Author Topic: Rebirth ~ The Price of Eternity [A Fan Restoration Project]  (Read 1065 times)

Danko Kaji

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Chapter 12
Tentative Title: Of Sacrifice
part two of two
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(A/N): Had to split this into two parts, because I breached the maximum word count.

*

Valm had been searching for Kush, but he couldn’t find her.

In a span of the last few hours, the stateroom transformed into a countryside hospital, but ever since the enemy broke through their defenses, it felt more like a battlefield, with the lingering, pungent stench of waste, death, blood, and rotten corpses absolutely unbearable. The souls were fluttering in iridescent fragments above the crude gravesite that housed his fallen allies, spreading a pasty, haunting glow.

An explosion resounded outside, tearing his eyes away from the gross scene, and he heard a voice shout Kat’s name. Not long afterwards, another voice confirmed her death. Nobody could spare the time to take care of their wounded. Although the Guards were an elite unit, their weapons were outdated; they couldn’t even hope to match Zanarkand’s troops in artillery, let alone their technological progression.
   
“Despite everything…”

‘The time has come. You and I couldn't be any more united.’
   
Valm would become an Aeon Core, as he saw no other way to turn the situation around.
   
The stairs, which normally led to the living quarters, had been scorched through, the walls almost collapsed to the point of no passage. A bomb must have been responsible for this damage. He stepped over the corpses of the men under his charge, and sent a prayer to Guard, the God of the Farplane, to take care of their spirits. When he walked to the stairs, he turned around to look behind him, feeling ashamed for the relief he felt that he couldn’t find Kush’s body among them, and proceeded upstairs.
   
Behind him, a trio of Zanarkand soldiers burst into the room, just as the door to GATE 1 opened passage for an awkward, bumbling, almost comical procession of mechanical Bedohls in their baggy suits and gas masks to proceed through. They spilled into the room at a snail’s pace, brandishing their chain whips, and the enemy opened fire.
   
Valm couldn’t understand it. Alb had demanded three more days to complete his project. After three years of research, what would three more days accomplish? Think of the devil, and he shall come; Alb staggered behind his creations, appearing to be on his last legs.
   
“Valm! I’m leaving the workshop. Sorry…”
   
He had no choice but to acquiesce, although grudgingly.
   
“Come back here!” Alb ordered the Bedohls with a hand signal.
   
“No. What are you doing? They must fight.” Valm exclaimed at once, vexed.
   
“The way they are, they would only get in your way…”
   
Another explosion resounded in the stateroom, announcing the arrival of more enemies. Alb and his Bedohls headed for the emergency exit, and Valm started to ascend the stairs again. Just before he could cross the inner gate, he turned around to look one last time despite the fact he knew lingering would only waste time. He didn’t think he could outrun them, nor did he want them nipping at his heels. He couldn’t tear his eyes away from the macabre sight where the enemy trampled over spilled blood and scattered corpses, and the wilting flowers of the altar, desecrating the funeral light of the departed souls.
   
One of them managed to spot him. “You’re running away! Coward!”
   
A young man charged at Valm with sabre in hand, and Valm deliberated for a split second. He wanted to conserve ammunition, and he felt confident he could outmatch him in a contest of swords, so he unsheathed his sabre.
   
“Bring it on, you son of a heretic!”
   
They clashed blade for blade, and Valm shoved him back with a large arc of his sword, striking his wrist to disarm him, before slashing him straight across. He sensed the edge of his sword slice deep into his enemy’s side, reaching as far down as his navel, until he pulled it back with a vicious flick. This poor fool leapt at him with too many openings, and Valm had the advantage of high ground; it took very little effort to strike him down. He managed to steal a glimpse of the injury he inflicted before the man toppled backwards into the void.

Satisfied, Valm turned around to continue onwards to his original destination, GATE 0, before the soul of his latest victim returned as a fiend to haunt him. And then he faltered at the chorus of cries and bloody murder resonating down below. He whipped around, startled, snatching glimpses of mechanical Bedohls lying motionless on the ground, eking out dark red fluid that looked suspiciously like blood. He had never stopped to think of those machines as humans, but if they had souls... He took pity upon them.

What happened next shocked him into clarity: the mechanical Bedohls gathered around their injured comrades, helping them to stand. Valm thought of the workers who were forced to remain in the workshop for days on end, working overnight, sometimes cutting through breaks and mealtimes until he scarcely saw them socialize with the others.

They eventually slipped from his mind, the engineers who always wore their hideous, strange jumpsuits and thick goggles. How did he not realize this before?

‘They’re human…’

Alb never succeeded to create artificial intelligence, let alone cybernetic soldiers. He constructed mechanical Bedohls out of the very men who worked under him, and in the end used them as expendable tools to ensure his own escape.

Valm clenched his jaw, descending the stairs with a slow step to his walk.

“Alb!”

The elder man had already disappeared, but several of his fake mechanical Bedohls -- human beings disguised as machines, not to lure the enemy, but to fool their very own allies -- raised their eyes in direction of the Guard.

“Tell this to your cowardly master: Alb can run wherever he wants, but I will find him and I will make him pay for his treason!”

To throw out mechanical soldiers in front of the enemy instead of sacrificing human lives, a utopia that fueled his drive to fight, herein lies the reality of that dream… Despite the fact Valm enlisted as a soldier in the war for Bevelle’s cause, he had dreamt of a world where he would never need to fight. None should ever learn of this innermost, secret wish.

The mechanical Bedohls broke their formation as a gesture of awkward apology, and answered him in their own strange language.

“Be quiet!” Valm lashed out, disturbed by the fact they chose to communicate with him in that… alien way. And then the memory of Kush returning to the workshop through GATE 1 pushed into his mind, reminding him of his goal.

What could she be doing over there?

“Valm! They’re in the living quarters!”

A familiar voice brought him back to the present and the dire state of things, and he raised his eyes to see one of his men emerge from GATE 0, covered in blood. “The Summoners, hurry…” He managed to rasp out, before collapsing to the ground.

‘Kush!’

The living quarters were similar to a labyrinth of corridors, which led to bedrooms, the most fortified area within the base. How could the enemy have accessed it?

‘Alb…’

Only Alb could have led them there, as another insurance of escape.

Blinded by rage, Valm rushed for Kush’s room.

In the long, narrow corridor, he spotted an enemy who sported long hair, probably a woman, who progressed towards the quarters while scraping her shoulder along the wall. She appeared to be injured, and Valm stole the opportunity to slip behind her, sliding the edge of his sabre over the front of her neck to slash it open, before trampling over her cadaver without a second thought, kicking her in the ribs for good measure.

An unnecessary, cruel act, he knew, but he didn’t care. The war and its endless wave of battles were affecting him for the worse, and the wrath and lingering resentment of the slain were already spreading their toxic influence in his soul, as well as their own. He might as well be possessed by a fiend.

“Protect me, Luchera!” Valm exclaimed, setting forth for the next corridor.

In the heat of battle, only one who maintained their composure could hope to survive, and he would have to remember that the moment he met up with Kush again. He had to be Valm, the Guard she admired and loved.

The living quarters for the Summoners were located deeper within the labyrinth, where ten doors led into their section. Kush’s bedroom had been labeled number three, and once he arrived in front of the door, he hesitated. Would she even want to talk to him? Ever since he had walked in on that possible altercation between Kush and Ifarnal, the air had deteriorated between them.

He recalled how his lover tried to reach out to him, and he had pushed her away.

“May I talk to you?”

“Later. My men are fighting.”

She gave him a thin smile. “Really…?”

“Stop! Right now is not the time!”


Valm gritted his teeth in regret, dropping his forehead against the door. Any fortress would fall under the command of a distracted commander. No need to go through the trouble of planting a traitor for that.

“Give me a chance to redeem myself…”

Lifting his head from the door now, he hit the panel board three times, according to the signal. The dial lighted up, and on the other side of the partition, he could hear a bell ring out, but no one inside reacted to it. The enemy must not have reached this area, yet, much to his faint relief… However, this place still reeked of blood and death like the stateroom.

An unpleasant combination of gunpowder and blood, mixed with the cloy scent of souls…

‘Kush…’

Valm slammed his fist into the board again, except only one time. The door did not move. Nobody replied.

Treading past doors four and five, he stopped before number six. Ifarnal’s bedroom. He knocked on the door and waited, and then a ball rolled to his feet from the shadows of the cramped walls.

‘A bomb…!’

His first reflex demanded that he send the ball back with a kick, but he feared the impact would activate it. And so Valm jumped back to sprint in the opposite direction, desperate to reach door number ten and cut into the right, where the hallway merged into a bend. Valm barely had the time to react before the radius of the explosion flooded the chamber, and he threw himself against the wall, avoiding the stream of combustion.
The resulting noise did not drown out the sound of Ifarnal’s scream. He had opened the door to his room one second before the detonation, and Valm swore, leaving behind his hideout. He found the enemy standing at the other end of the hallway opposite of him, close to door six and steadily closing in on it. Brandishing his sabre, Valm met the enemy headlong, shouting to Ifarnal as he passed the room.

“Close it!”

Now Valm faced three of the enemy, whom were moving in a single file line. The narrow corridor impeded on their progress, and so the man in the lead, a dark-haired teenager, raised his firearm for a shot. Valm dove to avoid its trajectory, rolling to stand upright again, running under the force of momentum to point the tip of his sabre at his opponent’s throat.

He slashed it without missing a beat. His two comrades appeared younger, and much less determined to forge ahead. Covered in blood and sweat, Valm read fear in their eyes, and his bloodthirsty glare cut quite an intimidating air, causing them to bump into each other and lose balance. He stooped to pick his fallen enemy’s gun and fired, watching as the bullet pierced through them both and they collapse in a dead heap.

“I can’t manage to close the door-- It’s broken!”

Ifarnal dashed out into the corridor, in a state of panic until the scene he walked into made him grimace.

“Evacuate!”

But the Summoner did not move.

“Where is Kush? She doesn’t respond when I knock on her door.”

Ifarnal stole a nervous glance at his room. Stroking his chin in thought, he eventually motioned for the man to follow him. He had little personal effects to his room, with the walls laid bare except for a mattress half-concealed behind a wooden partition. Ifarnal seemed less concerned by the state of his room than the look on Valm’s face.

“She’s in the back, but be careful… To be honest, I need to talk to you, before you…”

But Valm wouldn’t listen to him. “Kush!”

He rushed to the four poster bed, and kicked aside the folding screen. She lied there half naked and asleep, and Valm loathed to piece the puzzle together.

“Valm, wait…” Ifarnal stepped forward to reel him back to the present. “This is the only method I know. There exist other ones, but I haven’t been taught to use them.”

Shutting his mind from reason, Valm jerked around to punch him in the face, his rage quenched for a fleeting moment when he watched him fall to the ground, and then he turned back around to grab Kush by her shoulders, shaking her awake. She peeled her eyes open a fraction and smiled up at him, lost in a daze.

“What happened to you?”

She did not answer. He tried to have her sit up, but faltered at the sight of her glassy look.

“What the… Kush?”

“Valm!”

He whipped around just in time to discover the enemy had ventured into the bedroom, a man he thought to have eliminated.

The Zanarkand soldier brandished his sabre, raising it high above his head for a vicious blow. Valm faced him unarmed; if he chose to parry, the sword might redirect and hit Kush. He had no time to think. He bent his knees in preparation for a lunge, intending to tackle him down, but someone else beat him to the punch. The man’s head toppled from his shoulders, rolling on the ground in a bloody geyser and leaving the decapitated body to fall into Valm’s arms.

A mechanical Bedohl emerged from the doorframe, rewinding the whip he just used.

Ifarnal stood upright and spoke to the Bedohl, communicating in its disgusting language, and then they skirted Valm who knelt there in shock, surrounding Kush in concern. They situated her on the edge of the mattress, positioning her upright while she still appeared dazed. When the Bedohl slapped her, Valm wanted to spring for its throat, but Ifarnal snatched him by the waist before he could wrap his hands around his jugular, holding him back with all of his strength. And Kush finally awoke after the second slap.

The Bedohl removed its goggles and mask, revealing a head full of hair. Valm recognized him from somewhere…

Oh, he remembered him now: one of the Bedohls who always carried Kush’s palanquin. He said something, and, to Valm’s utter astonishment, Kush answered him with startling fluency. But she did nothing to cover her naked body, nor acknowledge her lover and Guard with a single glance.

‘O Sloan, who should I kill first?’

This had to be a conspiracy against him, a trick of the mind. The battle must have deteriorated his senses, ruining his ability to comprehend even the simplest of things. There had to be a reason for all this betrayal. Finally, Kush turned towards him, as if she just noticed his presence. He read astonishment, then confusion, and she hastily wrapped her chest behind the sheet with a meek smile.
Lost in the winds of change~

"There's some things you can't do alone,
but they become easy with friends beside you."

Consider me a wandering 'Maechen' of FFX/X-2 lore.