Chapter 22

What the hell is going on?" Rufus demanded.

Ghaleon was gone. Disappeared in a flash of light, just like that. There was no sign that he’d been there, not one. It was like the spire had just swallowed him up.

"I have no idea," Sephiroth said, "but I suggest we keep going until we find out."

Beautiful plan, Rufus thought. One of them was gone already, and they were just going to ‘keep going’? Bullshit! But there was nothing he could do. They sure weren’t going to listen to him.

"We’d better stay quiet, too," Jowy said. "I don’t want to have to find Ghaleon and the -Heirs- with an army after us."

Really? Why not? Rufus wanted to laugh. They were fooling themselves if they thought they were going to find anything - and if they thought they were hidden. Chances were, the minute they’d stepped into the spire, the minute they’d set foot on this hellhole of a planet, the Espers had known about them. They were just waiting for the right moment.

Actually, the more he thought about it, it wasn’t all that funny. Not funny at all.

And Sephiroth was too damn good a soldier to admit it. He was going to go on, trap or no trap, because he had a mission to accomplish.

Atriedes, well, who the hell knew what went through his mind.

They really believed this Prophecy stuff. Well, they’d told Rufus all about it, and it didn’t say anything about whether or not they’d get the job done. It sure as hell didn’t say if they’d make it out alive.

He didn’t much like the idea of dying for destiny.

Not much more than he liked the idea of walking through a giant, creepy, damp, pitch-black tower with a man he hated, surrounded by magical warriors and some kind of ‘Master’ that seemed to be everywhere at once, whose voice alone was enough to make Rufus half ready to piss his pants, on a world that could have passed for hell on a good day.

It seemed like he was in the business of doing a lot of things he didn’t like.

He watched the other two Destined Ones - remaining Destined Ones, he thought, wondering how long they would remain - advancing along the corridor. They had no idea where they were going, how they were going to get there, or even what they’d find when they did get there.

And they still kept going.

They were like a couple of machines. Give ‘em an order, and they’d follow through with it. No questions asked. Failure didn’t even enter their minds. It was all ‘how do we get past this’ and ‘what’s our next objective.’

Rufus shook his head.

It was crazy.

And the damndest thing was, he envied them. Who the hell knew about Sephiroth, but Atriedes, at least, could think for himself when he wasn’t like this. How did he slip into this... what? Warrior trance? Rufus didn’t know what to call it. He supposed it was what made them better soldiers than he was.

He sure wished he could stop thinking about all the ways that everything could go to hell and just act. But he couldn’t.

He glanced behind him, taking in the sight of the walls that seemed to be made of solid magical energy. He didn’t much fancy their chances of getting out alive, even if they turned back now.

Maybe that was the secret.

If there was no chance, there was no need to worry. They’d been dead men since they’d stepped into this spire. What point was there to worrying about it? Maybe, just maybe, if they kept going, their deaths would mean something.

Rufus took a step forward.

His eyes fixed on Sephiroth, on the monstrous black aura that clawed at the air around him. It was a reminder of what he really was.

A monster.

Rufus, despite the situation, grinned. If there were anyplace in the world - no, worlds - that he could accomplish his mission, it would be right here. This spire would kill them all.

But he’d make sure which one of them went first.