Site hosted by Build your free website today!

FF7: The Pony's Tale

© 2004 Stratadrake/Draconus of TWZ

Chapter Thirteen: Escape From Midnight City

(Original Draft: 2-13-2004)

"Freeze! Drop your weapons or we will be forced to shoot!"

Berett, Lockheart, and Aeris scattered in different directions, taking refuge around nearby corners. "Damn! That's a lot of 'em!" Berett huffed as he readied his laser.

Across the floor from them, standing around two elevators leading downwards were about six Rin Sha military soldiers, laser rifles readied and charged up. Lockheart peeked around her corner to the right for but a moment, and in response the soldiers unleashed streams of laser fire in her direction as she quickly ducked back.

"What can we do?" Lockheart asked Aeris as Berett poked out around from his corner and began firing his laser many times to his left, across the room, causing the Rin Sha soldiers to scatter for cover. The soldiers soon found covered positions behind several Rin Sha product displays, then prepared to return fire. Berett ducked back around out of their sight. "I hate standoffs...."

"I've got an idea," Aeris said, attaching a purple-colored gem from her collection to a compartment at the top of her cape. "Berett, I've got an idea! Get ready to shoot them!"

Suddenly Aeris ran out into the open and faced the soldiers. "Aeris!!" Lockheart shouted. "What are you doing!?"

Aeris muttered something as the Rin Sha soldiers quickly focused their aim in Aeris's direction and fired a salvo of blasts. Miraculously, the laser beams stopped short of Aeris, as if they were impacting against some kind of invisible barrier.

Berett recognized the opportunity and unleashed several shots across the room from around his corner, striking one of the soldiers a few times and inflicting moderate burns on him.

The rest of the soldiers, shocked at however Aeris could have defended against so many blasts, ceased fire. A moment afterwards, Aeris seemed to faint, falling to the ground.

"Aeris!!" Lockheart shouted. "Berett, cover me!"

Lockheart ran out into the open herself as Berett fired another volley of shots from his position to distract the soldiers. For the moment, it was working. Lockheart stoped by Aeris and tried to pick her up. "Aeris? What happened?"

Aeris blinked a few times, snapped to attention, then noticed one of the soldiers taking aim in their direction. She grabbed one of Lockheart's legs and together they vanished, just before the soldier sent a volley of lasers to their direction. When she winked back in, both Aeris and Lockheart were on Berett's side of the room.

"?? How'd ya do that?" Berett exclaimed as Aeris let go of Lockheart.

"I'm a unicorn, remember?" Aeris answered.

"I didn't mean --" Berett started to say, before realizing he should ask about it later, not now. "-- Forget it! We need to get to those elevators!" Berett peered around the corner, took aim, knocked out a Rin Sha soldier with careful aim from his laser, then ducked back as they returned fire.

"Just what did you do back there?" Lockheart inquired.

Aeris showed Lockheart the purple gem she was wearing. "It's a defensive power. Unfortunately, using it takes a lot out of you." She sighed.

Lockheart sighed in relief, then peered around Berett for a look at the Rin Sha soldier's positions. "Say, Aeris, how far can you wink?"

Aeris looked out into the room with Lockheart. "Why?"

Lockheart pointed to a round pillar across from them, where one Rin Sha soldier was taking cover behind. "Can you wink that far?"

"Yes... wait a minute, are you wanting to--?"

"If we can surprise them--"

"Yeah...!" Aeris said.

"What the hell you two gossipin' bout!?" Berett asked. "Wanna fill me in?"

Aeris looked towards Berett for a moment. "Berett, you'll need to divert their attention for it to work. Got it?"

Berett laughed and grinned. "Leave the shootin' to me!"

Aeris grabbed ahold of Lockheart and then winked out, taking Lockheart with her. Immediately Berett leaned out from the corner and began firing at the nearest Rin Sha soldier, and after several hits knocked the pony out. Berett dodged back as the three remaining soldiers returned fire.

Aeris winked back in from Lockheart, right next to the far pillar in the room. Immediately there was the sound of kicks and magic being fired. When Berett peered into the open again, only one Rin Sha soldier was still in the game. As the surprised soldier turned his attention to Aeris and Lockheart, Berett downed him in a salvo of three shots.

The room was now clear for them, and Berett ran over towards Lockheart and Aeris, and then together they entered the glass elevators leading down.

Berett punched the button for the ground floor. "Too bad we couldnt'a just taken the elevator all the way down...." Right. Whatever had caused such damage on the upper levels and killed the Rin Sha president, it had also seen fit to smash the elevators on those floors, leaving only the stairs for Berett, Lockheart, and Aeris to descend on.

The elevator descended slowly past the 60th floor, and they could Rin Sha military soldiers stationed on that floor as well. Fortunately, by the time the soldiers had noticed them in the elevator, they had already left the floor, and were going down.

Berett looked out the window of the elevator as they descended, floor by floor. Then they heard lasers being fired from above. Looking to the right, they spotted two Rin Sha soldiers above them, riding the other of the two glass elevators down with them, approximately twenty feet above their current position. The Rin Sha soldiers had a clear line of fire for their lasers.

"Damn, don't they ever give up?" Berett steamed, unsheathing his laser and returning fire, but hitting only the underside of the other elevator.

"I've got an idea! Aeris, we'll need someone to block their fire!" Lockheart said, hitting a large red button on the elevator's control panel clearly marked 'EMERGENCY STOP'. Their elevator quickly halted its position, and the Rin Sha soldiers in the other elvator descended to the same level.

The Rin Sha soldiers opened fire, their lasers passing through the glass but hitting Aeris's special, invisible barrier. Berett returned fire, causing deep burns to one of the soldiers.

In a moment, Aeris fainted again, sapped of strength from using that particular gem. Berett took aim at the other soldier and shot him several times, knocking him out as the other elevator descended past them. "We're clear!"

Lockheart pressed the button for the ground floor again, and they began to descend again. But it would not be over yet. Looking down, Aeris commented on all the bright lights she could see from ground level.

"What bright lights?" Berett said, looking down as well. "The hell? Those are SPOTlights!!"

A Rin Sha military helicopter appeared from around the side of the building and targetted its weapons directly at them. It fired a 'shatter' grenade into the wall between the two elevators. The grenade hit the wall, releasing a powerful yet silent shockwave that caused no harm, except to shatter the glass walls of both elevators (which it did an exceedingly wonderful job of). Now, many squares of broken safety glass littered the elevator floor and doubtless a larger shower of particles would be raining down on Midnight City just outside of the Rin Sha HQ.


"Like hell!" Berett shouted as he responded with a few shots from his laser at the armored helicopter. The shots were absorbed by the copter's armor plating.

"So be it...," the helicopter pilot muttered in a voice that could only barely be heard from the helicopter's loudspeaker. "MEET YOUR FATE!"

Aeris summoned protection from her purple magic gem as the helicopter opened fire at them with two military-caliber machine guns. The bullets ricochetted off of her invisible barrier as Lockheart countered by unleashing a fireball from one of her own magic stones. But like Berett's lasers, the fireball impacted against the helicopter's armor with little effect.

The helicopter pilot ceased fire for a moment as Aeris's barrier faded and she stumbled, out of breath.

Berett spotted a glint through the helicopter's forward window and fired several volleys into the helicopter, and then suddenly the helicopter veered right. He must've either hit the pilot, or come very close to doing so.

Aeris recovered some strength and then looked back towards the helicopter as its pilot, or maybe its co-pilot, regained control and veered back over, backing off a slight distance. Suddenly Aeris had an idea. "Lockheart!"

Aeris grabbed Lockheart and winked over to the adjacent elevator with her. Lockheart, fazed but for a moment from the sudden switch of location, unleashed an ice attack towards the helicopter from one of her magic stones. A layer of solid ice froze over the helicopter's armor and one of its wings, but failed to do similarly in any of its critical systems.

Aeris winked back over to the first elevator while Berett fired a few laser blasts, aimed again at the pilot's compartment, but this time there was no noticeable effect; maybe he had missed its occupants.

Berett and Aeris spotted a laser designator from a weapons pod on the helicopter's wing taking aim at their position. He fired a few lasers at the pod, but didn't inflict any noticeable damage. Then the helicopter's weapons pod shot out a jet of smoke from behind and fired a rocket in their direction.

Fortunately, Aeris was expecting something like this. In an instant she grabbed on to Berett by his tail and winked both of them out of there to the other elevator. Just as she winked back in, the other elevator exploded from the rocket's impact, the debris from it flying in all directions.

Berett growled, hardly realizing what had happened and charged up his laser for a super-powered blast. A laser designator from a weapons pod on the helicopter's other wing began training itself on their position.

Berett fired a high-powered blast at the helicopter's designator. Not only did the laser blast destroy the designator, it must have ignited some munitions in the process, because not a moment later, the helicopter's left wing exploded violently, knocking the helicopter off-course. The last they saw of it, it was descending quickly, out of control, into the smog layer of Midnight City.

Berett, Lockheart, and Aeris gave a collective sigh of relief. But then, another helicopter approached from the other side.

"Aw, crap...," Berett muttered, as he quickly replaced the energy cartridge in his laser for a fresher one from his pack, cursing their luck in the process. This second helicopter appeared to be similarly outfitted to the first, and likely sported machine guns and wing rockets as well. It trained both of its laser designators on their position.

"Aeris!!" Lockheart shouted.

"I know, I know...," Aeris muttered. The purple gem affixed to her cape began to glow -- dimly at first, then brighter as Aeris concentrated harder.

A second later the helicopter fired a pair of wing rockets into their position, and for a few moments later all that could be seen was a large dual explosion.

And then the smoke cleared. Aeris was lying unconscious on the elevator's pad; Lockheart and Berett, blackened and singed from the blast, but otherwise unhurt; and the elevator still descending.

"Damn you!" Berett shouted. He fired a burst of shots from his laser at the helicopter's engines, right underneath the blades. The engines absorbed the heat rather well.

Lockheart filled in, concentrating and forming a large ice crystal using one of her magic gems, and then unleashed it upon the helicopter. It impacted the helicopter's main engine, and the helicopter's blades seemed to stop. And the helicopter began falling towards the ground of Midnight City's upper level.

Then their elevator descended into a metal shaft as Lockheart tried to no avail to wake Aeris.

The front lobby of the Rin Sha HQ was empty of all Rin Sha personnel as the glass elevator carrying Aeris, Lockheart, and Berett descended to the floor and its doors opened. Berett and Lockheart dragged Aeris out of the elevator, and then Berett looked around. "Coast's clear, for now.... Lockheart, take care of Aeris. I've gotta scout the perimeter."

Berett looked out through the main door of the HQ and spotted trouble. Lots of trouble. An entire Rin Sha military unit must have been waiting outside the doors for them. In a moment Berett evacuated inside towards Lockheart, chased by a hailstorm of laser fire. "Can't get out that way. And what's wrong with her?"

Lockheart looked at Berett and shrugged. "I-I don't know. You don't think...?"

"No chance in hell!" Berett answered. He opened up a small storage compartment on his laser and withdrew a large, somewhat crumpled feather of a mysterious, golden-orange color. "Here. I keep one of these fer 'mergencies. Use it."

Lockheart took the mystical feather and set it down on Aeris's shoulder. First, it glowed brightly. Then, it seemed to melt and disappear. And a moment later she could see Aeris open her eyes and look around. "...Did we make it?" Was the first thing Aeris asked.

Berett smiled briefly. "Good to see yer okay. But we've got trouble. There's a lot of them Rin Sha outside, just waitin' for us to waltz out and get shot. We need another plan. And hopefully, fast."

"Hey!!" Called a semi-familiar voice from the top of a nearby staircase. It was Spike. "Up here! Come this way!"

Aeris stood up, weakly, while Berett ran ahead, up the stairs. Lockheart helped Aeris climb upwards and follow. "What??"

Spike ran across the marble-floored second level to a vehicle on a Rin Sha product display, something like a pick-up truck, large enough for two ponies to fit in its cab and perhaps three more in its bed. "These should be fully operational," Spike said, hopping in the vehicle's bed and. "Climb in!"

"Let me drive!" Lockheart shouted as she opened the driver's side door. Aeris walked over and hopped in the other side of the cab, while Berett jumped into the vehicle's bed, next to Spike.

"What about Cloud?" Aeris asked.

Then they heard the sound of another, louder vehicle being started. Suddenly, from a large doorway into a back room, out darted a large, new Rin Sha model motor cycle. And Cloud was riding it. He stopped when he saw them and then nodded silently, smiling, to Lockheart.

Lockheart switched the truck on, and its engine started up quickly. Then she nodded back to Cloud.

"Follow me!" Cloud shouted just before flooring the bike's throttle.

Although the Rin Sha soldiers outside calculated that the rebels inside might be up to something, nothing could prepare them for the sight of a large motor cycle breaking out of the front doors, followed swiftly behind by a large pick-up truck with three ponies and one feline creature riding. A near-stampede ensued as the soldiers scattered, clearing a line through which Cloud and everyone else whizzed through.

Helicopters flew overhead, keeping one spotlight affixed on Cloud's bike and another upon the pick-up truck with Lockheart, Aeris, Berett and Spike in it. They were being tracked. They followed one of the arterial biways through what signs clearly identified as the Upper Sixth District. Cloud signalled and turned left at one of the outermost streets, and Lockheart followed behind with the truck.

They could hear sirens as Cloud steered them through Midnight City's rather light nighttime traffic, turning right three blocks down. Another block later, a Rin Sha police vehicle tried to block them off. Cloud hit the brakes and spun the bike around, and then unleashed a lightning attack from one of his magic stones into the police car, short-circuiting its electronics and causing it to shut off.

Lockheart hit the brakes on the truck and then executed a sharp U-turn as Cloud began driving the opposite direction and two Rin Sha police officers unloaded from the car. Berett took aim with his laser and provided cover fire as they sped away.

They drove down the arterial for a few blocks, then Cloud executed a sharp right turn. Lockheart braked and followed. But sirens and clearer streets indicated that the Rin Sha police were closing in pursuit. As they drove down the street towards the Upper Fifth District, Cloud eased up on his speed to allow Lockheart and their truck to catch up. Soon Cloud and Lockheart were side by side.

"What do we do now?" Lockheart shouted to Cloud as they passed another city block.

"What else? We need to get out of here!" Cloud shouted back.

"I know!" Aeris intervened. "They're constructing a new biway over in First District, which is supposed to run right above the outer walls of the City. If we can get there, we should be able to leave this City. Once outside, they can't follow us!"

To leave the City? The idea had a nice sound to it. Even better yet, it would give them free rein to find out if Sephiroth really had returned. Sure, that was his blade they found on the 70th floor of the Rin Sha HQ, impaled in the once proud President. But was Sephiroth really back? Really and truly?

Shutting such unanswerable questions out of his head, Cloud nodded. "Right. I'll lead the way. Berett, Spike, you two provide cover fire if any trouble approaches."

Berett nodded eagerly, and Spike solemnly.

They turned right at the next intersection, now travelling outwards along the boundary between the Fifth and Fouth Districts. Suddenly a Rin Sha police car appeared ahead of them on the next street, and it braked to a stop on the left side. Berett fired shots at it as they drove past, and then it began pursuing them.

Cloud looked ahead, hearing sirens echoing from all directions but most prominently from the left. "Right! Turn right!" He shouted, and they turned right at the next intersection. Behind them followed not one, but now three Rin Sha police cars, as well as two Rin Sha cycle officers.

Berett fired a volley of several shots at their pursuers as they travelled three blocks to the border of the Sixth District. Then they made one left turn and proceeded outwards through Midnight City.

Cloud eased up to let their truck pass him, and he looked back carefully as two Rin Sha cycle officers accelerated and approached. Cloud unleashed a lightning attack from one of his magic stones when one of them drew near, paralyzing the rider and sending the bike out of control into a nearby building. Berett fired several shots at the other bike, impacting it across its front, and then bursting its front tire, sending that bike out of control.

A few blocks later a prominent traffic sign read "LEFT ONLY", as they approached the new outermost biway, currently still under construction. They turned left, now with four Rin Sha police cars following behind them.

"Get ready!" Spike shouted, leaping to the back end of the truck's bed. Cloud accelerated and moved aside of the truck as Spike unleashed a huge fireball from one of his magic gems. The fireball drifted sloly down the street behind them, and in no time the pursuing Rin Sha police vehicles passed through it. At that moment the fireball exploded, overturning two of the police cars and setting the other two on fire.

Cloud looked at Spike in surprise. Spike smiled. "I've had a lot of practice with this one."

"I'll say," Cloud began to say, before turning his attention back to the road in front of them. "--Look out! Left!!"

A barricade of Rin Sha police officers were waiting for them just ahead, rifles at the ready. Berett opened fire first, causing the officers to duck behind their barricades as they turned left onto the mid-Fifth District arterial, Lockheart leading in the truck and Cloud following shortly behind.

They turned right at the next intersection and drove straight into Fifth District's park. They whizzed through on one of the park's concrete paths, trees, bushes, but no flowers whizzing by on both sides.

Looking back, Cloud identified four Rin Sha cycle officers entering pursuit behind them. He decelerated slightly to get closer to the pursuing officers. But a moment later, and to his surprise, he heard, saw, and almost felt a set of high-impact lasers sear by. Those Rin Sha officers were armed!

Cloud hit the brakes sharply and the three officers quickly overtook him. Immediately Cloud unleashed another lightning attack, hitting one of the officer's and knocking out his cycle. As Cloud passed the stunned officer, he noticed a high-powered laser battery mounted directly into the cycle, not carried by the officer.

Cloud sped up and then rammed his bike into the side of one of the officer's bikes, as the officers traded laser fire with their truck and Berett aboard. Cloud saw Spike readying a fire attack and then quickly veered right, as a giant fireball slammed into the two officers, causing them to lose control.

Cloud quickly caught up with their truck, and noticed Berett now taking aim at the two Rin Sha police helicopters chasing them. Berett unleashed a charged blast at one of them, puncturing a hole in its side and forcing its pilots to make an emergency landing.

Berett opened fire at the second police helicopter tracking them as they passed into the Second District, then turned right to travel outwards. Soon the helicopter backed off, and the sirens grew more distant. They reached the outermost biway without further incident, and turned left to head towards the First District.

They all slowed down, then hopped out of their vehicles after crashing through construction barricades. Large construction materials and vehicles blocked any speedy passage through. "Whew... I think we made it!" Aeris said, relieved.

"This is too quiet. I don't like it...," Cloud warned.

"Hey, don' jinx us or nothin'," Berett stated back. "I bet we lost 'em."

Lockheart looked over the side of the roadway. A very long distance downwards was the ground, the real ground, outside Midnight City's walls, even. All they needed was a safe way down....

And then it happened. Out of nowhere a heavy artillery shell landed about twenty feet away and exploded. Cloud, Aeris, and the others took cover behind vehicles as smoke and debris washed over the area; no one was hurt. And then they heard it. Approaching slowly from the center of the city came a large Rin Sha military tank, with a short but wide cannon on its turret, sporting two smaller laser turrets on its side, behind the main turret, and crushing over parked vehicles and everything in its path on its two pairs of treads. It stopped at a distance of about one Midnight City block and its pilot announced through a loudspeaker:

"Surrender, Rebels, or be destroyed!"

Everyone looked at each other, then Cloud said, "There is no surrender."

Cloud, Berett, and Spike fled to the right while Aeris and Lockheart evaded to the left. Seeing that they were determined to fight, the tank's pilot drove closer, over construction materials, barricades, and all other obstacles.

Berett opened fire first, but even his maximum-charged laser blasts couldn't penetrate its armor. Cloud filled in with a lightning attack from one of his magic stones, but that had no effect either. Lockheart tried hitting it with ice; no effect. Even Spike's powerful flame attack couldn't effect it; its armor was simply too thick.

The tank moved closer, rotating its short but wide turret to the left, towards Lockheart and Aeris and training its secondary, laser turrets on Berett and Cloud. Berett and Cloud evaded sideways, followed by a hail of laser fire, while Lockheart and Aeris took cover behind a large crane. The tank fired its main cannon in Aeris's direction, impacting the crane sheltering them and destroying it in a single shot. Only Aeris winking herself and Lockheart out of there saved them. Meanwhile Berett managed to get one shot off at the tank, aimed at one of its secondary laser turrets, while Cloud unleashed a lightning attack at the tank's other laser turret. Although their attacks did seem to have some effect, they would need more firepower to take out the actual tank. A hell of a lot more firepower.

The long arm of the demolished crane fell with force onto a nearby patch of metal gridwork about the size of one city block, supported by four extremely large metal beams meeting in an 'X' pattern. This metal support would serve as the foundation for some future building. Impacting the center of this metal foundation, the framing seemed to sag for just a moment.

Suddenly Cloud saw a glimpse of hope, a possibility for victory. "This way!!" Cloud shouted as he ran behind and around the large tank. Berett and Spike followed as they ran towards, across, and then to the opposite side of the metal grid. Lockheart and Aeris ran over as well. The enemy pilot drove his tank in pursuit, after them.

The enemy tank fired another shell, flying above their heads into a nearby building. Three floors of the building shattered as the shell exploded, sending a rain of debris down onto Cloud and the others. Fortunately they evaded the largest and most deadly pieces of falling debris, suffering only bruises from the smaller pieces of debris landing on top of them.

"What do we do?" Lockheart asked Cloud, worriedly.

"Wait for it...," Cloud said as the tank moved close, into the empty block supported by only a single foundation. The enemy pilot adjusted his aim slightly lower and fired again into the nearby building, causing even more debris to fall.

"What the hell ya thinking!?" Berett shouted, angrily. "Care to fill us in!?"

"Wait for it!" Cloud shouted back as the tank drew closer.

The tank fired again, even lower, its shell now whizzing only a few feet over their heads. It impacted the nearby building at an even lower level, sending more debris down onto them.

"We will be buried alive if this keeps up!" Spike shouted, trying to keep on top of the debris coming down.

Cloud looked at the approaching tank. "Just a little closer...."

"Enough! I ain't just gonna wait around for it to get us!" Berett said, clearing the junk off of him.

The tank approached a little closer, until it was at the center of the empty block near them. "Now! Surround the tank! Don't let it move!"

Cloud, Berett, and everyone else ran away from their location, straight towards the tank. Cloud and Berett veered left, while Aeris and Lockheart ran to the right, and Spike ran straight underneath the tank, safely through the middle between its treads. The pilot of the tank fired another shot in hopes of hitting someone -- anyone -- but missed by a wide margin. The shell impacted one corner of the block's metal framing, destroying it. The remaining framing sagged slightly under the tank's heavy weight.

"What now!?" Berett asked as they regrouped on the other side, and the tank began turning around.

"See the metal framing it's on?" Cloud shouted. "Take it out!"

"How?" Berett objected.

"Any how!" Cloud ordered.

Cloud rushed to the tank's side and Cloud hit the metal framing with a fire attack from one of his magic gems. Again. And again. And again. The metal framing began to glow, and to bend under the tank's weight.

Then Berett grabbed him and pulled him aside, because the tank's main turret was now pointing dangerously close to their location. "Get that later! We gotta move!"

Meanwhile, Aeris and Lockheart made their way to another corner of the framing, and Lockheart began attacking it with alternating fire and ice from her two magic stones. Freeze, heat, freeze, then heat. Cloud and Berett regrouped at their position, as well as Spike.

Suddenly there was a loud metallic SNAP! as this corner of the metal framing, opposite the end the tank had destroyed, broke free. The entire block began to sag considerably, followed by the sounds of metal stretching and bending.

"Clear the area!" Cloud ordered, and the five of them retreated from the direction of the tank as the previously heated support stretched, then gave way with a loud SNAP. The entire empty block, with the large Rin Sha tank on it sagged downwards, three of its four corners punched free from the surroundings. The enemy tank began to slip across the surface of it as it bent lower, and lower. The turret of the enemy tank slammed against the corner of the block, and the tank's pilot, or rather its crew, realizing the danger, opened the turret hatch and began evacuating out.

No sooner had the last of the tank's three-pony crew evacuated and begun escaping inwards through the City, then the empty block's metal framing sagged even further downwards, and the tank broke itself free from it. The last they saw of that invulnerable metal monstrosity was it disappearing through the City's upper plate to the Slumps below.

About half an hour later, Cloud was the first to set foot on the earth outside of Midnight City's walls. Berett was second, sliding down a long cable lowered from one of the construction cranes above and jumping off. Aeris was third, followed by Lockheart, and finally, Spike.

"I... can't believe we did it. We're outside the City again," Lockheart sighed, looking off to a horizon clean of Midnight City's smog. A few miles distant, they could even see green, grassy hills.

"Well, what do we do now?" Berett asked.

"Sephiroth...," Cloud said quietly. "He's... alive? Sephiroth's alive?"

"Yo, man!" Berett said to Cloud. "I said, what we gonna do from here?"

Cloud turned to face Berett and everyone else. "I know it. Sephiroth's still alive... somehow.... We have to find out where he is. I... I have to settle an old score with him."

"And then whut?" Berett asked. "You said this guy was even a bigger menace than the Rin Sha. If we off him, do ya think that will save the Land or somethin'?"

"...Maybe...," Cloud responded.

"Good enough fer me. I'm goin'!"

"Me too," Lockheart said. "Good-bye, Midnight City, once and for all...."

"Same here," Spike said. "I do have a home somewhere out here. I want to return home."

"And the ancient Ponies...," Aeris mentioned. "I have to know more about them. About their connections with the Land... everything...."

"So it's settled, then. I say we head north from here. About a day or two's distance there's a li'l town called Serenity. Or at least there was last time I was out here."

"Sounds fine to me," Cloud said. "Then we head north!"

"But I got one question I gotta ask ya...," Berett said.

"What is it?"

"How the heck do ya use those magic stone thingies?"

"Why do you ask?"

"I saw what she can do with those things," Berett said, pointing to Aeris and the purple-colored gem placed securely at the top of her cape. "I wanna learn."

"What's there to learn? It's easy," Cloud said.

"What d'ya mean, 'easy'??" Berett huffed.

"That's okay," Aeris interrupted. "I can tell you all about it...," Aeris volunteered.

"Good. I wanna know how they operate."

Cloud took a few steps forward, to the north. "Then why don't we discuss that on the way? We're not getting any younger, you know."

"Al'righty then!" Berett piped back. "Let's move out!"

End Of Volume 1