The member of AVALANCHE they'd captured—based upon his human weaknesses and sub-par talent with a spear—didn't appear too concerned as he licked at the blood dripping from his nose.
Even with the voice alteration the man looked more amused than anything, ""We sent the ransom note to your organization. Is there anything you would like to say?""
The swollen blue eye crinkled as the man laughed with a pained wheeze at the end, "Yeah, Ah got a few words," he leaned forward, the ropes creaking against shoulders, that upon further inspection, were too broad for the shirt he was wearing. "You're gonna regret ever settin' foot on th' Valentine."
""The Valentine? We were informed that it was the Shera.""
"You thought wrong."
Vincent landed gently on the balcony of the ship named after him, seeking out the scent of clove cigarettes and the sound of dulcet swearing.
When only the sound of the well-oiled engine greeted him, however, his lips pressed flat. He sank into old Turk habits, clearing each room of the massive airship with a cold air of indifference.
When he reached the cockpit, he smelled blood.
Blood that he swore to the deep gods of Wutai he would never have to smell again.
Blood that belonged to their beloved Sun.
Vincent inhaled again and breathed through the searing wrath of all four demons.
That was, of course, when he smelled something else.
A memory stick placed precisely on the controls.
He snapped it into place, looking up at the command screen as it filled with a shadowy figure.
"We have one of your members, AVALANCHE. We demand nothing less than the presence of Hojo's work, namely Strife and Valentine to submit to testing."
Vincent's gauntlet creaked at the strain of his clenched fist.
"If we receive one but not both, the member in our hands will be put to the test instead. You have 24 hours to come to..."
The rest faded as his PHS went off with Cloud's number.
""Vincent, have you seen Cid? He's the second to last member who hasn't responded yet—""
"They have him." Vincent breathed out before he resumed, "I will kill them all. No assistance necessary."
""Alright, that's fair. You know my number in case you do need backup."" Cloud conceded easily.
"... You're not going to stop me?"
""Like I'd let someone with Hojo's ambitions touch a single hair on my head without a fight."" The absurdity of the request was echoed in Cloud's response, ""Hell, if they have video, you can bring it back for us to watch.""
""Cloud! No?! Not with the—"" Tifa bickered as she was cut off by a familiar snort.
""I'm fairly certain as children of AVALANCHE, they will be able to tolerate some violence,"" Nanaki fired back, ""I recieved your call and did my level best to respond quickly. I will assume they have our last member? Go, swiftly, retrieve your beloved,""
"... I will."
He tracked the scent out of the Valentine and encountered the first of the nameless organization's minions.
"Which way?" He questioned, stepping from the gloom.
"The video should have tol-GURK!-"
Blue eyes gleamed from under the red headband, white fur spreading from the glacial gaze.
"We don't like it when our Sun bleeds," Galian observed as he examined their golden gauntlet with ease.
Gurgling ensued before Galian released just enough for the minion to cough out, "S-Sun?! What—"
"Captain Highwind. Rarely do we repeat ourselves but you seem extra stupid," he snarled. "You took what was OURS so the Host has decided that all of you die."
"... You wanted us and yet did not know of us? Oh, this will be fun," Galian cackled, "Speak or do not, we will enjoy this."
With his claws dug into the shoulder, he sank them into the flesh. "No, no, no nononono-AH-AH-AAAAAA!"
This minion screamed so easily, he might have to Silence the rest.
"Paltry, even our Sun endured such a laceration with more pride." He sneered as he dug further into the flesh, his claws spreading it. "Where." Rip. "Is." Tug. "Our." Slow drag. "Sun?"
The howl of agony made him throw back their head and howl with, one in pain and one in delight.
The second nor the third were very helpful but as Galian absently licked the blood off of their hand and swiped at their face, the fourth spilled it all.
"The boss-was-was somebody at ShinRa, years and years and years ago! He read about Project V in the archives, he knows more than us, p-please spare me?!"
"Spare you? We swore every member, no matter your involvement." Galian grimaced and picked at the blood from under his claws. "We will have to take a long bath after this, the Host dislikes being unclean in front of our Sun."
"What the actual fuck?!"
"We suppose we could explain, before you die? We are, hnn, Limit Breaks. Only, sentient." He explained as he flicked the remaining offal on their hand away. "Alive."
"That's, that's not possible—" the minion garbled out before Galian was upon him in a flash.
"We have no time for impossible when we live it." Galian coldly informed the dying frame.
Hellmasker got them to the facility, mantling his webbed wings as he landed amidst the enemy.
"You... requested Valentine?"
"Remove your weapons."
"I am a weapon," he drawled, orange gaze half-lidded as he took in the positions and, oh, how fun, even the snipers. "I am built for it."
""Wait, thought his eyes were supposed to be red.""
""No, they're supposed to be gold, boss said so.""
""Hate to break it to you two but that's orange right there. They brought us the wrong person.""
"Incorrect." Hellmasker cut through the building tension with a tone so saccharine it was almost molasses. "Right body, wrong entity."
Hellmasker clucked his tongue, "Tsk, tsk, the boss didn't tell you what we really are. I'm inclined to think that you lot are solely minions and not even part of the bigger plan. What a shame."
""We?! What the-Get the snipers trained on this bastard.""
""We've got DID here-""
Hellmasker scoffed. "I am a sentient Limit Break, not a disorder, thank you very much; not to mention that is rude to those who live with such a condition."
""A Sentient Limit Break? Please, that's not even in the realm of—Oh fuck." Hellmasker spun up to his first victim of the night, seeing the whites of their eyes as he leaned in close.
"What is a Summon to you then? Some dull creature or a deity to be respected and feared?" He sneered as he stepped away from the puddle leaking from the minion's pants. "They come from us, from Chaos, which some misguided soul placed into a frame no longer bound by mortal rules."
"What are you?!"
"Primordial, unending rage," Hellmasker stated flatly, "and you are between me and what I desire most."
"B-by all mean-" The spray that misted across their face made Hellmasker smile.
"Hnn, by all means I most certainly will."
He launched up to the next minion, swept out their leg and relished in the scream as something snapped. Three more kicks left that minion gurgling on blood as they inhaled and then exhaled for a final time.
The first shot from the snipers missed as Hellmasker side-stepped the whistle of the bullet.
"Oh, now we're playing hardball?" Hellmasker projected as he danced amidst the hail of bullets. "Too bad it's not enough to save you,"
A snap of webbed wings shot him into air as he pulled out Cerberus.
"I'm the better shot."
-BOOM!- -BOOM!- -BOOM!-
The roar of Cerberus firing was accompanied by a chorus of agonized screams.
Hellmasker outright cackled as he fired upon each of the snipers, the gun changing to Chaos's version upon the last shot.
He dove down, tucking the gun away again.
Swooping from above, he snatched a minion off the ground and then, with a grin full of fangs, dropped them.
The blood curdling scream as the minion tried to arrest their fall made him laugh.
"I almost pity you," he remarked as he broke another minion, each snap of a bone causing his victim to grit his teeth. "Oh? No screaming? Let's change that, shall we?" Hellmasker released the minion, the golden gauntlet gleaming in the orange burnish of the sunset, and steam was hitting the cold air. "Here, I think you need these more than I do."
He handed the organs back.
"Not that they'll do you any good on the outside, minion."
Hellmasker gently patted the minion on the head before they collapsed at his feet.
"Such a shame that there's not more of you. Death Gigas would've enjoyed this far more." Hellmasker turned to the final minion, "Now, where is our Sun?"
"No-not here-gick!-boss thought you would come-" here the minion gasped sharply, "come quietly."
"Then where," he quietly asked, kneeling before the minion. "is our Beloved?"
Death Gigas hummed an old Wutainese lullaby off key, tapping away at the center console of the place Hellmasker had painted in quite a lovely shade of red.
""Facility Beta, come in, I repeat, Facility Beta, come in‐""
"Facility Beta responding~" he mocked with a smile.
""You're not Hillard.""
"Hnn, true. Which one was Hillard?" Death Gigas peeled the dried blood off of his arm, grinning when part of it came off as a full strip.
"Oh dear, we hope he wasn't the one with his organs hanging out," he faked concern, lips pulling back to reveal fangs, "we liked him. Not that there was much of him left, mind you, sweetmeats are our favorite..."
""Oh gods..." the sounds of someone's dinner coming back up the same way it went down made him cackle. ""Oh gods, need to-"
The wretch made Death Gigas lose what composure he'd maintained, the laughter bursting from him rather rusty. "The entire facility is painted red! There is no soul here, only Valentine, as you asked. Pray tell, when you decided to ask for a primordial force, what did you think you were getting?"
"They-they had families, you, you MONSTER!"
"Hnn, perhaps your commander should have thought of that before he took Ours!" Death Gigas roared back, snapping on the live feed. "We are not bound by your morals nor are we bound by your rules. Our beloved Sun means more to us than all the lives on this Planet. Whatever, whomever decided to get in the way of that will be fair game until our Sun decides you are no longer worthy."
Burning green locked on the shadowy figure behind the physically ill minion. "Are we passing your tests yet, Adjunct?"
"See for yourself what you've wrought on your beloved Sun." The camera panned to show Cid absently licking at the blood from a fresh cut on his face, grinning brightly before he spotted Gigas's glowing green.
"We will come to you, beloved Sun,"
""Yeah, yeah, Ah've been countin' th' hours 'n you should be here soon,"" here their Sun paused and asked, ""Is that blood spatter Ah see Gigas?""
"Not my work, I would never waste such good paint on the wall, beloved. That is Hellmasker." He pouted, sore that their beloved would mistake another's work for his own.
""Oh, uh, sorry. You'll show me yours then?"" Cid's lopsided smile was due to his swollen cheek and eye, Death Gigas was sure of it.
"Yes, beloved," he crooned softly, "though we suppose it will be Chaos coming to retrieve you—"
""Time's up, Valentine. Come to these coordinates or your beloved dies."
Death Gigas reveled in the quiet before his hunt.
He stalked forward, extended the gauntlet talons and dug them into the concrete wall, sparks snapping and then fading into darkness once more.
"Hnn, not a who, we're afraid, more a what."
"Valentine." The victory of the tone was one Gigas would have to ruin. "There you are—Thundara!"
Death Gigas saw the runes a split second before they activated the spell and he shot forward.
Bounding off the walls, he slammed direct into the caster.
"No cheating! Arrays this, snipers that, we're beginning to think you don't want us taking back our Sun!"
"Where is Strife-Gurkk!-"
"Strife's not here." Gigas scoffed. "Too loud, too much collateral damage and besides," here he grinned, knowing that he was a green-eyed shadow, "he gave us full permission to kill all of you."
"He's a hero!"
"Tsk tsk, you really believed that?" Gigas laughed, "You who asked specifically for Hojo's work? We are but tools to you. You should be asking what Hojo took away from us to survive him."
"What-GAkk!-what did he take?"
"Hnn, that is for us to know and you to find out," he replied coldly as the gauntlet cut through the third and forth rib. "but not before we kill you first."
The talons gripped the beating heart and yanked, severing arteries and supports, pulling it out to hand it over.
"... wha-t did he take?" the minion wheezed.
Gigas leaned in close, whispered, "Everything; we learned to live in order to spite him."
"The best revenge is to live well." Gigas admitted with a smile full of fangs.
He planned carefully, lurking on the edge of the doorway as he calculated the blood spray in order to create a piece for their Sun to see on the way out.
""Boss said to be on the lookout; Valentine is coming and he's already wiped out Delta Watch and Facility Beta.""
""Delta?! And we're supposed to stop the bastard?""
"Stop us? No, you are, hnn, how do we put this? Cannon fodder for your Boss to see how we deal with threats. We know about the cameras, the Materia set into the walls and the Fury cast on the area in the hopes that we go all out." Gigas drawled as he slunk into the room like a Cuahl. "Isn't that right, Adjunct?"
The speakers crackled to life, ""Keep this up and Highwind will suffer more.""
The slow smile that spread across his lips made the minions flinch.
"We will come get you shortly, beloved," he stated sweetly. "We will enjoy watching the sunrise with you."
""Better not be late then, it's already ten 'o clock. Ah expect a cup of coffee with mah sunrise.""
"Hnn, brewed with your accursed salt pinch, we remember."
""It's only cause this shithole don't have a decent drop o' tea in it."" Cid scoffed as he leaned forward in the wooden chair.
Gigas suspected they'd be meeting their beloved sooner rather than later, judging by the creak of the wood.
He did enjoy the thought of chair-leg stakes—
The machete aimed for their face made him snarl. "Rude!"
He'd have to alter the composition a little, ah yes, there would have to do. Gigas lashed out with precision, watched as the blood spray hit the ceiling with a critical look.
Yes that would do perfectly.
He moved in the space between breaths, using his talons and strength to articulate his vision.
The screaming he could do without however, as was the moving from where he placed them.
"Stop squirming, I'm trying to finish my composition!" He broke the wrist, dragging the minion back to their spot. "Move again and we'll make sure the spatter is at least appealing."
""What do you mean, composition?"" The voice regulator they could have done without, really, it just lead to canned villain rather than terrifying.
"Death Gigas, Limit Break and," he drew out the pause, "an artist of carnage!" He swept into a bow, just to hear their Sun laugh.
The wheeze at the end of it meant that he'd have to hurry up.
"You have no idea, Adjunct, of what you asked for," Gigas scoffed as he moved into the next room of the facility, sparks trailing from the gauntlet being scraped against the concrete. "We will take the opportunity you have given us and use it for our own ends."
Chaos stepped into the light of the command center, mantling his wings in order to remove the blood from the rest of the Limit Break's escapades.
He set foot onto the platform and dispassionately watched as the arrays lit up with Gravity magic.
"I have you now, Valentine!"
"Wrong again," Chaos clucked his tongue, stood up in the array and brushed it off like so much gossamer thread. "There are four Limit Breaks but I am," here he paused to snap the last of the array off his wrist, "more."
"Where is Valentine then?"
"Right here and if he'd had his way, our Sun would've been freed within thirty minutes of his captivity. You see, that file you have, it's missing the best part about us."
"C'n Ah please tell him?" Cid begged, having snapped the restraints as Gigas had predicted.
"By all means, beloved, but after we heal you." Chaos murmured softly as he ran his Cura-laced talons over Cid's wounds.
Cid leaned into the touch, cracking open a healed blue eye to watch the Adjunct's reaction.
"He is a monster!"
"Yeah, well," Cid reached up to run slightly shaking fingertips down his cheek, "Ah made a choice. Ah accepted all of him, monsters an' all. Ah'm even gonna tell Gigas that his composition is a work of art even it ain't to mah taste, ya feel me?"
"How?!" The Adjunct howled, charging them with rage filling the air around them. "How are you—"
The Venus Gospel struck true, the spear lifting the Adjuct off of their feet as Cid held it out one-handed, muscles holding the weight with smooth tension.
The art of the spear was one that was so often underestimated, in Chaos's opinion.
Their pilot painted a lovely picture, dried blood making the shirt cling to the muscles that Chaos couldn't wait to lick later.
Chaos shook his head to focus on their beloved.
"See, that's th' difference between us, Ah married a Turk who so happens to have sentient Limit Breaks. You ever think what it takes to accept that without flinchin'?" Cid flicked his wrist just so, enough to drop the body as he tapped the butt of the spear to the floor. "Takes about three cups o' tea, a serious commitment of self an' a core of mithril, which you don't have."
"Well now, we have shown," Chaos slipped away to leave Vincent wholly himself, "that a partnership of pilot and Turk is one that cannot be beaten."
"Val-gik-en-" the gargle of blood made him sneer as he lifted Cid out of the pool's reach.
"Gigas promised me coffee an' a sunrise, you still buyin'?"
"Of course, my Sun."