Categories > Games > Final Fantasy 9 > The End of Times

Lightning Round

by DevilishKurumi 0 reviews

It's the end of the world as we know it... [Character Death, Character Mutilation, Character Bad-Stuff-Happens-To. See inside for full warnings.]

Category: Final Fantasy 9 - Rating: R - Genres: Drama, Horror - Characters: Adelbert Steiner, Amarant Coral, Beatrix, Blank, Eiko Carol, Freya Crescent, Garnet Til Alexandros, Marcus, Other - Warnings: [!!] [V] - Published: 2006-04-22 - Updated: 2006-04-22 - 3544 words

Lani isn't one of those women who thinks she knows everything. She knows a lot, but not everything - and she hasn't been through everything, either.
But she does know that when stress is high, people can get a little... snippy.
Amarant is getting a little snippy.
She can't hear a damned thing, but that doesn't mean her eyes are like the queen's. She can see that he's angry over something. The fact that they've uncovered five bodies, seven limbs, and a whole mess of red splatters on the ground might play a part.
She follows him along, over heavy pieces of plaster and brick, and melted iron from the forge, all bright and hot in the morning sun. The heat is starting to get deeper into the debris, and she can smell - faintly for now - the bodies buried around them.
"We should just leave them here," she says, feeling her mouth move and her voice vibrate in her throat, but not hearing it. That throws her off, but she knows how to adapt.
He looks up at her, as he crouches down on top of a pile of bricks, digging out a hand that barely registers itself as such, and shakes his head, mouthing something she can't quite understand. Probably "no, we're not doing that, stop being lazy," but it really could be any number of things.
She sighs and looks around, crossing her arms. It's strange, not hearing anything. It's as if the sound has suddenly been turned off - sounds she had taken for granted are now very obviously absent. She can't hear any birds (though she doesn't think there are any), or the sounds of their feet on the rubble. She wonders if Amarant's digging because he can hear people calling for help, but she knows that there probably isn't anyone left to call.
She watches the skyline and tries to gauge how far away the damage hit. Did it reach the forests around Alexandria? Did it go beyond Alexandria - did it hit Lindblum, or Burmecia? Has it hit the Outer Continent?
What did the Eidolons think they were doing, anyways?
A hand lands on her shoulder and she knows from the weight that it's Amarant, but she jumps a little anyways because she's not used to not hearing him. She looks to him curiously, and so he points his thumb backwards.
The queen and general are standing at the foot of the pile of rubble they're now standing on top of - the general is looking up at them with slight anxiousness, while the queen looks... muffled. Dull - empty. Lani can't think of the proper word.
They make their way down the hill and Amarant says something to the general - Beatrix, that's her name. Lani has trouble with names.
The woman responds, looking stiff and trying to hide emotions behind a mask. Lani's used to this kind of expression - she's seen it on hundreds of people before. Just... most of them pulled it off better.
Amarant shifts, crosses his arms, and the huntress knows this pose - it's the one he unconsciously does whenever someone asks him something he doesn't want to answer - or isn't at liberty to answer.
She's no good at lip reading, but when the queen speaks suddenly, mouth moving slowly, she makes out "Treno," and "distance."
Ah/. So /that's what this is about.
Amarant looks to Lani and waves a hand at the general and queen. Lani understands the movement, because it's not uncommon for the other to ask her to explain. He's not good with words and she is, to some extent.
Her voice vibrates in her throat as she says, "Some old guy helped us out."
The queen stares between them and Beatrix frowns in confusion, saying something that she can't quite catch. The queen mouths another word, one Lani doesn't know at all, and Amarant shifts uncomfortably.
"You may tell them."
The words come from nowhere and Lani shrieks in surprise, spinning around and assuming a defensive position before realizing that it's just the old man. He's assumed a much less intimidating form, this time around; his beard is not quite as long, and his eyes are half-hidden by bushy eyebrows. He hunches over a cane and looks at the huntress for a moment, before turning his attention to the queen.
Garnet mouths something and drops to her knees, eyes widening and welling up again. Amarant and Beatrix both look defensive, suddenly, and Lani wonders why her companion is actually giving a shit whether or not the queen starts crying.
"I brought them here to help you, my master," the old man says, hobbling across the wreckage as if it were nothing and bending down slightly to pull Garnet's hands into his own. "I could not come to you in the state you were in last night. Forgive me."
The queen mumbles something Lani assumes is "apology accepted," and then says something else.
The old man gets to his knees, so he is eye-level with Garnet, and then says something solely to her - Lani can tell that neither Beatrix nor Amarant can hear it either, from their confused and apprehensive looks.
A moment of silence between all but the man and queen, and then Garnet begins to cry softly, pulling her hands from the old man's and covering her face with them. He leans in and touches her shoulder, and says something quietly still.
The queen wipes her tears away and her face is resolute. When she nods, the old man stands and looks to the other three.
"She is allowing me to tell you... seeing as that she still has to come to terms with it herself. The Eidolons have rebelled against their former master."
"No shit," Lani grumbles, but a look from Amarant silences her.
"They've done this not because of anything your queen has done, but because of the deterioration in command over them has reached it's limits. There is no longer a chain of command over the Eidolons - any of them. Most have not yet been used for malicious intent... but those who have are now instinctually reverting to it."
Amarant asks a question and the old man laughs, but this laugh isn't violent or terrible or anything of the sort - it's dry, and tired, and a little sad.
"There is nothing you can do," he says. "The only way this path may be altered is by regaining control. Unfortunately... The only Eidolon powerful enough to control any of the others, and who is completely loyal to your queen is, at the moment, completely unreachable."
Garnet says something and it looks like "Alexandria."
Beatrix exclaims something - Lani can see it in her expression - and the old man nods.
"Alexander was physically destroyed four years ago, yes. But, as you can see, physical boundaries are very little concern to most Eidolons. But because of what transpired... Alexander is, in effect, asleep."
Amarant waves a hand and Lani knows he said "get a bucket of cold water" or something similar.
Garnet looks at the old man and nods again, this time more solemnly, and stands.
The old man looks concerned - genuinely concerned - and takes her hands up in his again. "It will be a long and difficult journey for you," he tells her, though now he lets everyone listen.
She nods in acknowledgement and then asks something.
"...I do not know when you will regain your sight. I know you will - just as your companion will regain her hearing." He motions to Lani with a hand and though Garnet can't see her, she does look in Lani's direction. "Perhaps soon... perhaps not."
She asks him something else, and he whispers, "There is nothing I can do for him. I am sorry."
Amarant says something with a serious expression on his face.
"That is not your decision to make. If she wishes to do what she needs to, she will. If she decides she is incapable - it is her choice alone."
Now the hunter makes a defensive gesture and says something in a loud voice - his voice is raised because his head is raised.
The old man looks at Amarant like he's a kid and says, "Do not dare think that you have a choice in matters of the world, child. I have seen men stronger than you die because of such assumptions."
Amarant raises his fist and narrows his eyes, shouting something, and Lani has to say, "Amarant, /stop/!" before he does something stupid.
The hunter looks at her, eyes narrowed into slits, and she glares back. "It's her decision, to do whatever she wants. She's not a little kid anymore."
The old man turns his head to look fully at Lani, who tries to stare him down but fails.
"You would do well to learn from your friend," he speaks to Amarant, still staring down Lani, who shifts uncomfortably and looks to the horizon.
Garnet nods to the old man and asks something - Lani catches the words "where," "we," and "go."
"...The only one who may be able to help you is currently lost," he says, "She is still here, though I myself am not sure where."
Amarant crosses his arms and asks... something about Lindblum. Lani's almost sure.
"Perhaps. I cannot take you there... this is a holy quest. Eidolons such as I do not interfere with these matters."
Amarant snorts and turns away, stalking off. Lani looks to the queen, who is staring at the old man in almost reverence, then at the general, who looks still very apprehensive, and then follows after the other bounty hunter, picking her way across the rubble-covered cobblestones.
He's carrying his weight in a way that denotes how angry he really is, and Lani almost thinks twice about following him - but he's her friend, no matter what he thinks, and she's not going to leave him alone now.
"Amarant," she calls, and he stops, turning to face her. His glare is directed at her - completely - and she winces. "...I didn't mean to say anything," she apologizes half-way, "But neither of us have any say in this. We don't even have to go."
Amarant starts ranting, kind of, and paces to and from where he's standing, but Lani can't even make out the barest words, so she waves a hand and says, "I can't hear you, you idiot."
He stops suddenly, and she realizes he /forgot/.
"It's okay, Red," she continues, walking soundlessly to him and only vaguely feeling her voice now - she's starting to get used to it again, the vibrations. You know how you just don't notice these kinds of things until they're the only thing you've got left? Eventually, you forget them all over again.
He shakes his head and looks up at the sky, so she puts a hand on his arm and says, "You let me know if we're going with them, and I'll go."
He looks to her and mouths something slowly - "Treno," and it looks like a question.
"...You let me know," she decides.
He nods and then puts his hand on her shoulder, so she smiles wearily and asks, "Where should we look now?"
The idea of all of his brothers being gone frightens him more than he ever thought it would.
He picks up the pace and digs a little quicker than the other two, trying desperately not to hyperventilate as he thinks of all the different, horrible ways his brothers could have died in those explosions.
Benero doesn't like thinking about these kinds of things. He makes a point not to - it's just too damned hard to wrap his head around it.
But between Blank's hoarse choke-coughing and Marcus' solemn expression, there's not much else for Benero to focus on, other than the rubble beneath him that was once his home, and the bodies most definitely trapped beneath.
Marcus tells him to slow down, but he ignores the older member of Tantalus - and, for now, the boss.
"I /said/, stop, Benero." Marcus grabs the other's forearm and pulls him up. "Take a breather."
"Marcus," Blank rasps, head tilted down and hands on his knees, "What are we going to do?"
"We're going to rest," the temporary-boss says firmly. "We've been digging for a long time... we need to take a break, or else we're going to-"
"No," Blank cuts him off, "I mean... what are we going to /do/?"
Benero struggles with his options - he can rest, for a minute, and renew the effort full-heartedly, or he can continue, not lose any second, and help his brothers.
He grabs a few more planks and rolls them off the hill.
It's as if the sea came up and swallowed an entire kingdom.
Burmecia is waterlogged, as soaked to the bone as she is, but there are still buildings standing - tilted, slanted, leaning on each other for help, but still standing. Cleyra, or what had once been Cleyra, is gone. The entire desert is a pit of quicksand, and even though there had been only a few Cleyrians trying to restart their kingdom, the idea that they're forever buried under abnormally deep sand frightens her - just a little.
She's the only one she's found who has survived. If anyone had lived... they weren't showing themselves to her.
She curls her tail around her a little and shivers under the hot sun, looking at the vast sea of quicksand in front of her. She should try to find someone.
She should try to get a hold of Lindblum. She can only hope that this was only an attack on Burmecia, and that Leviathan didn't head towards the other kingdoms. But still, a part of her wants to stay... Besides. She had looked for the entrance to Gizmaluke's Grotto, hoping to find maybe some survivors there, and can see it now, over a vast lake formed due to the lack of drainage around the entrance. She smiles bitterly - quicksand to one side, water to another. It's as if the two kingdoms she had sworn to protect had melted into their purest forms.
Struggling with the heavy spear she had found in one of the upper levels of someone's house, she limps her way towards the grand lake.
"We must consider our next move, your majesty."
Puck hates his royal guards. They're all so damned stuffy, and they don't seem to want to consider the effects of what they had witnessed last night. How could any old men be so /blind/?
"I think it's pretty damned obvious what we should do!"
They're closer to Lindblum, anyways. Burmecia will be fine - it's overcome worse before. Kuja comes directly to mind, but so does Brahne, and the General Of Her Army... Whatever her name was.
"We have to return to Lindblum and find out what happened," one of the younger guards speaks up. Puck knew he liked that kid - he's young, only about twenty, and he's got his head on right.
"That's /right/."
"But... your majesty, we should really return to Burmecia-"
"Do you think anyone in Burmecia would accept such a cowardly retreat? Just think what Freya would say! You're lucky she didn't come, or else you'd be eating those words."
"It's not cowardly, sire," the young guard cuts in for the older one, "But I agree with going to Lindblum first. We're far closer."
Puck crosses his arms and looks between the old and young. He knows which he really probably should do - Burmecia needs him, has needed him for a while - but in the end, he decides to ask himself, "What Would Freya Do?"
"...Turn us around," the young king orders the driver of their carriage, "We're going to Lindblum."
"We must consider our next move."
Beatrix from her sword to her husband, trying to decide who she should focus more attention on. Save The Queen is badly nicked and could do with a sharpening, before they leave Alexandria...
She puts it down and focuses herself on Steiner.
"I think our next move is obvious," she tells him. "Ramuh said that-"
"I do not know if we should trust the Eidolon," he responds, holding his own blade awkwardly in his left hand. It's going to be hard, Beatrix thinks vaguely, relearning how to use a blade.
"I believe him," the queen mumbles now, looking at the ground and not knowing how short her sleeping gown is. They'll have to find new clothing.
"Your Majesty," Steiner consoles, "I understand that you want to believe him, but the fact is that he is an Eidolon as well... How do we know he's even telling the truth?"
She looks up, staring in the general direction of his voice, and says, "Vivi was a black mage. Why did we trust him?"
Steiner falls silence and Beatrix stands.
"Your Majesty... if you wish to follow his advice, I will follow you to the ends of the world. But first, we must access the damage here. If there are any survivors..."
"There aren't," the queen whispers hoarsely.
"Ow! Ow! Stop roughin' me up, ya great oaf!"
The three look up, and Garnet tilts her head a bit to the side and focuses solely on the noise coming from down the broken street.
"I can't help it," Amarant's gruff voice echoes in the hall, "It's not like this place is /handicap accessible/."
"Ya don't have ta drag me!"
"You want to walk on your own?"
"Amarant," Garnet calls, "Who are you...?"
The bounty hunter, along with Lani - Beatrix only remembers her name vaguely - appears around the corner of the house, and between them is a young woman with ragged, tangled blue hair and one leg badly mangled and broken.
"I'll be /damned/!" the woman cries, eyes lighting up, "Y'all survived for real! Thought for sure we were the only ones...!"
"I've seen you before," Beatrix mumbles.
"Of course ya have! I'm part of Tantalus, ya know! I played Cornelia all those years ago... Oh! But that don't matter anymore. I'm just glad there are others still alive!"
"You talk an awful lot for being in pain," Amarant grumbles.
"Well, I can't help it! It's this or shriekin' - y'all decide."
The two hunters help the actress sit on a tilted, half-broken chair, and she winces in pain.
"...Ruby," Garnet says suddenly.
"Ya remember me! I'm honored, yer Majesty."
The queen smiles softly and says, "If someone could help me over to her... and tell me what's wrong..."
"Oh," the actress cries softly, clasping her hands to her chest. Beatrix forces herself not to roll her eyes - what a dramatic person. "What happened?"
"...I'm only temporarily blind," the queen replies, "But I can still help you."
Steiner stands and helps their queen to the chair. "Her left leg," he says, "is badly damaged."
She nods and closes her eyes, putting her hands against the chair, and white light glows around the leg. Beatrix has always found that glow... soothing.
The actress cries out in glee and says, "Oh, it looks good as new!"
"You... you might have a limp," Garnet says.
"Ah, that ain't a problem. I ain't actin' much anymore, anyways. Say," she looks around, and now Beatrix knows what the next words will be, "Where's Zidane?"
Garnet's expression fades into one of quiet remorse and she looks generally in the direction of the sky. The actress stares in confusion, and then covers her mouth with her hands.
"Oh.... Oh, I'm..."
The actress has nothing to say to the sudden revelation, so Beatrix cuts in. "How did you survive?"
"....Oh," she mumbles, before looking to Beatrix, "My theatre's underground. Other than a few spots where the ceiling's saggin' from the buildin' on top of it, we got out pretty well. I was outside when... when it happened." She waves a hand to her leg, "Ashley got me inside. He left earlier this mornin' to look around - haven't seen him yet."
Garnet's face brightens and she says, "So, there are survivors?"
"Oh, yeah, yer Majesty. There's actually a mess of us down in the theatre - a good fifteen, twenty of us. The attack happened durin' the middle of my play." She makes a face, "Even Lowell's alive - a shame, but good things happen to bad people, sometimes."
Amarant crosses his arms and Beatrix looks to him now. He seems.... upset. She doesn't understand why.
"So Alexandria isn't completely destroyed."
Steiner grins a little uneasily and says, "The people of Alexandria are not easily squashed."
Garnet now stands, and Steiner holds her arm to balance her. She seems quite off-balance.... too much, it seems, to be normal. Then again, after everything...
"Can you take us there?" the queen asks, and Ruby - Beatrix makes an effort to remember her name, now - nods.
"Sure thing, yer Majesty," she salutes, standing. She wobbles a little and looks at Amarant with large eyes, "Can't I get a man ta help me keep my balance?"
Lani's eyes catch this and she says in her louder-than-necessary voice, "Don't even think about it."
Amarant looks to her in vague confusion and then rolls his eyes. "You're doing fine on your own."
Ruby pouts but goes to the entrance of the house and says, "Well, if y'all follow me..."
Beatrix stands.
There's hope for the kingdom after all.
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