A Warrior's Redemptionby Artiles
MEMORY ELEVEN: THE MOST PYRRIC VICTORY OF THEM ALL
As Varlus grew closer to the docks, he heard a ship's dull and strong horn blowing off in the distance.
He quickened his pace, drawing closer and closer to the docks. Gunfire rang out in the distance. Who the hell was fighting over there? Varlus hoped it wasn't Jack drawing out the Shinra's fire...
"There he is!" roared someone nearby. Varlus rolled instantly, only to face Captain Horg and a couple dozen men running his way, armed with Buster Swords Model Delta. Throwing his AAC-10 away, he drew his trusty, old but still razor-sharp sword. His was a customized version of the now retired from market Lawgiver, equipped with a special grip on its hilt to prevent it from sliding off his hands during complex moves. Also, its blade was a few inches longer than the standard one, and was also made of titanium alloy and repainted in black. Varlus had nicknamed it "Shade Blade".
"I want him alive!" roared Horg behind his men. "Stun him or knock him out, don't kill him!"
"Yes, sir!" answered the soldiers, ready for combat. "We'll capture him!"
Typical, standard, ass-kissing Shinra privates. Varlus smiled cynically.
"You will try, boys" he taunted.
The Shinra rushed at him, swords at the ready, as Varlus walked calmly to them. But as the Shinra were within slashing range, Varlus jumped over them with a massive somersault, and no sooner his feet had touched the ground again that he threw himself madly into the fray, slashing viciously at the privates. Most of them had barely noticed what had happened before getting decapitated or losing a vital limb. Varlus moved at lighting speed, hacking away everywhere, slicing off legs, arms and heads wherever he found them, penetrating the men's chest ferociously, and creating fatal wounds of various sizes in their chests. Not a single life was spared. Some of the men cried for mercy, but Varlus simply silenced them with his sword down their throats.
A couple of minutes later, Varlus chopped off the remaining Shinra's head with a backhand slash to his right, and stood still, panting. He was soaked in blood, fueled by rage and frustration, and lusting for more Shinra blood to spill. They had to pay. They were going to pay. Every single one of them.
"Why don't you give it a try yourself, Horg?" he asked. There was no reply. Varlus turned around... and saw Horg running towards one of the docked ships. At first, Varlus thought he was fleeing from battle, and this got him even more furious. After some seconds, though, he realized Captain Horg was running towards the source of the gunfire he'd heard earlier... which in turn, came from inside that ship.
"Jack's in trouble!" he figured out. "Damn kid!"
Chasing Horg, Varlus dashed madly through the pier, hoping to reach the Captain before it was too late. Panting heavily, he ran up the ramp leading to the holds, where he found even more Shinra soldiers. Dispatching the privates rather easily, Varlus crossed the holds, only to find himself being fired upon from atop some stairs. He dived behind a crate for cover. Above him, he heard Horg laughing fit to burst.
"Fight like a man, sucker!" taunted Varlus, only to receive another barrage of bullets in response. After the sound ceased, Varlus rolled out of his cover and began to climb up the stairs towards the aft deck. Horg, however, was perched at the top of them with a .45 M5. Varlus realized he was a sitting duck.
"Eat lead, baby!" cried the Captain, firing his gun again towards the warrior. With outstanding reflexes, Varlus cleared the stairs' railing with a long jump, sheathed his sword while in the air, and managed to grab the edge barely.
"Hey, where'd you go?" he heard Horg ask. Trying to save as much strength as possible to keep his grip, Varlus stood silent and didn't move at all. Horg's footsteps echoed as he walked down the metal stairs, looking for him.
His arms were starting to feel numb, a clear sign they were about to cramp up.
"Did he kill himself or what?" Varlus was panting. He wasn't going to last much longer...
"WHERE THE HELL ARE YOU?!" roared the Captain. That was his moment: Varlus swung over the railing, drawing his sword again. Unfortunately, he had came back up a little too early than he'd have liked, and Horg had enough time to fire at him with no obstructions.
The tough, hard, 5.0x35 round from the .45 M5 tore through his left shoulder's pad, but thanks to the secondary plating placed underneath it, the bullet couldn't reach his skin. Surprised, Horg backed up a little, and Varlus sent a strong, horizontal slash his way. As the blade opened the wound and blood started to pour out, Varlus rammed Horg strongly and pinned him to the ground. He pointed his sword directly towards Horg's throat.
"Too late... your friend is most likely dead by now..." he whispered in pain.
"What?! What the hell are you talking about?!" inquired Varlus, not believing a word the Captain said.
"Go ahead, find out yourself. Too bad..." Horg was spitting blood with every word he spoke. "I was looking forward to seeing your wife's scared face as I kidnapped her. Pity..." He laughed, spraying blood all over Varlus' helmet. He seized Horg from his head.
"See you in hell, you son of a bitch" he said with a cold voice, and sank his sword deeply in Horg's throat, who twitched, spat some more blood, and died. Pulling away the sword violently, Varlus ran out to the aft deck.
Climbing ladders and stairs while killing Shinra soldiers here and there, Varlus thought about Horg's last words. "Your friend is most likely dead by now..."
He was bluffing. It wasn't possible. It couldn't be possible. Too many lives had been lost already... Too many friends had died for him... And Jack wasn't going to join them. Not before he got back home with his wife, Elmyra. He promised Jack he'd bring him back home safely, and he wasn't going to fail him now that they stood so close to home.
He was out of stamina... tired to the point of passing out... but he couldn't rest... there was no time... another set of stairs... and then another ladder... another Shinra head rolling... he climbed up yet another ladder...
Finally, he made it to the bridge. Near the consoles, a Shinra soldier wearing Marine insignias laid on the floor, his chest scarred by gunfire. And at his side...
"JACK!" shouted Varlus, running towards his friend, who was sitting next to the dead body. As he got closer, Varlus noticed several wounds in his friend's chest, still bleeding.
"Seems... I'm a rookie after all" said Jack in a painful voice.
"Stay silent. You'll be alright, don't worry about it. They're just superficial wounds, no need to worry." Deep inside him, he wished that was the case. Jack shook his head slowly, as if he'd read his mind.
"Don't... don't lie to me... okay?" he asked.
"Since when I lie to you?" Varlus forced a smile. "I'm telling you, you'll be okay."
Jack laughed weakly, and a trickle of blood dripped from his mouth.
"Varlus... you're a lousy liar."
This wasn't happening... he'd made a promise to him. He wasn't going to fail. God, he wasn't going to fail.
"Am I... am I gonna die?" asked Jack. Varlus put his hand on his shoulder.
"I promised I'll get you back to Midgar... to Elmyra, remember? I don't like failing my promises."
Jack sighed. Varlus felt an immense knot on his throat. It couldn't be... He prayed to God, to Ifalna and to Krianna for help. "Please... let me save him... Ifalna... Krianna... please..."
"Elmyra..." sighed Jack again, and fumbled painfully through his pockets. After rummaging for a while, he gave a bloodied envelope to Varlus.
"What's this?" he asked.
"Varlus... promise me... that after you find Ifalna and Aeris... you... you'll give this letter to Elmyra... to my wife."
"You won't die, Jack!" cried Varlus, unable to hold his tears any longer. "You'll be able to give it to her yourself! Trust me!"
"The letter... it's bloodied... please... copy it... so that... so that she doesn't see... the blood..." Jack's breathing was more shallow now. Varlus was crying loudly, speechless, hollow, mad with sadness and grief...
"You... you're a great man... a great man indeed..." Jack grabbed Varlus' arm. "You... had taught me... how to be... a warrior."
"Don't die on me, my friend" replied Varlus, his voice broken. "Don't die on me!"
"Don't... don't blame yourself... Varlus" said Jack, staring at him with tired, dying eyes. "I... I may not be a warrior... but at least... I fought for a noble cause... and... now... I... feel... I feel... worthy."
"You were always worthy, Jack. You're no rookie. You're a warrior. A true warrior. Perhaps greater than I am."
Jack laughed again in the same weak way. "Live... with... honor..." he said, and Varlus' tears fell in his face as Jack recited the old motto, "Die... with... pride..."
"Jack, no! Please, no!" said Varlus.
"I... I feel... kinda... nice... I feel... proud... of myself."
And after saying those words, his gaze became blank, his head tilted to his right... and his breathing stopped.
"NO! WHY?! NOOO!"
Varlus screamed at the top of his lungs, shouting at the now dying sun, out of his mind, out of his body...
"HE WAS INNOCENT, DAMMIT!"
He fell to the floor, still wailing. He was worthless. He was of no use. He couldn't save anybody. Not Krianna, not Roland... and now, not even Jack, whom he swore he'd save.
Night began to fall over Costa Del Sol.
"Only one more memory remains to be explored."
"Now brace yourself. Focus your own sanity."
"You think you have witnessed enough death already?"
"Do you think this man has already lost enough friends and acquaintances?"
"You are wrong."
"The worst is yet to come."
"Yet, it is your duty to find out the truth, to know why this proud warrior has chosen you to unveil his truth."
"Now, it is time to see how this great warrior died."
"Remember though, death is not the end, but only a transition."
"For the last time... open your eyes."