There was a clatter of small, wobbling steps as an old woman hobbled her way to the outlook of her small, caved hovel. There was something... wrong about the air. No, not just the air. The very sky looked alien, and despite the film covering her aging eyes, Matoya no less sensed the unnaturalness of the day. But the Light Warriors had succeeded, hadn't they? There was no hellfire raining from the heavens, the krakens hadn't woken from their uneasy slumber at the bottom of the seas, and Bahamut stayed impotently lodged amongst the crags and sandy shores of his islands. And yet...
Bahamut growled, a rumbling, dissatisfied noise. He'd bestowed his power – his very essence onto the humans – there was surely no reason for them to have failed. So why were his skies filled with spiderweb-thin cracks? Why were there so many voices and minds and hearts joining into his world? And more to the point, what had caused the utter stillness beyond them?
The grounds of the underworld shook. Wait, what? Minwu rubbed at his eyes in weary confusion as he rose from a slick, mossy bedding of wet soil. There had been so much excitement in his unlife that little would have surprised the late mage, but for all his time as a dead man, he'd never felt the ground beneath his feet shake in such a fashion. He tried to light an orb in the darkness, but the action was in vain. Of course, he thought, why should any of his spells work? Dead men cast no magic. A chasm of light suddenly erupted from the moldy craters surrounding him, and Minwu grunted in surprise. As his eyes adjusted to the unearthly brightness of it all, he realized there were forms beyond the glow. Great, horned beasts, massive dragons, wisps of naiads and dryads, and even a unicorn of myth. Was he hallucinating? No, he thought with a bitter laugh. The dead don't dream, either.
Leviathan was uneasy. He felt death throughout the Feymarch, and yet, none of his command had perished. Had the girl? No, he answered himself just as quickly as he'd wondered, had the girl fallen in battle, he'd have known. The waters of the world would have torn the lands asunder had she been slain. He would have seen to that, personally. The great eidolon rumbled in distaste. Asura paused beside him and turned her many-faceted head toward the noise. “What is it?” Her left face asked in a voice heavy with concern. “There is death,” the middle face reflected, nonchalant. “But not of ours,” stated the third visage in a flat tone. “Silence.” Leviathan had to think. What was causing - “More of us?” Asura's three voices asked in unison.
They were dead. Their summoner had destroyed them. For the world, Valefor thought. For herself, Ifrit countered. For us all, Ixion replied. For no one, Anima suggested. No one, mused Sandy. Us all, agreed Mindy. Herself, scorned Cindy. Bahamut was silent.
There was another him. Wasn't there? There was. There were others of the others, too. What? No, death. No, life! No -
The Farplane was filled with life. Past aeons, long-dead summoners, and now foreigners dropped in and out of the mists. Was it Sin, once more? Something worse? Something better? Shiva screamed -
- as her engines faulted. Sirens blared from the corridors to the cockpit and enlisted men ran about in a frenzied panic. The ship was crashing. The men knew it, their commander knew it, and the ragtag amalgamate of stowaways knew it. It wouldn't be long before the lives of every soul on the airship would... end?
They'd landed in water. After tumbling through a cloud, hundreds of miles above the ground, they'd landed in water. In a sea, to be precise. With what looked to be... fireflies? Skimming along the surface? One of the enlisted clamored up from a jostled fall to stare out the window. Not far from their newly-acquired aquatic landing strip, the man could see a young girl, sitting out on a rocky cliff. Behind her, rolling hills that sloped down into strange land. Hair as green as the grass beyond and hands blazing, the man thought he'd caught sight of an esper.
And he had, after a fashion. Terra had woken from what had started as a pleasant dream of memories long-recovered and ended as a nightmare full of strange voices, cries, and faces (The three-faceted woman, with her multiple arms and her every hand brandishing a blade had terrified the half-girl), only to feel the earth tremble under her feet and the skies crack with new colors and foreign sounds. She'd rushed out of her tiny home, for once ignoring the cries of the children inside. Danger, every nerve screamed. Death, her mind warned. Life, her heart hoped.
Beyond the streaks of light and peals of thunder, Terra could see – what could she see in those thin cracks in the sky, exactly? There was a huge tree, with mist covering the roots, most of the trunk, and even seemed to be whipping its way around some of the limbs. Through another break, giant meteors cascaded, some even falling into the lighted mass of water below the cliff face where she'd taken a seat. And then, everything seemed to stop. The cracks in the sky dissipated. The ground halted in its quakes, and everything seemed back to normal.
Except it wasn't.
She could feel a thrum of energy – new, strange, and though foreign, not unwelcome. There was chaos in it, to be certain, but peace as well. Her hand felt sudden heat, and when she looked down, fire engulfed her fingers up to her wrist. She screamed in protest, rather than pain. Wait, fire? And painless. It was magic! That was the chaos, that was the peace! That steady thrum, it had been - fleeting. The fire died out as quickly as it had come, and Terra let out a noise somewhere between a sob and a groan. When she looked out once more, she could see new land masses in the distance. Below her, something she assumed to be an airship, though she couldn't say why. Whoops of cheer mingled with cries of peril from the ship, and Terra felt a sudden surge of doubt. These strangers – could they have caused this disruption? Worse than that, what about the children in the home she'd so haphazardly fled?
As she jerked herself up from a sitting position and ran down the small hill to the hovel, a crystal blue wyvern flew overhead.
White fluffy clouds lazily rolled across a sky of pristine blue as the world's fastest and only airship soared through the heavens, her pilot's long silvery hair whipping in the wind. Were he a novice, he would have a map of the world clutched in his hand or installed on the panel behind the steering wheel. But it would have gone to waste. Setzer could pilot this zeppelin around the world during the middle of the destruction of life as we know it and still be able to reach any destination he chose. After all, he'd navigated through an apocalypse once on the Blackjack. The results had been less than satisfactory back then, but the Falcon was unmatched. He almost wished something would happen to liven up his day. It had been less than a week since Setzer had dropped the last of the Returners off and refueled the Falcon and he had already run out of things to keep him distracted.
He was bored.
One would think that the wandering gambler would take the opportunity to relax and enjoy the simple pleasures of NOT having a psychotic murderer ready to smite them with his Light of Judgement from atop his tower. And he had, honestly. He had enjoyed regaining his freedom so much that he had pushed the Falcon to fly at it's fastest speed for what seemed like hours. The thrill of adventure, the rush of excitement, the feeling of knowing that their actions had saved the world. Adrenaline had pumped through his veins with every beat of his heart...
But once again he was alone and there was nothing to do. Content that the ship was at a high enough altitude that it was virtually impossible to crash into anything, he went below deck to look for something to keep him occupied. As he descended the stairs, he didn't catch sight of the clouds starting to swirl and begin darkening. Of course, once he was below deck he realized there was nothing for him down there at all. Darill hadn't exactly been as obsessed with gambling as to put anything recreational in her ship. Perhaps I can make a few modifications to prevent myself from dying from ennui. Setzer thought to himself. Though he carried several decks of cards, he wasn't particularly interested in Solitaire. There wasn't enough risk involved to get his blood flowing. Perhaps there was something else to do.
Out of the corner of his eye, he caught sight of his portable slot machine and walked over to it. Ah yes, that was it! Maybe he could build another and install it below deck. Modifications usually kept him occupied and filled up his free time when there was no one to talk to. Just then, he noticed a smudge on the handle and reached over to clean it off. It swung downwards loosely, as a result from extended recent use and Setzer's purple eyes widened. It was almost never good to be on the wrong side of this particular slot machine.
The first reel stopped on 'Bar' and with it came a sick feeling of dread that settled in his stomach. He really didn't want a random esper summoned into his airship to attack him, if they could still be summoned anyway. If not, he'd consider himself lucky. The second reel ended up as a '7' and to say he was nervous would be an understatement. This could go two ways. Any other symbol on the reel would give him the Lagomorph, but another '7' would spell disaster. The gambler held his breath as that last reel grinded to a halt...
He nearly had a heart attack as the robed bunny popped out of the machine and healed him. Relief washed through the man and he grabbed some tools and tightened the machine's handle immediately. Visibly shaken, and rightly so, he decided to rethink keeping that machine around. Suddenly, he pitched forward off his feet and fell on top of it as the airship collided with something. A scraping noise filled the air as he sprinted over to the steps and up them to the deck. What the heck had he run into? The ship was set on autopilot and was thousands of feet above ground! What could have have POSSIBLY hit up here?!
Shock froze him in place, his jaw dropping opened as he caught sight of the rigid structure that protected the airship's gas bag scraping along the side of a gargantuan blue crystal. Where the hell did that come from?! Setzer's mind screamed. White fluffy clouds were still level with the airship, so he knew that he was still airborne. Yet there was the crystal, along with several others, jutting out of what looked to be a floating civilization. Disbelief flooded his brain as he tried to process how such a thing could just appear out of nowhere. The sound of reinforced fabric tearing snapped him out of his attempt to logically process the sudden appearance of an apparently populated floating continent and forced him to concentrate on the situation at hand.
His airship now had a hole in it and was rapidly getting closer to the floating city below him. Oh, goody. It was a good thing this had happened to him several times before, otherwise he'd really be terrified out of his senses. Not that he wasn't feeling the edge of panic biting at his nerves as he took hold of the wheel and led the Falcon away from the rest of the crystals. Now to find a place to land. Setzer looked around quickly and was met only with the options of either bringing his airship in for some impromptu city parking or possibly tearing up the undercarriage by landing in the trees. The muscle in his jaw jumped from gritting his teeth as he prepared for impact. This was going to cost him a fortune to repair.
The airship descended on the trees with a muffled 'poompf' as it hit the canopy, followed immediately by the sounds of countless branches thundering against the Falcon's underbelly as it came to an agonizingly lengthy stop at the edge of the trees. A groan of frustration sounded in his throat as he raked his fingers through his hair in defeat. He didn't even WANT to see the extent of damage that was undoubtedly waiting for him. At least he was in a city that was sure to sell airship parts, so in a way, it wasn't all bad. The sounds of concerned voices floated upwards into the air and steadily increased in volume. Might as well grab his portable slot machine and head into the streets. Within moments, he was ready to head out through the gaping hole in the Falcon and dropped down to land in a crouch alongside the edge of the road. Standing, he glanced around at the people in the streets and spotted not only humans, but other...other...
He yelped in surprised and alarm when he caught sight of a group of tall, scaly humanoids with features resembling those of a lizard. Setzer reached into his coat pocket, palming the deck hidden within and slowly backing away from the creatures. If he played his cards right, he could take them all down by himself with some effort. He backed into something large a squishy and turned to see what it was, shocked to see an incredibly hefty creature with a pig-like snout and a horn atop his head. “Where ya goin'?” It asked him with a grunt. It took him exactly three seconds to register that this town was infested with monsters, realize that he was sorely outnumbered, and beat a hasty retreat as far from the threat of certain death as humanly possible.
The gambler took off like a shot, tucking his slot machine into his ornamented coat to cut down on wind resistance. The thundering of footsteps behind him served only to spur him on. Voices sounded behind him with calls of “Hey, wait!” and “Come back!” Like hell. The gambler thought to himself incredulously, as he began to leave the heavier humanoids in the dust. The scaly ones were nowhere near as slow however, and were right on his heels. He rounded a corner into an alleyway between two buildings and nearly smacked himself for his poor judgement.
A brick wall prevented any escape he might have hoped to make and he turned around to see the forms of the creature that had chased him down. It was then that he realized that there were a couple humans in the group. Were they there to try and save him? Or were they there because they were working with the creatures? He was just about to demand an explanation when one of the humans jerked his thumb to a lizard-like humanoid and asked, “What's the matter, never seen a bangaa before?” The bangaa creature smiled at him and oddly, Setzer couldn't sense any ill intent from it.
He was stunned. “T-they...they are...friendly?” He stammered in surprise, receiving a laugh and a confirmation from the bangaa, who turned out to be a female. What had he gotten himself into? A floating civilization was one thing, but one with sentient creatures he had never seen before? That was an entirely new story. Well, at least one thing was certain.