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Off the Line

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On one hand, being around Rainstorm was very profitable. Sure, Yuffie hadn't managed to loot all of the, hm, almost two hundred people the man had just gone and dropped. But she'd make a decent enough bit of gold with what she got off the first three AND Rainstorm now owed her gold so…

But on the other hand, it was also very bad for one's health. They were now being chased by what seemed to be the entire zone, as they tried to make their way down the side of the Elder Tree which, it turned out to be… not easy when there was lots and lots of pissed off people between them and the ground.

And Rainstorm, the asshole, was loving every bit of it. "So this is –"

"Say interesting and I will freakin’ stab you!" Yuffie screamed at him. Beside her the elf girl – Yuffie couldn't remember her name, if she'd ever even known it – was breathless and wide eyed, looking around at the sheer devastation Rainstorm had wrecked. There was a path of destruction that ran down along the side of the tree, made of broken bridges, shattered platforms and ruined buildings; a few of which were hanging by a thread to the tree. And Yuffie had to admit – it was almost impressive.

She would've preferred to enjoy looking at it all whilst not being a participant in causing it all.

"There," Rainstorm said, pointing, and ran, Vincent the Pet right after him. Yuffie cursed and followed them down a rapidly thinning branch and then watched how Rainstorm jumped down and to a branch below. Apparently he was suicidal as well as a lunatic – but he also had damn impeccable aim with his stupid Viera leaps because he landed squarely on the branch and didn't even stumble. Asshole.

"No way," the elf girl gasped. "No way can I make that jump. No way!"

"Aw man!" Yuffie answered, and looked behind them. There was a furious looking berserker coming right at them, axe in hand, buffs in place.

"Vincent, get them down here please," Rainstorm called from below and that was the only warning Yuffie and the elf got before they were both grabbed by the waist, hauled up like so much luggage and then Vincent had already dropped down. There was a disorienting moment when there was nothing below Yuffie and she kicked automatically, and then they were down, Vincent gliding easily to Rainstorm's side.

"Damnit. I could've made the jump! I'm a Gria, I can glide!" Yuffie snapped, but was completely ignored.

"This won't work," the gunner pet person said to his stupid Viera owner, while unceremoniously dropping Yuffie and the elf down, making Yuffie curse and the elf girl yelp with dismay. "There's more people the further down we go. We need another way down."

"Yeah," Rainstorm mused glancing around to make sure they wouldn't be overrun before looking at the winged gunman. "I could probably make it down by myself… I don't suppose you could carry the girls down for me."

Vincent levelled a frosty look at him. "No."

"I could – I could arrange," the elf girl gasped, took a breath and then sat up on her knees, rubbing at her stomach. "I could summon something to carry us down."

"You're a summoner?" Yuffie asked, with something like hope sparking in her guts. "I thought you were a white mage, with that get up, I mean. Never mind; can you summon something big enough? Something winged? Something that'd get us the hell out of here?"

The elf girl considered it and then nodded. "Y-yes but, um…" she looked around. The branch directly next to them was bent, broken with the impact of something large and heavy that had fallen on it recently, wonder what that could've been. "I guess it doesn't matter at this point if I smash this place up a bit more," the elf said. "But summoning takes time. I'll need a couple of minutes."

"We'll get them for you," Rainstorm said grinning, and took out his sword. "This place good for it?"

"It works," the elf said, jumping to her feet and summoning a rather impressive looking crystal adorned staff – the sort that must've cost a fortune. Then, after an uneasy glance around them, she stepped onto a bend in the branch, faced away and concentrated, holding the staff up as she went to work on the summoning.

Already the base of the branch they were on was teeming with people scampering to get at them, with more people above them, below them, all around them. Yuffie cursed and pulled out her shurikens. "Do you think we can handle a couple of minutes? Like this?" she asked, just as someone took a shot at them from above.

"I guess we'll find out, won't we?" Rainstorm asked with a grin.

Vincent looked between them and then the people closing in on them. "Now should I fight?" the man then asked wryly. "Or do you want me to sit back and do nothing while we get overrun?"

Rainstorm gave him a look. "Well look at you, being all sarcastic. I like it," he said and grinned. "Sure, go ahead. Shoot at will."

Vincent, shooting at will, was a thing to behold. Yuffie was too busy throwing stun and smoke grenades and trying to drop people off the branch - and ignoring the murder messages that started popping up around them, to appreciate it fully. But she could sense the lethal efficiency. It reminded her of the ninja of her father's court, all understated danger and lethality, the way Vincent stood there, still and concentrated and just… aimed, shot and killed. And judging by the looks of it – he was making instant kills every time.

And with every death counting as Rainstorm's kill… Yuffie did not even want to know how high the guy's infamy would be after all of this.

Vincent was also aiming for the long distance fighters, for which Yuffie was infinitely grateful. Gunners, archers, mages and that sort – and it was only thanks to him a grenadier didn't completely bombard them and drop them all off the branch they were on. It didn't stop them from being a threat, though – didn't stop them from shooting Rainstorm clean through the shoulder and stomach and almost making him fall off the branch.

"Still having fun?" Yuffie asked while quickly hauling the man back before he fell.

"Absolute blast!" Rainstorm grinned, downed a potion and then rushed forward to face off against a paladin. He was cut and slashed twice before he could knock the female miqo'te off the branch, and then he was facing a swordsman and Yuffie had serious doubts about the man's survival instincts, never mind his chances of survival. Despite everything, Rainstorm was still level 14 and his HP was dropping fast. Hell the only reason he wasn't dead yet was probably because he was still on the buffs he had used to cut off the branch that started this whole mess!

They had all gotten adjusted to having Red there, with his buffs and regens and hastes, and it was costing them now – her own HP wasn’t doing any better. She took a hit on the wing and another on her shoulder and could feel a knife catch her on the leg and seriously, they were not going to make it at this rate. For every one person they dropped, there were four eager to replace them. And they all wanted to kill them.

"Please tell me you're getting close, elf girl!" Yuffie called back to the summoner.

"Little bit more!" she answered and Yuffie cursed, taking out another batch of stat grenades.

That was when there was a familiar voice shouting and then Bigshot was dropped right out of the sky, right behind Rainstorm. "You asshole!" the Ronso said, while taking out his cannon. "I am so going to kill your ass!"

"Please do it later!" Rainstorm answered, kicking another warrior off the branch, prompting another murder message. "I'm too busy to die right now."

Bigshot didn't answer. Instead he did something that looked vaguely dangerous with the cannon, making the barrel glow heated red and causing the air around it to bend. Whatever skin he was using had a serious load time – it took almost ten seconds before the man even bothered to take a firing stance. Then, roaring and without bothering to warn them, Bigshot fired.

There was a blinding flash of light and a beam of intense golden heat shot out of the cannon, tearing through the people on the branch. Yuffie cursed and ducked to the left while Rainstorm dropped down to crouch below the shot and together they watched how Bigshot just mowed the people down with the attack.

Then, before the heat could dissipate at all, Bigshot launched another skill and launched several small missiles in rapid succession. They exploded on contact and for a moment the tree was lit with destructive fireworks that knocked people off not as much by the damage, but by the shockwaves, making it rain bounty hunters and assholes.

"Damn, big guy," Yuffie said, impressed. How was he firing this fast, though?

"Don't mess with grenadiers, fuckers!" Bigshot roared and then cursed as someone shot rapid fire across his chest, obviously trying to take him out. He ignored it and launched another barrage of missiles and the wounds healed in ticks. Regen.

That explained the speed. RedXIII had apparently buffed him, before he had made his grand appearance – and it was definitely paying off. Grenadiers were a slow, sluggishly slow class, and usually they sucked in pvp because in the time it took for them to attack, most other classes had already killed them. But what they lost in speed, they gained in sheer destructive aoe damage, which the Ronso was now happily demonstrating whilst under the hastes that brought what would've been painfully slow attacks to rather impressive speeds.

Yuffie did her part though, as did Vincent who kept dropping the distance fighters, as did Rainstorm who took out the tanks that tried to block them off.  Together they bought enough time, if only barely, and both her and Rainstorm's HP was down to double digits before they heard the "Ready!" from the elf girl.

What happened next then defied pretty much everything Yuffie knew about summoners. There was a crash above them, followed by another, and another, enormous loud bangs of big wooden things being destroyed and looking up Yuffie could see the sheer devastation coming from above. Branches, not just one but pretty much all of the ones above them were just hacked out of the way as a colossal black summon came down, tearing through everything and anything in its way. Branches, platforms, bridges, people, everything was so much torn paper.

"Is that Bahamut?" Yuffie asked feebly, as the colossal branches started raining down all around them – branches, people, buildings, and enormous clouds of leaves; just dropping. It was utterly unreal.

Then the summon was there, with about a quarter of the Elder Tree destroyed in its wake. It stopped beside the branch where the elf girl stood and reached its head out to her, eyes gleaming, maw full of sharp, sharp fangs just in front of her. She smiled at it, patted the enormous black snout like the enormous dragon was a pet or something and then climbed on.

They stared at her, at the dragon, at the destruction and then shared a surprised look.

"Rainstorm, I'm blaming you for this. Somehow, this is your fault," Yuffie said. "I don't know how yet, but somehow it is."

"Noted," Rainstorm said.

"Well, come on already!" the elf girl shouted at them. "Get on!"

They got on, Rainstorm first because he was a lunatic, Vincent following him because… he was probably also a lunatic. Bigshot hesitated for a moment, looking between the dragon and the destroyed Elder Tree and the people who now were, for the first time ever, running away from them rather than towards. Yuffie let out a curse her father would've killed her for, and then jumped on the dragon, Bigshot following her with a curse of his own.

"If you can summon things like these, why weren't you fighting those guys from before?" Rainstorm was asking.

"Bahamut is the only thing I can summon, and, uh," the elf shrugged, pointing at the tree or at what was left of it. "And it does that when I do."

Rainstorm glanced at the tree. "I don't see the problem," he admitted.

"You wouldn't, you madman," Yuffie muttered and clambered over to them on the base of Bahamut's neck. "Can we get out of here now, finally, at last, hooray, hooray, safety? Please?"

Rainstorm glanced at Bigshot. "Where's Red and Mena?" he asked. "Not on the tree, right?"

"No, they're down in the forest – people recognized Red, and Mena wants nothing to do with your insanity. I'm here because I'm gonna kill you," Bigshot explained.

"Can I bribe you out of it?" Rainstorm asked.

"Never mind that – go, elf girl, go, get us out of here!" Yuffie said, nudging at her. "Go, go!"

"Yes," she answered, and patted the dragon's neck. "Go, Bahamut. Get us clear."

Leaves and twigs rained on them as the dragon turned and tore its way out of the tree and into the clear sky. Yuffie ducked her head to avoid most of it, and looked up only once nothing was falling on her, letting out a breath of relief. They were out. They had cleared the Elder Tree of Doom.

Then, very careful, she looked backwards to said tree – and winced. Rainstorm had done a number on the tree when he had cut off the branch, but that completely paled in comparison to what the elf girl's summon had done. That whole side of the tree was just wrecked and the ends of broken branches stuck out sadly from the now bare trunk.

"Fucking hell," Yuffie said. "How the hell is that even possible? That isn't possible!"

"Looks very possible to me," Bigshot said and shook his head. "Damn."

"No, you don't get it. It's not. You can't destroy NPC towns any more than you can destroy portals or player buildings or tents. You can't destroy… buildings and stuff. It's just… it's not possible. Trust me, people have tried and this? This shouldn't be possible!" Yuffie said, pointing at the tree. "It shouldn't, it just shouldn't!"

Rainstorm glanced backwards while beside him Vincent tucked his wings in and glowered at them. "Maybe people are wrong?" he asked. "You can destroy some terrains, can't you? Like with mining and stuff. And I've destroyed a bit of mountainside in the Wastes. And I'm pretty sure you can affect the ground too, and stuff."

"Yeah, but the terrain is made like that, you can affect the surface of it – and it heals over time. Towns are just… indestructible. Invincible. You can't do anything to them," Yuffie said faintly. "It's just… it's just how it is."

"It is?" the elf girl asked, looking between them in confusion while wind tugged on her hair and made it swirl around her. "Um."

"What?" Yuffie asked, frowning at her.

She scratched her neck, looking confused. "No it's just that I've seen towns get destroyed. Well, buildings in them, anyway. I took out a couple of the houses in Albrook when I summoned Bahamut the first time. And I've seen buildings in Alexandria be destroyed too. So…." the elf girl trailed away, shrugging again and looking between them. "Um. I'm Flower, by the way. It's, uh. Nice to meet you?"

"You too," Rainstorm said and glanced backwards, at the Elder Tree. "Nice work," he added, grinning. "Very impressive."

"Ignore the lunatic, please," Yuffie sighed. "I'm Treasure Princess, Vincent's the poor asshole over there who's stuck with the lunatic, who on other hand is Rainstorm, curse upon his house. Then there's RedXIII but maybe he smarted up and got the hell out of this spiral of madness that sort of concentrates around Rainstorm. It's nice to meet you too, you poor, poor woman. Sorry about stealing from you and all."

"And I'm Bigshot and my wife Mena's somewhere down there," the Ronso said, also looking at the Elder Tree. "I'm with Rainstorm, though. Impossible or not, this is fucking impressive. Holy hell. You must have even more kills than Rainstorm now."

"Yeah," Rainstorm agreed and grinned. "I wonder if there's rankings for most kills in the least amount of time. If there is, I think you probably broke the record there. Congrats."

Looking alarmed, Flower glanced between the two insane men, at Yuffie who just sighed and hung her head, at Vincent who said nothing. Then she looked back at where they had come from. "Thanks," she said feebly and winced.

In the distance, another branch of the Elder Tree went tumbling down.