimecia's aura. Why is she foolishly telling us where she is? I thought it was going to be harder than this... His body suddenly froze in its spot, making it impossible to avoid the void that was slowly surrounding him.

Sakura Wolfe had a vision. The card Excalibur was torn in two and burned. She started to run to him.

"Alex!"

Straining himself, he slowly turned his head to find Sakura running to him. He reached out to her only to touch nothing as she passed right through him. He was engulfed by the void into its own world.

 

Sakura fell to her knees as Alex disappeared before her eyes. No...Her head hung low, shoulders shaking.

"Sakura, what happened?" Zell asked as he knelt down beside her. "Do you know why Alex just disappeared like that?"

She didn't realize it before: what the cards had really meant. Too late...too late....

"The..the cards..." Sakura managed to reply.

Rinoa, too, knelt down beside the girl. "What about the cards?"

"Ul-Ultimecia wants to...to...k-kill Alex before he..he can completely control Griever..." Sakura continued. "Alex has to fight Ultimecia...alone..."

As she said those words, the hallway that they inhabited changed. The walls around them were covered in a thick layer of ice, making no escape. The ceiling above them formed sharp icicles like the ones that hung in ice caves. The floor that they stood on formed a thin layer of snow.

"What the hell?" Gene murmured as a cold wind swept through.

The wind bit through the thin layer of clothes that their prey had on. Some shivered; others tried to keep themselves warm. Squall heard whistling behind him and turned around. The wind that had blown pas them swirled furiously to form little figures who breathed in the life given to them.

"Snow faeries," Quistis murmured.

Some of the snow faeries that had finished completion flew around like flies, laughing sinisterly. Although their pale features seemed to look like those of the typcial, gentle snow fae, their eyes glowed an illustrious red.

"Demonic snow faeries," Seifer added.

Once the fifty or so had finished formation, they all stopped and turned towards them, laughing sinisterly.

"Oh, that's just great," Irvine sarcastically said, twirling around his Exeter. "They have to look at us."

Kenji smirled as he and the others whipped out their weapons.

"Never knew that snow fae could be so evil."

 

Sakura Leonhart took in deep breaths as she tried to maintain consciousness. Lily knelt down in front of her.

"Are you gonna be okay?" she asked. Her braid slid over her shoulder as she tilted her head sideways to get a better look at Sakura's face.

Sakura took in a final deep breath. "Yeah...." She looked up to meet Lily's eyes, smiling softly. "Now that the others are gone, can I ask you a favor, Lily?"

Lily helped the young woman up. "Shoot."

"You remember the secret passageway up to the Clock Tower, right?"

"Yeah...but why...."

"Can you guide me there?"

"What?!?" Lily exclaimed. Her eyes narrowed out of protest. "Now, hold up one minute..."

Sakura waved her hands innocently at her. "Oh, c'mon, it's for a good cause."

Lily thought for a moment as she stared at her friend, hand on her hip. "Oh, fine, but you'd better be well prepared to fight that freakin' Omega Weapon up on top."

Sakura's smile got even wider. "That'll be taken care of."

She and Lily quickly began walking inside the castle. "Alright, let's go!"

 

Going up the tower was fairly easy. There were few monsters around and the only obstacle, it seemed, was the long flight of stairs itself.

"What exactly are you going to do?" Lily asked as they were climbing.

"There's a stone inside the top of the tower," Sakura replied a little breathlessly. She hadn't regained enough strength to prepare for the exercise. "If I can open it, maybe it can restore my full abilities. The stone suppossedly can cure anything."

"So, using it, you think you can help the others?" Lily asked again.

"With my full strength back, of course I can!" Sakura responded. She paused for a moment of rest. "Man, how much longer?"

"We're almost there," Lily said as she stopped and waited. "You know, you shouldn't strain yourself like this."

Sakura shook her head. "I told you, I'm fine."

"No you're not, Sakura!" Lily bursted in anger. "I'm sick and tired of hearing you say that you're okay, 'cuz you're not, dammit! Look at yourself! You're as white as a ghost! By just looking at you right now, it's no wonder why Alex was so worried."

Sakura's head snapped up. "What?"

Lily sighed and walked towards her. "Look, it's amazing that you woke up after so long. But ever since you reawakened, you looked tired as hell no matter how hard you tried to hide it! Alex noted this to us when you first woke up, but he told us to not let it bother you."

It was Sakura's turn to sigh as the two slowly walked up the stairs. I can't hide it from anybody, can I?

"...Okay, to tell you the truth, I'm not all right. I didn't wake up on purpose, either," she finally admitted after a few moments of silence. "It was Phoenix and Luna who woke me up."

"What did they do to you...back then?" Lily asked.

"You saw the tubes all around me, right? The control panels, the main computer...everything there was keeping a status check on me and taking away my energy at the same time."

"You mean, those things were sucking the life out of you?!?"

"I guess you can say that. Two years ago...two years ago was the first time I actually woke up, but...Alta forced me back to sleep."

The bastard was dead, but Lily didn't really care. She knew what his methods of 'forcing' someone back to what they didn't want to do were like. She also knew that Sakura really didn't want to remember there, either.

"So when we found you, you weren't exactly prepared to tell us."

"...No...I wanted to talk to Phoenix about it, but she had gone into a stage of guilt after passing through the Halls of Memoria." Sakura paused then continued. "That's why I want to see the stone. To see if everything works like it says. If it doesn't...then Ultimecia will torture my soul for all eternity after my death."

They had finally reached to the top of the tower. Across from it was a room where a small bridge travelled through. The sky still remained dark with no hope of clearing. Lightning streaked across the sky, and the wind picked up its strength.

"Hoo...man, I forgot how high up we are," Lily remarked as they walked across the bridge.

"I know what you mean," Sakura added.

A dragon-like roar echoed across the area. A white blast shot in between the two women, separating them.

"Lily!!" Sakura shouted.

Lily was falling, falling, falling...

 

Alex slammed against an invisible wall and slumped to the ground. The grip on his nameless gunblade remained tight as he slowly hoisted himself up. Blood dripped to the "ground".

Damn, he cursed to himself, looking around carefully. I have to find a way out of this void. If only I could use my powers!

"What's wrong, Alex? Getting tired already?" Ultimecia's mocking voice said behind him.

Alex quickly blocked as Ultimecia attacked with her bloodsword. She chuckled sinisterly.

"I was expekting more than this," Ultimecia said. "What a pathetik excuse for a Leonhart."

Alex growled furiously and shoved her back. She, of course, never hit a wall. This was her domain, after all.

 

Ow...

Lily opened her eyes to find herself lying on top of the rubble that followed down with her. Oh, thank you, Hyne...She was in a room she had never seen before. There seemed to be nothing inside it except for a pair of gauntlets on top of a small altar.

"What in Hyne's name are these?" she asked to nobody in particular as she got closer to the altar.

When she reached it, the gauntlets responded to her touch by beating in a steady rhythm. They floated to face level, much to her surprise, and beat even faster. The beats soon became a blinding flash of light. When Lily opened her eyes, the gauntlets were around her arms, replacing the fighting gloves that she had on before.

You seek for the peace of the world, a deep yet smooth voice said in her mind. In return, we will lend you our powers.

Okay, is it just me or am I hearing voices in my head? Lily asked herself, freaked out.

You are our master, the voice said again. We will do as you desire.

"Ooh, my, I am hearing voices in my head," Lily murmured to herself, still staring at the gauntlets.

That is becuase there ARE voices in your head, the voice replied.

She blinked. "Huh?"

The voice shuckled. You have never experienced the weapons from the other realm, have you?

"Uh...no."

Then test your strength.

Lily did as she was told and excecuted a punch. What came out was a punch surrounded by fire.

"Whoa..."

She did a few more test moves before looking at the gauntlets again. "This is pretty cool."

The voice in her mind chuckled. You have yet to learn, young one. Much more to learn.

"Whatever," Lily replied. "Oh, shit! I have to help Sakura out!"

She ran over to the opening that she fell through. There was nothing above her but clouds.

"Uh...nevermind," she muttered, realizing how high it was.

She looked around for another exit. Fortunately for her, there was one. "Wonder where this door leads to..."

 

"Damn, are they gever going to stop?" Seifer asked as he sliced down another snow faerie.

The fae he cut down split into two snow faeries. The others were having similar problems.

"They just keep on regenerating!" Quistis exclaimed as she wacked one away from her.

Rinoa casted yet another Firaga spell, disintegrating the fae that surrounded her. She blew away a wisp of hair in exhausting. Even though their enemies were critically fatal to Fire spells, there were too many of them.

"There's no end ot this..." she said.

A banging sound rumbled next to her. She looked at it and noticed that the wall was moving. Huh? The banging noise continued except it got even louder. When it ceased, Rinoa looked at the uneven wall curiously. Suddenly the wall blasted open, revealing Lily on the other side.

"Damn, the freakin' door FINALLY opens!" she shouted in frustration.

"Lily!" Rinoa exclaimed.

"Rinoa!" Lily exclaimed at the same time. She looked at their surroundings. "What the hell happened here?"

"Lily, don't just gawk and stare there, dammit!" Seifer yelled as he cut down another fae. "Help us out!"

"Whatever you say, Boss," she muttered before punching at a snow fae that was about to attack her.

The fae screeched in pain before fading away. Rinoa and Quistis blinked. It disappeared.

"Oh, hey, that's new; they're not real," Lily commented as she took down a few more. She grinned enthusiastically as they too vanished. Awesome! Let's try this out... "Rolling Blaze!!"

A fire wall spread across the room, melting all the ice and snow while disintegrating the snow faeries at the same time. In no more than five minutes, everything had returned to it once was: a hallway.

"Whoa..." Selphie murmured.

"Where's Sakura?" Squall asked Lily.

Lily shrugged. "I dunno. We got separated when we were at the Clock Tower."

"What?!?" Gene blurted out.

"Where did you get those gauntlets, Lily?" Kereberos asked.

"We have to help Alex!" Sakura Wolfe pleaded.

Squall nodded. "Sakura's right. We have no time to explain. Let's find Ultimecia's throne and fast."

 

When she saw Lily fall into the abyss below, Sakura Leonhart could do nothing but look away and face the obstacle ahead. Omega Weapon flew itself to the ground, staring furiously at her for intruding on its territory. Sakura returned the stare with one of her own. Here goes...

"Eden!"

Eden appeared before her in its magnificent glory as she summoned it. Its blazing white eyes pierced at the Weapon. Sakura went up to the GF, putting a hand on one of its tentacles.

"I'm sorry if I put such a weak creature against you," she said to it, "but can you please give me some time?"

You do not need to apologize, the Guardian Force said. I will do as you wish. Please regain your full strength again.

"Thank you," she whispered before dashing past Omega weapon to the room that it was guarding.

Reaching safe ground, Sakura entered in the room that, like the hidden room where Lily fell through, was etched in white marble. In the center hovered a silver stone: the Rosetta stone.

 

The gang spilled into the throne room where, unlike the other castle that was located on the uppermost area of the castle, lay smack dab in the middle of the castle.

"Is this it?" Squall asked.

"Yeah, I'm sure of it," Lily confirmed.

They were all looking around frantically for the person who had vanished into thin air.

"Where's Alex?" Rinoa asked worriedly.

To answer her question, Alex suddenly appeared out of nowhere and slammed into a wall. He grimaced in pain on impact and fell to the ground.

"Alex!"

She started to run to him when Squall held her back just in time. An invisible barrier revealed itself in electrifying shockwaves.

"The entire area is sealed with this barrier," Squall said, taking a look around. "There's no way in or out."

"W-why isn't he healing?" Lily asked. "The kid's battered everywhere. Didn't he heal his wounds before?"

Ultimecia's laugh echoed in the room. "Hahahahaha, it seems that your precious family and friends have kome to see your death, young kub."

She appeared by her throne, smiling evilly at the young teen. Her bloodsword dripped with blood of not her own. She began to slowly walk towards his struggling figure.

She may have the same face...Zell thought. But her entire outlook is totally different.

Wings...Quistis thought along the same lines. Where are her wings?

 

Ignoring the presence of an audience, Alex used his gunblade as a cane to get on one knee. His breathing was haggard as he struggled to control it. Blood trickled down the side of his face, flowed freely from his right shoulder, his ribcage, everywhere. Ultimecia stopped halfway from where she was.

"Get up," she ordered. "I know that you are witholding that unike poer of yours that killed Phaetos. It's useless to defeat me like this."

Alex's breathing soon regulated, and he stood up without answering. Taking his gunblade off the ground, he looked up. His eye glowed a dark amber around his normal sapphire. His stare just froze the audience with fear.

I've never seen him look like that before, Kenji thought.

Those eyes...those eyes are totally different from the others. Lily thought.

What...Sakura Wolfe thought, eyes filled with tears at the sight of her best friend. What happened to him? That's not Alex at all!!

Alex took a couple of steps forward. Ultimecia, unfazed by his cold stare, smiled in delight as she fell into an offensive stance. That's more like it.

"Here I go," Alex announced monotonously before disappearing.

The sudden advance in speed shocked Ultimecia a bit, but she managed to block the attack in time. Before she could take the lapse to her advantage, however, Alex had disappeared again. Once again Ultimecia blocked, but she wasn't sure what to make out of Alex's act. His action were starting to make her frustrated.

"Do you think that your petty triks will work?!?" she asked annoyingly and fired an Ultima spell at him.

Alex was shot back against another wall again, but he managed to slide down to the ground instead of falling face first. He clutched the wound in his side, grimacing in pain.

"It's time to end this game of kat and mouse. Even if you don't surrender and die, I'll still retrieve Griver from your korpse," she stated, raising her blood sword. "Die."

~

"We have to help him!" Kereberos shouted.

"Yeah, but how do we break the barrier?" Seifer asked.

Lily punched at it, but it absorbed the hit. "Damn..."

~

Ultimecia sliced horizontally with her sword. Above Alex, a balcony collapsed and was about to fall straight on top of him.

"ALEX!!" Rinoa shouted.

Alex had looked up when she cried out. Oh, shit... He couldn't move out in time.

The balconly never fell on him. Actually, it never even touched the ground. The others and Ultimecia could only stare in shock as Alex opened his eye. He too was surprised to find the person holding up the balcony.

"Geez, do we always have to get you out of trouble?" the person in front of him asked in a teasing voice.

"L-Luna?" Alex asked.

Luna smiled back at her little brother as she held the balcony piece effortlessly with one hand.

"Hey, long time no see," she said.

"How are you still alive?!?" Ultimecia exclaimed. "You were suppossed to be dead."

"Well, you see, with you still around, I can't exactly rest in peace," Luna slyly replied.

Out of anger, Ultimecia shot out two Aero blasts. Those spells never made it either, for another figure had sliced them in half. Kenji couldn't believe his eyes.

"Kajimi?"

Phoenix smiled, whipping her katana back in its sheath. "The same goes here."

"That's impossible!" Ultimecia shouted in denial. "How can you still be alive as well?"

"Bwuahahahaha, Sakura Leonhart is back in action!" a voice shouted from above.

Sakura stood on a balcony high above Ultimecia, smiling triumphantly.

"You..." Ultimecia growled.

Sakura jumped off and landed softly on the ground. "Oh, it feels great to be back."

The barrier around the others was starting to weaken...

"How could you.." Ultimecia said.

"It was actually your fault to revive me," Sakura explained. "Because I learn my magic by absorbing spells that were cast on me: dead or alive."

"What are you going to do, Ultimecia?" Phoenix asked. "The four children whom you have feared are together now."

"I will not be defeated like this!" Ultimecia said, throwing down her bloodsword.

Her missing wings appeared, carrying her far above her enemies. A red aura began to surround her body. "Guardian of the UnderRealm, Ark, come forth!"

A rather large knight clad in white armor sprung up from Ultimecia's void. Nothing was seen of its face, just souless green eyes.

"Hyne..." Lily swore.

"Hahahah, do you think that I didn't prepare for this? Did you think that I didn't find another Guardian Force to replace Griever?!? Fools! Your time has run out!" Ultimecia said.

Their surroundings began to fade as she spread her arms. "Ark, make them regret for their existence!"

The GF's eyes glowed in response.

"That aura is huge?" Sakura mumured.

"So, what do we do?" Luna asked as she threw away the balcony.

"There's only one thing left to do," Phoenix answered as they all turned to their little brother.

Alex,smiling slightly out of amusement and fear, nodded.

 

The barrier disintegrated.

"Hey, it's gone!" Zell shouted.

 

Alex stood, letting his eyes completely shift to Griever's. The Griever ring on his necklace shined brightly.

"Shockwave Pulsar!!"

The two GFs collided in a bright clash. The only things that were heard were Griever's roar of vengence and Ultimecia's ear piercing scream...

 

Alex...

Ugh...

Alex!

Huh?

"Alex! Alex, wake up!"

He groaned as sunlight hit his face. Opening his eye, he found himself looking up at his sister's face.

"Sakura?"

Sakura grinned. "Hey there, you big sleepy head. We did it."

"Huh?!?" He sat up and looked around. They were on the shores of Edea's Orphanage.

"What..."

"You passed out after calling Griever. The castle's destroyed. There's no trace of it left," Sakura replied.

"What about Phoenix and Luna?" he asked.

What about us? Phoenix replied.

Alex turned around to find the ghosts of his two sisters looking at him strangely. "So, it wasn't..."

Hey, we can't be alive forever, you know, Luna replied, laughing.

"I only gave them a limit on their lifespan since they have been dead for too long of a time before I revived them," Sakura explained.

"Oh..."

The sun was rising from the east. Alex turned to look at it. It had never looked so beautiful in his eyes until now...

 

The orphanage gang was standing in front of the entrance to Edea's stone house. Both the past and the future were bidding their goodbyes.

"So...I guess this is it," Seifer said. "Time Compression isn't going to come back anymore."

"Yeah..." Lily replied. "It'll soon decompress back to normal in a few minutes."

More silence.

"Well, what do we do now?" Zell asked. "I mean, for the future since we know what's going to happen and all."

"Just live your life to the fullest," Sakura said. "Whatever you do, just don't worry about the future. It might change."

"So, it's really over..." Quistis murmured.

Was it really? Alex thought to himself. Is it really over?

Time was beginning to make an impact on their surroundings.

"It's been nice meeting you all," Rinoa said to everyone.

"You too..." Sakura replied sadly. "It's been nice getting to see you guys again."

Squall smiled, a rare smile, at his remaining children. "Good luck to you guys."

Sakura grinned, putting Alex into a headlock. "Hey, we'll be okay. You just worry about yourselves."

"Ow, hey, Sis, can't you be nicer to the injured?" Alex complained.

Time soon returned to normal, the battle against Ultimecia being only a memory in the past.....

 

~

"Come on, Rinny, just breathe," Squall said, holding her hand. "And push."

Rinoa gripped his hand tightly as she took a deep breath, grimacing in pain as the doctors and nurses frantically ran around the hosptial room for supplies. She bit her lip to stifle a cry.

"You..." she said, letting go of Squall's hand and grabbing him by the collar. "You are SO going to pay for this, Squall Leonhart."

Squall laughed a bit nervously, wiping away some of the sweat on his wife's face. "Hey, it's not really my fault, honey."

"Okay, Mrs. Leonhart, keep on going, they're almost out," the doctor replied.

Rinoa grabbed Squall's hand again, her grip so tight that he was beginning to feel bruises on it. After a few more agonizing minutes, a baby's cry could be heard. Squall could see its arms flail wildly as the nurses cut away at the fluid that was still wrapped around it. He smiled tiredly, the twelve hours of his wife's labor getting to him. However, Rinoa gripped his hand tightly again and snapping him back to her situation.

"Rinny?"

"That's...it's still...," Rinoa said.

Another minute of pushing and another baby crying. This time, the doctor was cleaning the child up before she handed two children to the new parents.

"Congratulations, Mr. and Mrs. Leonhart," the doctor announced to them, handing them the babies. "You have twin baby girls."

The four were given some privacy afterwards. Squall looked down at the baby in his arms and in Rinoa's. They looked so small. The baby girl in his arms was stretching out its arms, looking at him curiously. Squall had never seen so much hair on a newborn's head. Very faint violet streaks were seen. He looked at his fatigued wife who was holding the other girl. They looked at each other, smiling.

"I'll take back what I said before," Rinoa said.

"I figured..." Squall said, looking down at the baby girl in his arms again.

"What do you want to name them?"

Squall smiled at his wife. She was thinking the same thing.

"This one's Luna. The other one's Phoenix."


AUTHOR'S NOTES: Hahaha...it's done! I'm done with this fic!!! Er...maybe not:

WHAT'S TO COME...the Epilogue....