REVOLUTION - Story - Stars of Disaster

It had been a bad mission. The Questers fought against an unstoppable monster: "The Book". The evil, 50 foot tall paper machine just couldn't be defeated. It was immune to their attacks, and it had the ability to kill them infinitely. The lives of the Questers had almost been destroyed. But at the very last moment, Julian had stolen a device that could destroy reality from that monster. And he'd pushed the 'delete' button. Everything was a blur, past that point.

The Questers' senses slowly returned to them. It was an unfamiliar location. They began to hear birds chirping, even though they were inside. Aribar, the half-elf mage, looked at the area. He was confused, his eyes unable to focus yet. "What's... Going on?"

Julian, the burly boxing brawler, opened his eyes. But he wasn't able to see much of anything other than some dark symbols. "Damned if I know."

This place was some sort of study or library. Bright sunlight shined in blindingly through twisted hairline cracks in its ancient wooden walls.

Metal Man, the man in the chromed silver armor with blue cape and shoulderpads, looked out his faded blue-glass visor. His lips were curled into an awkward smirk. "Last time I ride a lawnmower into a hardware store..."

Dragoshi, the half-dragon half-something else entity, just looked at Metal. "...Not gonna ask."

Another voice spoke. "Ah, you've awakened." It was Kuja, the otherworldly godlike mage with the fancy 17th century court outfit. He was looking down at them, and his stare indicated this was his study.

Metal Man suddenly pointed his shiny metal finger at Kuja, speaking with a harsh, metallic tone. "AHAH! This was all your plan! You wanted the world to explode! ...Hmmm... not a very good plan, though, if that is the case..."

Dragoshi shook his head. "That's because it probably wasn't."

Then Kuja laughed. "Don't thank me too soon!"

Julian hurled the decrepit book of "Hearts and Worlds" that had been draped over his face and yelled "What th' hell--How'd we get HERE? Of all places?" as the book loudly smacked into the floor.

Kuja stepped over the fallen book, over to a different book on a stand. It was "The" Book, in a new and elaborate binding. It glowed with an other-worldly energy was familiar to the Questers, energy they had known as "Smash Energy".

Metal Man flinched when he realized it was The Book over there. He'd been ready for another round of battle, and he even reflexively got into battle stance. "Gah!" But after a moment of looking at it, he realized it was perfectly stationary. "...Oh wait, it's not alive and hurling cliches at me."

Kuja rolled his eyes at Metal. "Since I'm SURE all of this hum-drum about dimensions and space-time would be LOST on your PATHETICALLY stupid brains, I shall try to explain this... in layman's terms." He put a finger on the book's pages, opening it slowly. "First, how you came to be my guests here." He flipped through the pages, blank as they were. "Your world, as recent events have made clear, was not entirely natural." He flipped a page. "Call it... an amalgamation. It was a compilation of many possible worlds. Quite real, but quite unstable. A story created by many minds!" He flipped the book shut and stepped away from it, then he waved his hands dramatically at the bookshelves on the walls. "Stories, though, can escape their writers' original vision.... and take a life of their own. Such was the case of your world's story!"

Then Kuja continued lecturing. "You would think a story that was so sturdy it created a world people LIVED IN wouldn't fall apart. Nothing is permanent, though... even words carved in stone can be erased, let alone those written on paper." But all Metal did in response to this, was to wander about the study. The floor made loud creaking noises as he moved about.

Kuja continued speaking yet some more. "The device you found is the pen used to write it. When Julian hit that button, he erased the words on the book's pages. Those stories are now gone! You have done what countless villains and dark forces couldn't--you destroyed your world!"

Aribar and Julian's eyes widened, while Metal stared at Julian and smirked knowingly. Julian looked at Metal, then at Kuja, wincing. "...aw shit."

Kuja pointed to the walls of this palacial library. "This is my world. One of many that became part of yours."

Metal Man patted Julian on the back and sarcastically grinned. "Well, I guess Julian isn't always right! Too bad it couldn't have been over something less dangerous, like which door to take in a maze. Oh, but right is always the right answer, now isn't it, Julian?"

Julian looked to Metal, opened mouth to speak, but no sound came out. He was too distracted by what he'd just heard to properly respond.

Kuja stared rigidly at Metal Man. "I, cannot... claim responsibility for the original penmanship of THIS book..." He twisted his face up as he stared at The Book. "...But I can claim some responsibility for the nature of it. You see, that device was the very thing I was seeking from the very beginning. My fate in THIS world is grim. So I sought to change said fate."

Metal coughed. "If you wrote in the book, then you could have changed it." He angrily pointed at Kuja, the light shining off of his metal hand. "But you never really cared about us! You killed us by the dozens just because we were 'in the way.'" Then he pointed at the Book. "I cannot allow you to simply write out those deaths like they were nothing! And besides, why shouldn't we just restore what was lost? What could possibly stop us from doing that?"

Kuja shook his head. "We can't. It'll just be destroyed agai--"

"Why? How do you know that, even? What are you hiding from us this time?"

Kuja cleared his throat. "While I feel very much responsible for the death of your comrades... we can't just write them back to life. It doesn't WORK that way."

"Really? What about the time I--"

Kuja waved his hand to silence Metal. "It's beyond discussion. We don't have time. This study is but a temporary construction. If we spend all our time arguing here, we'll never set up the Book fast enough. And then we'll ALL be destroyed." As if to reinforce the point, the edges of the room began to fade away, into thin air, letting more light into the room. The other Questers visibly flinched, but for some reason Metal didn't.

"You're hiding something, aren't you. You don't fool me. What if this is all your illusion, made to try and fool us?" He stomped a foot on the ground, cracking the fragile flooring. "If I have to beat the truth out of you, I will. You can't trick us again!"

The room continued to fade. Books fell off of shelves into sheer oblivion. While the added sunlight helped light up the place, it was also consuming the very reality everyone was standing in. Julian clenched his teeth. "I dunno what th' hell is goin' on here, but I sure as FUCK don't wanna get killed by some weird dimensional meltin' bullshit. I'm outta here."

Metal tried to block Julian from exiting. "Wait, Julian! We don't--"

But Julian had already leapt into the book. It was like a portal--so easy to enter. The pages blew and rippled writing some simple words to note Julian was now inside it.

Kuja smirked. "He was always a headstrong individual, wasn't he? And now he will have the benefit of NOT BEING ERASED, as we are all potentially threatened to be by this... slow destruction around us."

Another room in the distance vanished, the area continuing to become fogged over. Dragoshi didn't really blink too much, though. Aribar, on the other hand.... "Piffle... I don't like this, but I don't think we have a choice, Metal. Even if we wanted to restore the previous world... it would take too long... we have to go inside and regroup."

Metal shoved a bookcase to try and block Aribar from entering, but the bookcase vanished into thin air, and Aribar walked into the Book before he could respond further.

Kuja held a hand to his chin, thoughtfully. He grinned deeply. "A mage after my own heart. Oh, it is so good I didn't kill him. But I'm not so sure... I feel like he might have some plots of his own..."

Metal pointed a shiny silver Soviet-derived gun at Kuja. "Precisely! This is your evil plan. And I will have to kill you if this keeps up!"

But Kuja stood there like the gun was just a toy, then shook his head and wagged his finger. "I told you, I didn't destroy the universe. JULIAN and YOUR QUESTERS did. And YOU did it too."

Dragoshi rolled his eyes, not caring for the argument--or the fact that the hallway behind him had just cracked in half and fallen into the infinite void. He silently walked into the Book as half the roof caved in behind him and then fell away as well. Metal couldn't even block him because he was too far away.

In the background, the other Questers left, while the study slowly became less of a study and more a chaotic mass of room pieces and books strewn about. Kuja smacked his hands together. "Well, that should settle that."

But even as the entire place fell apart, Metal continued to stand in one stubbornly remaining room, pointing his gun at Kuja. "This is obviously a trap."

"One which all of your friends fell for, then."

Metal shook his head. "I can rescue them if I have to. They don't know what I'm capable of, and neither do you."

Kuja raised an eyebrow. "Oh?"

Metal pointed at his Time Device with his free right hand. "I'm sure you haven't spoken this in front of them, but I've been on the run from the Time Cops. I'm certain you have too."

Kuja narrowed his eyes. "So WHAT if that is the case?"

"Well, it's pretty obvious this is some means of yours to evade their wrath. You're supposed to be dead, right? I mean, you just told me that this world is the one you die in."

Kuja grimaced. That whole incident wasn't something he liked to recall. Still, the annoying tinman had called his bluff. "All right. If you REALLY want to know... part of this is so that I have a safe place to be, far away from the likes of Garland or these "Time Cops" who may or may not have killed me."

"So you do know who they are, then?"

"I'm not going to tell you any more, foolish MORON." Kuja chuckled to himself. "You haven't proven yourself worthy of such talk. Just because you got on their list, doesn't mean you actually DID anything. Does it?"

Metal tried to recall... but his memories rang hollow, as they always did. Kuja made a knowing nod, casually stepping aside as a chair behind him fell through the floor and into nothingness.

"You see, Metal, I don't doubt you have some link to something, but the world inside that book, me, and probably most of these "Time Cops" don't care at all about it. You can attack me all you want, but whatever it was was probably nonsensical. THIS is your home now... and if you don't enter the book, well..." Kuja made threatening motions as if to close and lock the book, forever. "You'll be stuck out here, chased by forces you don't understand, and your friends will be the only ones who are safe. Unless I change my mind about them..." Kuja smirked nastily as he squeezed the book, almost crushing it. "You wouldn't want THAT to happen, now would you?"

But Metal had heard enough. Silent as a statue, he put the gun away.

Kuja nodded. "See, that wasn't so hard, was it? You were the one who invaded this universe first, anyway. We just happened to encounter eachother. Don't go threatening me over things neither of us truly control, you know? It's just the logical answer."

Then he reached for an invisible scabbard, and took out a sword made out of pure light. The light resonated with the other light that was destroying this world. Kuja gasped and stepped back. He held up a hand. "No... what kind of sword is that? Why are you taking that out?"

Metal grabbed the sword. The righteous fury of his caused it to glow with a furious, jagged energy. He pointed at Kuja with it, with it ready in his left hand. "You leave me no choice, Kuja. The only right choice. Every time you have tricked the Questers into being killed. But this time... you will die instead!"

Kuja shook his head, bringing up a magical shield and picking up the book. "But... your friends! I can kill them all with a penstroke!" He threatened with the pen, holding it and stepping aside as another piece of the floor sank away behind him.

Metal walked towards Kuja, and then gritted his teeth angrily and stabbed the field with the sword. The field began to grow hairline cracks, as the light energy tore apart the magic that made it real. "See that, Kuja? What good is your stupid book against the Sword of Light? What are you going to do? And do you really think the Questers will just die from something you write? They've dealt with far worse. You will die, regardless of how hard you try to trick me!" He rabidly stabbed the field several more times, as Kuja recoiled and took shelter by fleeing back towards a bookcase.

Of course, he wasn't really in that much danger. He casually took several other books and floated them in front of himself, then he put the book and the pen away. "Now now, Metal. Don't think you can win by yourself. I just wanted to make sure you really were going to be a MORON to the end. Let's be rid of your annoying presence, then!" He mumbled ancient magic words under his breath, and suddenly huge spears of fire rocketed out of his sleeves at Metal.

Metal rolled to the side, but he got hit badly, his cape getting burned and right shoulderpad getting burnt. His armor crackled a bit from the sheer heat--it was like dodging a volcano. The nearby library burnt to a crisp in literally seconds. But Metal got up again.

It was too slow. Kuja then stomped his foot and an effortlessly summoned tsunami wave of water rocketed at Metal.

Metal's eyes widened as all he could see was a tsunami of water and books. He held out the Sword of Light and... ran directly into the storm.

Kuja watched the wave trash the remnants of the study, throwing the books everywhere and blurring their inks. He slammed shut the 'Elemental Tome of Spira' and shook his head. "What a fool! No one can challenge me and live..." He then went to hastily write into the book. The study was even more destroyed now, with naught but five rooms remaining.

But amongst the five rooms was the wreckage, and Metal, who was buried in a pile of books and embedded into a wall, but alive. The rays of light freed Metal from the wall, melting the wall away, as he stood up. His visor was cracked but not broken by the wave, and he hadn't drowned. He used the Sword of Light to stand up, then began limping towards Kuja.

Kuja was deep in thought. He was trying to write his new story, after all. The one that wouldn't have that ABSOLUTE MORON in them, after all. But he couldn't seem to write much beyond 'There once were a group of mercenaries, known as the Questers. They...'

He didn't know what they should do. Or what they could do. Or even what it mattered. He'd been tempted to write them out of existence, especially after Metal's rebellion... but without them, what would he do? There was no one else qualified to fight him, and a world with nobody to battle with... was worse than death. The only reason he'd entertained Metal's "Time Cops" discussion was the hope that maybe he had some new characters for the story he was going to make. But no, it was more psychotic gibberish. That moron couldn't possibly be telling the truth.

So he continued to think over it. But still, the words would not form. He stood there, staring in disbelief.

"How can I fail now? This is so simple. I can just write whatever I want!" He lunged at the book with the pen, trying to psyche himself up to write something epic. But he got no further than 'They... traveled the planet, investigating various events and handling them as best they thought they could.' It was tepid at best, and most readers would probably fall asleep in minutes trying to read what was coming out of his mind at that moment.

He just couldn't make it work. It just didn't make sense. He had so many ideas. A world ruled by an evil autocrat named Luthor, the master of a digital world! No... then he couldn't be the main character. Wait, maybe it could be the work of Sephiroth, and he could just convince Sephiroth to let him be the real person behind the scenes. No... Sephiroth wouldn't listen to anyone, and was brutish, even by Kuja's standards. He mused for a moment about a world that had both Shinra and Maleficent in it, but Maleficent had ignored all of his spell-sent messages and Shin-ra was a company of horrible magic-haters. He shuddered at the random thought of involving Dark Force in it, too--that monster just wanted to replace him, and reminded him too much of the entity that had killed him the last time he'd stayed in this realm too long.

Kuja looked around, repeating an old bad habit of his: listening for somebody else's ideas. He'd been used to talking with others about this sort of thing. But they were gone. The halls were all but empty.

Metal had been thrown so far away that Kuja hadn't even figured out where his body wound up. And as much as it pained him to, he would often eavesdrop on the wolf reploid named Wolfman or the feline psychic superpower, Mewtwo. Both of them had always given him good ideas--ones he could properly add all the violence and nastiness to, to make them more exciting.

And as he reflected about the issue, he realized that he couldn't really write any story alone. It was something he always did with others, like how he designed his perfect Nintendus... The world slowly crumbled around him, as he mused about whether he would die here, just because he couldn't come up with a story.

An idea was on the tip of his tongue, though, he could sense it. If only--

But the Metal Man was back, leaning heavily to one side, burnt and holding the Sword of Light like a crutch. He'd crawled back up some stairs as the very stairs were collapsing behind him, as he stood up with great effort and pointed the sword at Kuja. "You... you will not get away this time, Kuja! Did you really think that would kill me?"

The mage reflected, realizing his mistake. That MORON had survived not just one, but two party-destroying megaspells. So why had he thought the third one would work? Well, he'd hoped his enemy had been sent to oblivion. But apparently oblivion was on his side, because it only destroyed things that he wasn't in need of. It even had given him a sword made out of the same energy. It just made him so mad. Why hadn't he gotten the sword? He was so much smarter than that idiot. Kuja just slammed the book shut, the idea of his still curating itself in his head, while he opened yet another diabolical magic tome. The shield around Kuja had repaired itself, and the Metal Moron was never going to break it, anyway. "Come now, Metal. Your chance to enter the book and save your friends from my control is over. And so is your life. If you had a brain, you'd ask that sword to end your life already."

But Metal wasn't having it. He held the sword up. "I will NEVER give up! You won't get away with what you've done!" He held the sword up, and hurled it at Kuja.

Kuja smirked, expecting it to lodge uselessly into his shield. "Come on! Is that a real attack? Swords aren't meant for throwing, you MORON!"

*SHLERK* He looked down. The sword had somehow melted his shield and stabbed him right through the gut. He chuckled a bit, then realized blood was coming out and his laugh had just made it worse. Blood ran down his mouth, as he stared at Metal, unable to talk. The Metal Man took out his gun while Kuja fumbled, trying to heal himself without speaking. It'd been so long since he'd last been stuck in this situation that he'd half forgotten the gestures. He gestured at himself, magic fumbling about as the slow bleeding out of his chest and inability to breathe cursed his concentration.

Metal Man took out his pistol and pointed it at Kuja's face, his own face a blank slate of hatred and vengeance. "You don't understand how good or evil works, Kuja. You don't understand that you can't just do all these things and expect them to never come back to haunt you." Then he caught himself. "But I'm not going to lecture like you do--I'm going to--" *BANG* *BANG* *BANG* *BANG "--shoot--" *BANG BANG BANG* "--you--" *BANG* "--dead."

The bullets hit Kuja. While Kuja's "HP" was in the thousands, the Sword of Light had hit him in a way that had severed his connection with the sub-spells that made his flesh like steel. Each bullet ripped through him in a way he hadn't ever felt before. As a genome, after all, he was above such mortals and couldn't normally bleed out or feel much pain at all from otherwise fatal wounds.

But this time he was full of holes, gruesome ones. He fell to one knee, on the floor, dropping the pen, but holding on to the Book with all his might. All he could see was that blasted MORON walking towards him. It wasn't fair. He didn't have the magical powers Kuja did. That sword had just appeared out of nowhere! It was clearly some other writer's device... yes... and he would have to write something himself!

Kuja feebly levitated the pen back to himself and wrote... on the Sword of Light itself. The Sword of Light responded by burning the pen with enough heat to melt the sun--but the pen itself was a magical entity, too. A bright light flashed and--the sword warped out of his body so as to avoid being destroyed by the pen's own magical might.

Kuja stood up, no longer being anchored down to a lower plane of existence by the blasted sword. Now himself again, he stood up again... though gravely injured by the bullets, his health was now just HP, and so the actual wounds were replaced by the numbers he was used to. He muttered the blasted spell and cured himself back to health, then pointed the Pen at Metal Man. "You've proven to be more than just a normal MORON, but I won't call you anything else. You nearly got us all killed, not just you. You couldn't write this book--did you see that? The Pen is mightier than your stupid Sword!"

But all he got in return, was that blasted sword thrown at him again. He swung the Pen and deflected it, but it warped back to Metal's hand, again and again. Metal continued to throw it up until he closed the distance, then began swinging it like a baseball bat at Kuja. Kuja's arm slowly began to fatigue, not used to such martial fighting. Metal used this to his advantage, eventually getting the sword stuck up against the Pen again, and violently pushing towards Kuja, trying to nick his face with the blade. The blade got so close, he could feel the light scorching him...

...And then it winked out of existence, its disappearance throwing Kuja backwards and causing Metal Man to fall on the floor, face first. Metal slowly stood up, while Kuja righted himself and blew off the smoke from the pen, as he gestured to Metal Man with The Book. "You can keep trying, but you'll get the same result, MORON." Then he defiantly summoned another blast of pure fire, intent on melting that annoying metal maggot into a molten puddle of ash.

Metal saw the fire headed towards him. He couldn't dodge, and his Sword of Light was out of energy. Figuring he was screwed anyway, he turned on his broken Time Device.

The fire hit Metal, and for a moment, it looked like he'd been destroyed. After all, it exploded as if it was consuming something. But all was not as it seemed. Time had begun to malfunction around Metal Man, and parts of the attack had become... frozen in mid-air. Other parts had only partially burnt him, and Metal Man was able to shove the frozen fragments away with his left hand. His entire left arm was glitching weirdly in and out of reality, as he glitchily pointed the left arm at Kuja. "I know I'm screwed, but if I'm going to die, then I'm going to bring the Time Cops here and ensure you die either way! Your stupid condescending trash will be stopped by someone! I will not give up!" He began to walk faster towards Kuja.

Kuja shook his head. "No. I'm much SMARTER than you and these... illusory beings you call Time Cops. Now shut up and DIE already, impudent imp!" Having gained an appreciation for the magical power of the Pen, he powered it up and used it to focus his magic. A highly brightened flare of pure starlight rocketed at the Metal Man.

The Metal Man held out his hand, staggering but not budging. He held the glitched hand directly at the lethal attack, and focused.

The entire room began to shake violently as time itself was starting to fall apart. Streams of ethereal blue ripped at the attack and caused it to glitch out and malfunction, before eventually crystallizing it into another frozen-in-time entity. Metal clenched his fist, and the entire attack crumbled into a pile of broken glass shards white as snow. Kuja gasped, then quickly summoned the infamous Flare Star, whalloping Metal with a gigantic sun of pure solar energy faster than he could react.

But even as it burnt all his armor to the point it became molten red, he clenched his fist and punched the star and blew it to smithereens, frozen-in-time fragments of it flying everywhere and ripping apart the precarious few pieces of the library. His Time Device began to beep violently, while Kuja just quietly reviewed his remaining spellbooks. He stared with contempt and flipped open the Time Mage book. Then he looked to Metal Man. "You've proven adept at freezing my attacks in time. I wouldn't have taken you to be a Time Mage. But all the same, I am a Red Mage. Your tricks can be dispelled." He muttered a spell and unfroze all the attacks, causing pieces of the word to burst into flames, now making the entire remnants of the library a burning hell. Only Kuja was shielded from the heat; the still molten-red hot Metal Man was suffering from all the fire as his visor continued to crack from the violence it'd taken.

Metal marched towards Kuja again, and then Kuja shot a spell beam. Metal caught it, but the spell was a STOP spell. The Stop spell froze his arm in time, strangely not allowing the spell to hit his whole body. Kuja flipped through some pages and muttered under his breath. "Stupid limitations." He cast it again, but Metal used the frozen arm as a shield, contorting his whole body around it and using the lack of gravity on his arm to pivot that way--of course, he was at risk of tearing it off, but he didn't care. He wasn't certain he'd live to see tomorrow, anyway.

Kuja went to read some more, but a horrible looking DVD with pastel colors suddenly embedded itself into the book he was reading. The title read 'Miami Connection.' He looked up, and realized that annoying MORON had somehow taken out his DVD-launching contraption and shot some equally moronic futuristic consumer entertainment devices at him while he was casting.

Metal spun up the device, and fired some more, taking advantage of how the barrier had faded previously. Kuja held up his books, but they all soon became new resting places for such awful titles as Gigli, The Brain From Planet Aros, and The Happening. Kuja threw a book and knocked the gun aside, then reinstated the magical barrier. "Look you! You're just drawing this out forever... you're not winning. You're an idiot, I've told you this time and time again! GIVE UP ALREADY!"

But Metal had stopped talking. He just continued to think as fast as he could, grabbing anything he could think of from his hidden armory. He summoned his old, trusty Zapper, still flush with magic-infused cubes, and fired and electrifying sand tornado attack right at the barrier. Kuja frowned at the amount of damage it did, then threw another book at it--but the book he threw was destroyed by a second Warlock Punch-esque blast from the gun.

But Kuja's MP had finally regenerated from earlier, and he wasn't about to stick to throwing random works of literature any longer. He took out The Book and held out the pen, looking contrite. "Fine. Fine! The only way to get rid of you is to send you away here, isn't it? Is that why the Time Cops you speak of act as they did?"

"The Time Cops--"

"NO! No more moronic words from you! I'm done with this nonsense! GO INTO THIS BOOK IF YOU WANT TO LIVE SO BADLY! No... no, if I give you a choice you'll refuse it. JUST GO!" He hurled The Book and accelerated it with all his magical power, straight at that hand which couldn't help but receive it, since it was frozen in time.

Metal saw it flying at him and realized he would be sucked into it. He concentrated as hard as he could. To Kuja's astonishment, his arm came unstuck from the Stop. It hadn't been time for that to happen--it just did that. Then he held his glowing Time-Arm at The Book, trying to Stop it with his hand rather than being forced to passively be hit by it.

The two artifacts collided. And The Book didn't win. Energy from the Time Device overloaded it. It became glitched out so much it became two. One book, glitched out by Kuja's ill intentions, managed to get glued to the hand that had held it. And the other sat on the floor, sadly spinning its pages.

Kuja shook his head and went to cast a spell, but everything after that moved too fast for him. A strange person walked right into view out of nowhere.

It was a man in armor, but it was noticably lighter than Metal's. It had an orange cape and a weird star badge on the chest instead of a Q. He had an opaque visor that hid his face, one that was borderline black.

He seemed to have always been here, even though it was clear he'd made a portal to warp in moments ago. He put his hand on Kuja's shoulder and spoke into his ear with a disturbingly sure voice: "Oh Kuja, what could be the matter?"

Kuja spun to respond and hit the man, but in that time, Metal had mysteriously thrown himself into the Book--carrying a copy of the Book. The sheer insanity of it all caused the real Book to violently fling itself over the side and into nothingness. Kuja shoved the stranger aside and leapt to the edge, looking over it--but The Book was gone.

Instead, there was just that man, the man who had distracted him at a crucial moment--the strange Metal Man impostor! He turned around and pointed at this man. "YOU! Who are you, and why did you RUIN my one chance to be RID of that MORON?"

But the man wasn't ruffled. He stood there, an unseen chill wind blowing his cape. He just stared straight through Kuja. "I am Illian MacGregor. It was the other man that was the impostor, I assure you. And thanks to you, he escaped. The device on his arm alerted me to his presence here. I would have taken care of him, but once again, you got in the way, Kuja."

"How do you even know my name?" Kuja collected the broken books and repaired them... and while he was at it, he removed the illusion spell, which revealed much less of the library had been destroyed than had actually been destroyed, despite the damage. After all, it was Kuja's realm--it did what HE wanted, but it also was open to these... intruders...

"I killed you before. Remember? The time with the Questers and chaos emeralds?"

The words clicked in Kuja's brain. "But you... you're him!"

"Nothing could be further from the truth. He had me take over when you were too much for him to handle."

Kuja reflexively reinforced his magic barrier and summoned his books. "Well you're not going to kill me again, if that's what you're after."

"You weren't supposed to die. I wanted you to kill the Questers so I could be rid of them. That was the only way I could have actually killed Metal Man. You had actually gotten rid of the Questers, but then you let your pride distract you from ensuring he died."

"I threw every single spell and book I had at him!"

"You were out of your depth. You knew that device would get visitors to come here."

"Yes, but they could want me dead as well!"

The man in the armor shook his head. "He's much more valuable a prisoner than you are. If you just stayed out of the way, you could have gotten a finder's fee." Then he floated towards Kuja. "But I guess you're allergic to good plans again. Whatever. Let me take the Book and clean up this mess, then."

Kuja shook his head. "It's mine. It's mine! It's MINE. I have my plans for it... the ideas have been flowing, yes. I will have it be the slow death of the Questers and the man you hunt. It'll be so simple!"

"No, Kuja. You're nothing more than an insect. Your words are hollow and repetitive. You've had so many chances to destroy them and you only killed people who were already suicidal, anyway." He took out a Smash Dex and played back the death of the past Questers at Termina. "See? I scanned their souls. They were already ready to die. You just destroyed empty shells."

"What? How..."

"Time travel, Kuja. Didn't you pay attention? He had a device that stopped time. I gave him it. And I could choose to give you one, but you're someone who thinks they're better than everyone else."

"I am! And who do you think you are, anyway? You seem to think you're better than everyone else too!"

"Maybe I do, but I can actually reinforce my words. What about you?"

Kuja powered up, deciding to not mince words. He summoned Ark, the destroyer of worlds. This world was his to destroy, anyway--and that stupid man as well.

The massive mecha showed up, powering up as it crushed most of the Lifa tree surrounding the two of them to reveal just them standing on the platform of wood, as it aimed at Illian with a million missiles and lasers. Illian casually stood there as it did so. "What, this? Is this what you're going to do, Kuja?"

"Shut up! You're almost as bad as the moron I got rid of. You're just going to DIE like the rest!"

But Illian didn't move. He just clenched his right fist. The Time Device in it activated, and suddenly behind him, several gigantic white ships appeared. Kuja recognized them as dreadnoughts--the Solarian ships he'd long ago stolen. But he'd never figured out where they came from--

It was over in a flash. Kuja's summon was torn asunder by violent red lasers that ripped it asunder, exploding on it thousands of times until every bit of it was gone. All that was left was the sun, the ships, and the platform Kuja and Illian were standing on. Pieces of Ark flew everywhere in the background, exploding. Some even landed about on the platform, mysteriously never hitting Illian as he grinned so much his teeth glowed. "Well? What now?"

Kuja wouldn't take any chances. He summoned Eden, hoping he could warp Illian to another dimension. The mystical forces targeted Illian, warping time and space around him, all without immediately showing up--so as to not make it vulnerable to the same bloody destruction that had been visited upon Ark. Kuja focused with everything he had, knowing this entity wasn't going to just smile and run away like Metal Man had.

He had caught Illian in a technicality--his attacks could destroy things in this realm, but not attacks from another realm. Before Illian could react, he was launched through the ceiling of the sky into a chaos dimension. For a moment, it looked like Kuja would only have to pick off the ships, and then that would be all.

...But the intruder simply warped in again, out of thin air. He dusted himself off. "Well, I hate making unexpected trips, but I guess you really insisted upon showing me that galaxy... it's boring, by the way. I've seen far worse in my sleep, in my dreams."

Kuja shook his head. "How... how can you keep doing this?"

"Time Device, TIME DEVICE you idiot! It's how I do everything!"

"Time isn't space! How can you warp back so quickly?"

But Illian wasn't going to explain anything this time. He'd learned to stop talking so much after that last attack. He flicked his hand and created a Solution 9 Attack, which caused nine explosions to blast Kuja in the face. Then he effortlessly leaped up into the air and diagonally punched Kuja like a Dragoon. Kuja rubbed his face and shook his head. "You can try all you want, but I am a God, and you don't have the Chaos Emeralds. You're just WASTING your TIME!"

"Oh really? And why was it I needed Emeralds in the first place? Or even Questers?"

Kuja fired the fireaja attack without hesitation. He engulfed the infuriating interloper in redhot flame. He was certain he would see a dead man afterwards.

But the man stood there, casually picking a piece of smouldering book out of his shoulder. "These attacks are just numbers to me, anyway. Just like you. You'll need to do... hmmm... probably six or seven more of those?"

"It's easy enough for me to do that. Why are you just standing around like that? You can't possibly--"

"Yeah yeah, whatever. You talk too much, even by my standards."

"But I am the main person here. This is my world, this is my story. Everyone else is nothing without me. You ignore me at your peril." Even then, he was preparing yet another attack... "I can fight as long as I need, you Metal Morons won't slow me down. What is the world of The Book without me, anyway? I was the God once--"

"I sabotoged the Questers from within so you could become God."

"--You needed me! You needed me to destroy them! You couldn't do it yourself!"

"Actually the Skeleton King could have done it too. I just saved them because he wasn't a useful distraction compared to you."

"So? I was the only one who could provide the story YOU wanted!"

"Well, to be honest, I was humoring you, because you seemed pretty sad to have lost to an old man with a transformer. I mean, really? That's Ghostbusters level incompetence on your part."

Kuja angrily fired a heavy lightning attack at the man, who just let it shock his armor and acted like it was just light rain.

"I just wasn't sure what I needed to do yet, but I know now. You just want to keep holding onto that book, selfishly, and not really have any reason for it. You don't have any story to tell--you just want to make everything about yourself. That's not a story. That's just narcissism."

"You think you know more than me, do you? I am smarter, I am perfect! I am your GOD! You cannot defy me!"

Kuja used everything he could this time, deciding to forego normal magic to summon a variant of his Dimensional Cannon. He powered it up fully, ripping his own realm to shreds and causing enough disruption to probably attract any and everything to attack. The ships fled, and Illian stood there, staring down the barrel of a world-shaped cannon. He said nothing.

"You keep trying to deny the obvious--and that is that I was elevated beyond everyone else long ago. I was made to be the one true God of all realities! Everyone is just in denial at my true power, and I will show them--I will make them all pay! You, the MORON, the Questers... even these so-called Time Cops."

Finally, the Illian spoke. "Is that so? Well I don't know. You have to keep telling us what you are. It'd seem like you're just a fake. An empty shell, a failed experiment. All you really are is a mistake. One that keeps ripping up reality pointlessly. You have nothing other to say than you're great. Is that right?"

Kuja shook his head. "The glory of my vision is too much for you to comprehend. BEGONE!"

He fired the cannon, and soon the entire platform was bathed in annihilation. Everything other than Kuja was swept away by sheer destructive energy. Even the dimensional energy was torn asunder.

But something was wrong. Not even one noise was made by Illian. In fact, it was like... he wasn't even there...

Kuja looked over his shoulder, and... there was the outline of the man, behind his Dimensional Cannon. He had no expression on his face other than a mask-like expressionless-ness. The man quietly spoke. "Well, I guess if you can only think of the world in the terms of destroying people who dislike you then you'll forget to remember the world's a lot bigger than just you and your enemies, isn't it?"

Kuja quickly went to avert his error, realizing that he couldn't destroy all of space at once and that man could somehow teleport around, but he was suddenly blinded by an ominous light. A sword... no, it wasn't just any sword. It was one of infinite energy and mass that was ripping the entire reality to pieces, not just deleting what was inside it like his cannon was.

Kuja held up both his hands and tried to shield himself, as the gigantic, ludicrously huge sword sliced his cannon to bits, destroyed the energy it made, and swung down on him. He used the Pen, attempting to replicate what had repelled the Sword of Light.

The Pen and the Sword clashed, but this time the Sword it was fighting was infinite in scope, beyond any mortal's glimpse. Every last bit of energy it had was fried trying to block the Sword. When the attack was over, the pen was now completely out of juice and charred black. All that was left was Kuja on a tiny little platform, the sun, and Illian, and The Book.

Kuja stared at the man floating out there, and slowly recovered his breath, as he bled from the edges of the infinite sword coming so close to him. It had hit him even worse than the Sword of Light, and he felt like his very being was being unspooled from the thread of reality. The man with the glowing orange eyes simply floated closer, the sun behind him so as to make him blinding to look at. The explosion had knocked the book back into view, and Kuja picked it up, bitterly holding onto it. "You... I see it now. You have a story of your own, don't you?" He held the book and bitterly smirked. "And you want it in this book?"

The man simply nodded.

"Well, fie upon you and your story! If you won't let me live, then I won't let your story come true!"

Kuja wrote as fast as he could, an angry smear on the pages. All it was, was over and over again, ILLIAN'S TALE WILL NEVER COME TRUE. He wrote so hard he tore the pages. The pen even cracked and fell apart from the sheer effort. He then fell to his knees and defiantly flung the book off the side, with it landing on a platform Illian willed into being so as to prevent it from falling forever yet again.

Illian stared down at him, not with hatred, but with pity. "Is that really it? You just don't want to share anything?" He then shook his head one last time. "Well, every story has its end, Kuja. You've just been drawing out yours to the point the audience has left and has no interest in you anymore. Every action has just been to lengthen your existence at the expense of everyone else. There's people who died, places destroyed, that I wish to recover. But all you have in mind is your own selfish existence. Even a dark soul such as myself can see through your emptiness."

But Kuja simply clenched his fist and went to stand up again. "You will never understand the majesty of my world, or my writing. The depth that you can never understand, it is beyond you... and it will remain that way forever. Farewell, failed assassin. FLARE STAR!"

Using every bit of energy he still had, Kuja went into his Trance Mode. He focused himself, firing the largest Flare Star he ever could; a sun so bright it rivaled the real sun of this world. The Solar Wind alone was strong enough to shred anything living or dead to bits.

Illian's armor flew off, ripped to pieces by the deadly energy. It revealed a man in a lab-coat like robe covered in foreign symbols. 6'4" and tall with blond hair, he loomed large even though he was surrounded by two suns, one of which was exploding.

But what confused Kuja was the fact he was embracing the explosion. The man had only done one extra step--taken out a spellbook of his own, and begun chanting.

It was only when the sky started to turn red that he realized what had happened.

Runes--Solarian Runes--appeared on the Sun he'd created. It also created on the other sun of this realm, the featureless one he hadn't created.

And they said but one thing: SOLARIAN MACHINE.

Kuja reflexively tried to ready a spell to send him out of here. "This is not my time to d--"

But he couldn't get the words out. The sheer destructive power of two suns exploding ended all sentient existence for Kuja, now and forever. Even the strongest being couldn't survive such annihilation, unprepared as Kuja had been.

When the destruction ended and the world had been rendered perfectly dark, all that was left was the man in the robes, cut and burned by all the damage he'd taken. He floated down by the abbreviated burnt spot where Kuja had once stood. And he simply picked up The Pen, floated over to The Book, picked up the Book, and casually began writing into it.

He wrote 'Illian's Plan will Succeed. Even if he himself can't do it alone. There will be no failure--no writing by a dead man will defeat him.' The Book accepted the writing much more readily than Kuja's scrawl. Then he began writing more, hovering in the void, only illuminated by his visor. He wrote in a basic means to control the world while inside it, made sure he knew where that other Book was... and then he casually made another spell to invert himself and the Book. In short order, he vanished into the book, only leaving a portal in a darkened wasteland behind--and the portal was also darkened, and he had designs to close that too. It was all so perfect!

But the Darkness wasn't totally empty.

In the shadows, another being watched. A being made of metal, but it wasn't a man. It was a machine, or was it? The machine looked to its official Time Cop Time Device.

"Time Agent to HQ. Spotted three High Class Time Felons in one dimension. One of them was killed by the other. Some sort of domestic dispute about stolen artifacts. The highest level offender won out. He has created a portal to obfuscate the location of stolen item: The Book. The Time Bandit is also there. Permission to follow?"

He paused a moment, getting a response back.

"Roger, agents Ael and Pandora will respond, followed by me. I will inform. Lyx out."

And then the agent disappeared... leaving only the events within the book to play out.

There inside, a strange story warped by the outside battle began... and what was that to be? Only one way to find out.

SSQ^2