Once again, night had fallen to the campsite of Avalanche. It was the dead of night, and most of the group had fallen asleep hours ago. It was unusually quiet, considering that any nocturnal animal within a hundred yards could usually be heard at this hour.
As quiet and peaceful as it was, Zero still couldn't sleep. His mind kept cycling through the events of the day.
Because of him, the entire planet was in danger.
"No." He said quietly. It didn't matter how loud Zero was though; X could sleep like a rock.
Zero sat up from his makeshift mattress and buried his face into his hands.
"Worrying will only make this worse. I must make sure the Black Materia is never used." he mused, standing up.
Zero cautiously stepped out of his tent, intent on going to the northern crater to take back the black materia. It probably wasn't too difficult to find. All he had to do was head north and he'd eventually stumble upon it. But he reeled back as soon as he saw someone else outside.
It was Aeris. She wasn't alone, either. Was that...Tifa? He couldn't tell. The fire had been snuffed out and sunrise was still hours away. Still, he decided to watch and listen anyway.
"Tif, we went over this. I have to go." Aeris said, disappointed.
"I know we did. And I still don't like it." Tifa replied.
"This is something that has to be done. The planet is counting on me to summon Holy and you know that."
"Dammit Aeris, there's more to it than that! What about us? What about the people you care about? Are you willing to make us suffer like that? Tifa said, tears beginning to stream down her face.
Aeris shook her head.
"Do you think it's easy for me, Tif? Knowing that I could very well die?
"Then why don't you take me along with you? I could protect you!" Tifa said desperately.
"No, Tif. I don't want to endanger you or anyone else. I...have to do this alone."
Both were silent for several moments. Aeris broke that silence by giving Tifa a big hug.
"Take care of Cloud for me." Aeris whispered. "And remember, I love you all."
"Even Yuffie?" Tifa said jokingly.
Aeris chuckled, breaking the embrace.
"Yeah. Yuffie too."
No more words were spoken as Aeris departed from the campsite. She'd have to hike to Costa Del Sol and catch a boat ride to the northern continent; but she felt up to it. Aeris looked back and waved as she vanished into the horizon.
Tifa made her way back to her tent, crying at the thought of losing her best friend. She wouldn't stop crying for at least another hour.
After seeing both women leave the area, Zero stepped out of his tent again. But this time, he wasn't alone. The unmistakable firey glow of Blaze drew his attention to his left.
"I always admired humans for their bravery."
He was leaning on a tree with his arms crossed. Zero wondered why the tree wasn't engulfed in flames; but remembered that Blaze's fire mane was usually holographic. He would only ignite himself during battle. He gave off a lot less light than one would expect as well; Zero deduced he could probably dim it or even turn his flames off if he wanted to. But that made little difference to the situation at hand.
"You thinking what I'm thinking? Zero asked nonchalantly.
"Well if you're going after her than I suggest you bring us with you."
That voice was Pulse's, who was directly behind them. Beside her was her partner, Turbine. Obviously they were the light sleepers of the group, probably awakened by Aeris and Tifa. As for Blaze, Zero didn't want to know what he was doing up. It's not as if he cared.
"The more the merrier." Zero said.
"All righty then. Turbine, you stay here and tell the others when they wake up." Blaze said.
"Why should I wait? Why don't we just wake them up?" Turbie asked.
Blaze and Zero both rolled their eyes similtaniously.
"Chances are we'll fight both Sigma and that Sephiroth guy. We wouldn't want a half-asleep crew on our hands, would we?" Pulse replied.
"Guess not..." Turbine mumbled.
"Good. Then let's get going." Zero said.
"Ladies first." Blaze said, bowing down as if Pulse was a queen.
"Oh, stop." She said, giggling at the same time.
It was obvious to Zero that Blaze had a thing for her. He couldn't blame him, either. She was beautiful, intelligent, and humorous; truly a worthwhile companion.
The blanket of darkness known as the night sky enveloped them still as they left, and the moonlight continued to shimmer off of the reflective surfaces of their armor. But Turbine didn't care about that. All that mattered to him at the moment was what he intended on doing for the next couple of hours.
Sigma and Sephiroth stared at each other blankly for several moments. Sigma had returned with the Black Materia, just as expected. There was one problem, though. Sigma wouldn't give it to him.
"Why do we always have to do things your way?" Sigma said snobbishly.
The solid projection of Sephiroth studied the metallic monster before him.
"Because that is the way it must be done." He said coldly.
For a moment, Sigma was furious. But he soon regained his composure and smiled.
"Suppose I hang on to this little gem for now. After all, we don't have to summon this "Meteor" right away, do we? It won't do us any harm, now would it?"
"Yes...it will." Sephiroth replied.
"Oh really? Please tell me why." Sigma said sarcastically.
Sephiroth easily identified the sarcastic tone in which Sigma used. It was a pity that Sigma didn't know that the masamune-wielding person before him was above such things as sarcasm and humor.
Still, simpletons needed explainations for everything. Sigma was no exception.
"If you must know of the details, then so be it. The last remaining Cetra is on her way to the forgotten capitol. From there, she will pray for Holy; the only magic that can resist Meteor. You must stop her from doing so."
"I don't think so." Sigma countered.
"Heh heh. As long as I have the black materia, you will do what I say, boy."
Sephiroth gripped his Masamune with incredible force, and swung it towards Sigma with little signs of effort. Sigma dodged the sudden attack; but didn't attempt to fight back.
"What's the matter, Sephiroth? Getting angry?"
There was no time for this foolishness. Sephiroth held back the urge to swing again, and smoothly lowered his Masamune.
"Aww, you're no fun." Sigma said.
Sephiroth scoffed as he dissapeared, leaving Sigma with a bright and split-second flash of light.
"Just like a human...taking life and death so seriously. Heh heh heh heh..."
"Mr. President, Heidegger is here to see you."
Rufus barely noticed the voice of his secretary blasting on the intercom. He was too busy talking to Scarlet on the phone.
"Yes, yes...I'm aware of where Avalanche is going.........Still, I doubt Sephiroth will show up......Hmmm? Hold on a sec, Scarlet."
He spoke back to the intercom as if it wer beneath him.
"Send him up."
Heidegger waddled up the steps like he had done so many times in the past. Being slightly overweight, it wasn't the most fun he'd had; but he shuddered to think of asking the president to have yet another elevator installed. Those things were expensive; plus it was only a single flight of stairs. He would have to deal with it as always.
Right behind him were the Turks. When Rufus saw them he immediately said goodbye to Scarlet and hung up the phone. They never entered his office unless they had important news. However, there was something missing.
"Where is Tseng?" Rufus asked Heidegger.
"I think Elena can answer that better than I can."
It was the first time Rufus had ever seen Elena, and was awestruck by her beauty. She would be perfect if not for that deep gash on her cheek, which would undoubtedly become a scar.
"What happened?" He asked.
There was an unusual amount of emotion in his question, which surprised himself as well as the others.
"Sir, Tseng is....dead."
"A man by the name of...Sigma. He murdered Tseng with his bare hands." She said.
There was a hint of fury in her voice that led him to believe that she had feelings for Tseng. And that meant she was willing to get revenge. He had those same feelings for Sephiroth, but never cared to admit it.
"After he attacked us, Avalanche found me and brought me to Gongaga. They contacted Reno and Rude and they arrived within hours. At least that's what Reno told me."
"Is there anything more?" he asked.
"One more thing, Mr. President." Rude said.
Even Rufus knew what a rare occasion it was when Rude took the time to speak. He eagerly listened.
"......We have reason to believe this "Sigma" is working in conjunction with Sephiroth."
"What is your source for this information?" Rufus asked bluntly.
"Avalanche!?! Aren't they our enemy?"
"Not to me, sir. They saved my life more than once and I owe them a debt of gratitude."
"Oh, really." Rufus said.
"Sir....I suggest that we not consider Avalanche our enemy any longer."
That shocked everyone. That was preposterous. Avalanche, the terrorist group? What was Elena thinking?
Rufus sat down and tried to think it out. It was a good five minutes before he responded, which was even more shocking.