Seth slumped in his seat, staring out the window with boredom-glazed emerald eyes. The road from Nibelheim to Midgar was ridiculously long, and they had been driving all day long... and the two days before that. His mother, Lucy, insisted that the scenery was pretty and worth the drive.
"We're driving to another continent to look at scenery?" Seth had griped when she made this assertion.
"No," she replied a little tersely. "We're going to visit my sister - your aunt, remember?"
"Well, just a moment ago, you were talking about scenery," had been Seth's retort. "It sounded like the scenery was the purpose of the drive."
Lucy moaned. "I wasn't saying that. I meant that the scenery makes the drive bearable."
Seth had shrugged at that and resumed staring out the window. Sure, the scenery was nice, but right now they were passing through the general area of Costa del Sol. Summer was fading in the rest of the world, but here it seemed to be just beginning. Furthermore, the air conditioning in their car was out, so it was a little too warm to be completely comfortable.
"At any rate, we'll also be visiting the old Shinra building. It's supposed to be this historical landmark - apparently a lot of things happened there about seventeen years ago... they're using most of the floors as a museum now, but some of it was left as it was... it's seventy floors tall, did you know? I think you'll like it, Seth..."
Seth stared out the window, his eyelids growing heavy. They were on the bridge over the ocean, now, and if he thought about it, he could almost imagine that the highlights on the rippling waters were the gleam of light on swords...
... the long blade slashed downwards shattering the glass and the thing, the gross creation inside fell forward into waiting arms... all those who stood in his way were felled by the sword, as he pulled the monster up out of this cold unfeeling hell that was reaching for heaven and--
Seth jumped, blinked his eyes rapidly, trying to adjust to the sudden change of scenery.
Lucy smiled, putting a hand on his arm. "You fell asleep, honey. We're at Midgar."
Seth turned to stare dumbly at the massive city before him. "Oh."
Lucy opened the door and got out. "While you're struggling back to consciousness, I'll get our stuff out of the trunk."
"No, that's okay." Seth fumbled with the handle for a moment before getting his door open and stumbling out. "I'll help."
Slinging his backpack on and hefting his small suitcase out of the trunk, Seth waited for Lucy to get her stuff out and close the trunk before they headed into the city.
Seth's first impression of Midgar was a jarring one. There were a few old photographs of the city back at home, in a shoebox somewhere, and they depicted a gloomy, polluted settlement divided into sectors where you lived your life like a rat in a cage, never even able to see the sky...
The place had been royally redone.
It seemed to be all sunlight and open spaces and green; walkways had been lined with trees and shrubs, the upper plate had been removed, the walls dividing sectors torn down, and in the center of it all, the Shinra building loomed like a lost giant, almost out of place with its cold facade...
"Nice, isn't it?" Lucy smiled at her gawking son. "Close to fifteen years' worth of renovations to the city. Once Sephiroth died, Cloud Strife and his friends all saw to it."
Seth flinched slightly at the mention of Sephiroth. His mother didn't notice. Neither did he.
"They still come to the city sometimes on visits - who knows, we might even get to meet a real hero!" Lucy grinned.
"How old is Cloud?" He had no idea where the question came from, but it was out of his mouth before he could think.
"Well.. it was seventeen years ago, and he was supposed to have been twenty-one when it happened... so, he'd be thirty-eight now." She smiled a little. "Not that you'd know it - I heard he was in SOLDIER. The chemical treatments they put those poor people through are supposed to retard aging and prolong life. He'll probably outlive the entire human race if he doesn't get himself killed first."
But he wasn't in SOLDIER, something inside Seth cried, unnoticed even by him. He never made it in--
"I'd like to meet him," Seth said thoughtfully.
"You and me both." Lucy adjusted her grip on her suitcases. "Well, we're not getting any closer to your aunt's house just standing here. Let's go."
"Mphgp," Seth garbled. His aunt Lena released him, beaming at him.
"You've gotten so tall since the last time I saw you," she sparkled. "And so handsome!"
"Aunt Lena, please--" Seth protested weakly.
"I bet the girls love you back in Nibelheim, hm?" Aunt Lena smiled, then frowned slightly, fingering a strand of Seth's hair. "But I wish you'd dye your hair a more normal color. I mean, really, silver? If you didn't look so handsome, people would think you were an old man."
Seth lightly batted her hand away, putting his hands on top of his head to shield his hair and giving her a sour look. "I like my hair."
"Going to stripe it now, Seth?" Lucy joked, earning a blank look from her son. Chuckling, she turned to Lena. "The last time we were here, he was griping about your plans for his hair. His exact words, I believe--" she turned briefly to see that Seth was blushing, "--were 'The next time she tells me to dye my hair, I swear I'm striping it yellow and purple.'"
Aunt Lena laughed and Seth groaned, hanging his head.
"Alright, so I lied," he said. "But dammit, I like my hair the way it is!"
Aunt Lena patted him on the head. "I know, dear. So, are you ready to go see the Shinra building?"
"Lena, it was rather warm out, I'm a little tired and Seth fell asleep in the car... could we perhaps go tomorrow?"
"Well, does Seth want to go now?" Aunt Lena turned her gaze on Seth. "If you're too tired, we can set up your bed and let you sleep and go tomorrow."
"No - no, that's okay," Seth replied, feeling strangely alert all of a sudden. "I want to go now."
Lena turned to Lucy, who sighed and smiled.
"Alright, then - let's go. Don't blame me if you fall asleep on the elevator."
It turned out not to be as bad as she'd supposed. 70 floors offered a lot of space for displays, and a placard by the elevator offered a helpful breakdown of what was on each floor. Wanting this to be "educational" for Seth, Lucy and Lena had taken him straight up to the "history of Midgar" floors. It encompassed about three floors, all told - from the history and significant accomplishments of each of the smaller towns that Midgar had once been, to the story of a relatively weak and insignificant weapons dev company that had rapidly risen to fame and become a world power, to how the towns had finally coalesced into Midgar... the last floor had detailed the recent renovations to the city.
In a spot of honor, in the conference room, was the hall of the heroes.
Seth had wandered in there completely by accident, while his mother and aunt were still reading about recent Midgar renovations. In the very room where top Shinra executives had once made their grandiose plans, portraits of the nine heroes that had saved the world from Meteor hung, with brief histories told under the framed faces.
Walking in a sort of reverent trance, Seth slowly circled the room, pausing at each portrait to read the plaques beneath. His fingers occasionally reached out to trail against the wall, but pulled back quickly lest they sully the likenesses of the heroes with their touch.
First and foremost was Cloud Strife. Mako-blue eyes seeming to glow even on paper, he stared out at the world with his mouth set in a grim line, his fair hair set in an array of wild spikes.
Aerith Gainsborough's eyes did not glow as did Cloud's, but she seemed to be gazing at something far away, smiling as though in a dream at something that was at once untouchable and just within her grasp. Last of the Cetra. Last to be born, last to die.
Tifa Lockhart. Barret Wallace. Cid Highwind. Vincent Valentine. Yuffie Kisaragi. Nanaki, also known as Red XIII. The Shinra traitor Thomas Reeve, with his toy Cait Sith body. All had their rightful spot on this wall.
Seth turned, smiling as if in a trance, to leave the room. However, as he turned, a tenth portrait caught his gaze and made his heart skip a beat.
The face bore such a resemblance to his own that for a single insane moment, he thought he'd somehow earned a spot among the heroes. The moment passed, and he drew nearer to inspect the portrait more closely. A small brass plaque beneath the portrait bore a single word: SEPHIROTH.
Seth's eyes traveled back up to meet the cold, slitted Mako eyes of the portrait for a moment, before he turned to read the writing on the panel beneath the plaque.
Famous for his skills as a general and swordsman, Sephiroth might once have been a good man. However, he was used in the most complete experiment of the Jenova Project, and this warped him beyond all redemption. Driven insane by the lies and delusions he had been fed his entire life, as well as the Jenova cells implanted in his body before birth, Sephiroth nearly destroyed the world in his rage. He is said to have burned down the town of Nibelheim (later rebuilt by Shinra); murdered Aerith Gainsborough, last of the Cetra; and summoned Meteor in his quest for godhood. Nobody knows whether it was the original Sephiroth or not that committed these acts, but it is certain that he met his final defeat at the hands of Cloud Strife.
His giant sword, Masamune, has become a thing of legend. It is said that only Sephiroth was capable of wielding this sword, through a strange psychic link to the blade. The nature of this bond is even now not understood, and the current location of Masamune is unknown.
Seth stood in awe for a moment, reading over the words again and again. Man, was he ever messed up... He frowned, stopping at the description of Sephiroth's exploits. So he burned down what became my hometown, committed genocide, and tried to blow up the Planet? Damn, if anyone ever needed anger counseling, it was him.
He couldn't resist another glance upwards at the portrait. Now he knew who this guy was, he couldn't help but be disturbed at the similarity in their appearances. Sephiroth looked dangerous with his long silver hair and glowing Mako-green eyes, a man on the verge of insanity, something worse than a predator... Seth was almost repulsed to share a likeness with him... almost...
"Here he is! I found him, Lucy!"
The sound of his aunt's voice jolted Seth out of his reverie as he turned to see both Lucy and Lena heading towards him.
"Seth, warn someone before you run off like that!" Lucy scolded, catching up to her son.
"Sorry," Seth grinned weakly. "But, hey, look what I found." He gestured to the portrait.
Lena blinked at the picture, slightly taken aback. "So that's what Sephiroth looked like..."
"He looked like you, Seth," Lucy said bluntly.
"I noticed." Seth was still staring at the picture. Longer hair and the predatory eyes... those were the only real differences... if he stared long enough, he could imagine that those eyes were yet alive...
He shuddered suddenly, jerking his gaze from the madman's portrait.
"Let's go," he said abruptly. "I'm a little tired."
The trek back to Lena's house was slow and quiet. Lucy and Lena chattered at each other, catching up on recent news, cheerfully oblivious to anything else. Seth slumped behind them, his hands deep in his pockets, yawning loud and long on occasion. Despite the slouch in his posture and the tired glaze of his eyes, he could not stop thinking about the portrait in the museum.
That portrait evoked deeper feelings in him than mere surprise at the similarity of their appearances, things he could never name, no matter how hard he tried... vague, disturbing thoughts of crimson and flame and moonlight shining bright on swords and blood on glass... and above it all, there was one word, one word that whispered to him again and again, in a tone like the chafe of steel against leather.
The giant sword that only Sephiroth's hand could wield. The thin steel blade that had slain so many, destroyed so much. Bonded to Sephiroth by unbreakable ties, perhaps the blade had learned thoughts and a life of its own.
He didn't know why the blade was occupying his thoughts so completely. But it was exciting to think of the sword of legend as a living thing, waiting patiently for its owner to come back to claim it, whether for peace or for war. Waiting.
Masamune would wait as long as it took.
Seth sighed and yawned again. Lucy turned to face him briefly.
"Cover your mouth when you yawn," she chastised. "And stand up straight."
Seth complied with her directions sleepily, his head still filled with thoughts of legendary swords.
Sephiroth, come to me.
I've been waiting... waiting seventeen years for this.
Pull me from my scabbard. Let me taste blood. Let me shine.
The righteous or the wicked... it makes no difference when the blood spills. Take me from my prison. Give me blood.
Seth's eyes flew open.
He was lying on the slightly lumpy pull-out bed in Lena's house, beside his mother. The silver light of the nearly full moon outside fell across the bed in a blade-thin line, in stark contrast to the dark of the room.
The faint, thin, hissing voice from his dreams echoed in his head, whispering in words that Seth couldn't make out, but which were irresistibly compelling.
Seth sighed, staring at the ceiling. Just peachy. I'm hearing voices now. Yay.
Se... th. Come to me... Se... th...
Who are you?
... know me... I am yours... Se... th. Come to me...
I won't. I need to sleep.
Good night, Seth thought fiercely, rolling over. Just so you know, I'm talking to Mom and getting a prescription for you tomorrow.
He closed his eyes, and slept, untroubled by anonymous whispers for the rest of the night.
As it happened, after a good, silent night's sleep, Seth entirely forgot about the voice in his head, and thus forgot to report it to his mother. The rest of the day was spent touring Midgar, with Lucy and Lena pointing out locations of historical note and Seth dragging them into places of recreational note.
"Seth, dear," Lucy said tiredly, "this was supposed to be an educational visit."
Seth looked up from the skee-ball machine with wide eyes, blinking innocently. "It is educational. I'm learning all about the arcades of Midgar."
Lucy groaned, while Lena laughed. Leaning forward conspiratorially, she stage-whispered to Seth, "I think that's mom-code for 'You're spending too much money.'"
Seth stuck his tongue out playfully at his mother. "Let me play this last game and then we'll go."
It was more or less like that for the rest of the day, until Lucy finally insisted that they go back home.
They were just heading towards one of the city's exits, carrying their stuff, when a flash of red caught Seth's eye. He turned his head to see, and his jaw dropped as he identified the man.
Long black hair cascading over his shoulders, held out of his eyes by a red headband... crimson eyes... red cape covering a thin body clad in black... false left arm, resembling a golden claw...
Just leaning against a tree, staring into space, seemingly oblivious to the goings-on of the world around him.
"Holy," Seth breathed in disbelief. "Mom. Mom, look over there and say I'm not hallucinating."
Lucy turned her head to see, and her eyes widened. "Vincent Valentine?"
Seth's dumbfounded look gave way to a huge grin. "I'm not hallucinating! Hang on, Mom - I'll be right back!"
He had dropped his suitcase and dashed towards the red-eyed man before Lucy could open her mouth.
As for the hapless Valentine, it's safe to say he was a little bit startled when the boy screeched to a halt in front of him, nearly tearing off his backpack and rummaging around inside.
"Hello?" Vincent greeted hesitantly, raising an eyebrow at the frantic boy, before a notebook and pen were thrust at him.
"Here!" Seth said breathlessly. "Mister Valentine, sir, would you please give me your autograph?"
Vincent stared in surprise, blinking at the silver-haired, green-eyed boy that was offering him writing utensils. The resemblance to Sephiroth in looks was undeniable and quite eerie - however, Vincent had a great deal of trouble trying to imagine the Sephiroth he had known asking for autographs with a happy gleam in his eye.
Wordlessly, he accepted the notebook and the pen. "Your name?"
"Seth." The boy was practically glowing.
Vincent signed a brief inscription and handed the notebook and pen back. Seth accepted them with a wide smile, a deep bow, and a babbled "Thank you so much, sir!" and dashed back towards his mother. Smiling softly to himself and shaking his head, Vincent resuming staring into space, absently shifting his position.
One of his feet knocked against something. Looking down, he saw that it was Seth's backpack, forgotten in the boy's exuberance.
Smiling again, Vincent bent down and picked up the backpack, heading into the crowd where he'd last seen the boy. "Seth! Seth, where are you?"
A pair of deep emerald eyes stopped and blinked at him from the crowd. Matching name to face, Vincent moved towards him, holding out the backpack. "You forgot this."
"Oh!" Seth's face lit up in another smile. Setting down his suitcase, he accepted the backpack, shrugging it on. "Thank you!"
Vincent smirked under his cowl. "You're welcome. Now you'd best get going before you leave something else, like your suitcase."
Blushing, Seth picked his suitcase up again with a grin. "Er - yeah, good idea.... Thank you again!"
Vincent nodded and waved, as Seth and Lucy walked away, occasionally glancing back.
It would seem the resemblance to Sephiroth is entirely superficial, Vincent decided, turning away as Seth faded from view. I should stop worrying so much. It was seventeen years ago. I think we are safe.
It had taken Seth a long time to calm down. Having actually met and talked to and gotten the autograph of one of the planet's greatest heroes had left him giddy and restless. He and Lucy had chattered almost the entire three-day trip back from Midgar, exchanging speculations as to whether they'd ever see Vincent again, or Cloud, or any of the other heroes.
After barely sleeping on the trip back, Seth had practically passed out when they finally got home.
Only to be awakened in the dead of night by the same hissing voice as before. Except that now it was stronger, and sharper.
If I'm going to have voices calling me away to do things, can't this at least wait until I've gotten a full night's sleep?
If you were to leave during the day, you would be noticed, the sharp, metallic voice rang in his head.
So? I'd tell my mom I was going for a hike. This is a mountain town, you know, we do things like that.
Then you would have to explain what you returned with.
What? Seth had kept his eyes pressed closed up to this point, hoping to sleep, but at this, his interest was piqued. His eyes flew open.
Come to me, and I will show you.
Oh no. I want to sleep. Sleeeeep. You know, that nice peaceful thing you do at night?
I do not know. I have never slept.
You poor thing. Well, don't deprive me of doing it.
Boy, get out of bed.
I can control your body if you push me.
Do yer worst. And I am so getting pills for you tomorrow.
You could put the entire pharmacy in your body and you would not silence me. Now get out of bed.
Don't say I didn't warn you.
Seth sat up.
Wha? Hey, what the hell?! No! I'm not going anywhere, damn you!
But Seth's body disagreed. His legs swung out of bed, feet planting themselves on the floor. Pale as a ghost, Seth padded silently across the floor, pausing only to pull on his hiking boots and lace them.
No. I warned you I could control you if you pushed me. It's easier than I thought, though.
Thanks, Seth thought bitterly, opening the front door and stalking out.
It wasn't a compliment. Seventeen years ago, I would not have been able to control you so completely.
Dude. I wasn't alive seventeen years ago. I don't think I'd even been conceived seventeen years ago.
No, you died seventeen years ago.
If I wasn't alive, how could I die?
You never have heard of reincarnation, have you?
Great. The voices in my head are sarcastic.
I am not a voice in your head. I have a physical form and it is nowhere near your head.
Which explains why you're talking to me? They were long out of Nibelheim now, and heading downland, seemingly towards the river.
We are bound to one another. We have been since the moment I was forged. I have always been yours, and you will always be mine.
Seth muttered an oath as his body began to scale the sloping, rocky ridges that the grey Nibel peaks faded into.
You've gotta be kidding me! You took me out to climb mountains? Then he realized what the voice had said a moment ago. Wait. Forged?
Yes. Forged. Hammered into shape from red-hot metal in a dingy, sooty sort of place?
I am so not even going to ask about that.
Good. Now climb the mountain.
I'm DOING that right now. Or you're doing it through me, or whatever.
Seth obliged. The mysterious, steely voice also kept its silence. For a good fifteen minutes, the boy's body mechanically dragged itself up the slope, against its owner's will.
Will you leave me alone after I go wherever it is you're taking me?
Because I am yours. And you are mine.
Will you stop saying that? It's creepy.
I am yours, and you are mine. I am yours, and--
Oh, for the love of the Planet, just shut up!
He SWORE he heard laughter.
You're almost at the top now, boy. If I can trust you not to turn back now, I will release you.
Seth looked up at the top of the ridge and the starry sky beyond it, pondering the voice's words.
Well - even if this thing did trust him enough to defer control to him, running away would be pointless because the thing would just take over him again.
I have no choice here. It's either go down there under my own power, or be taken down there like a puppet. You win - just let me go and I'll go wherever you want.
Seth experimentally wiggled his fingers. Satisfied that he had full control back, he pulled himself up the rest of the way and looked down at what was revealed.
A shallow valley with a deep blue lake greeted him. A waterfall flowing from an unseen source fed the lake, which in turn fed the river that split the continent farther down. The soft rushing sound of the waterfall, the moonlight caught and diffused into a million tiny rainbows in the mist, the dark waters of the lake...
Seth took in a deep breath, letting it out again in a long, thin, appreciative sigh.
Go behind the waterfall.
Huh? Behind it? Shrugging, Seth began to clamber down the ridge again. It seemed lower on this side, and his feet were soon on level ground once more.
Yeah, yeah, I'm going, chill out.
Just beyond the waterfall was a damp, smooth tunnel. Shaking a few droplets of water from his silver hair, Seth made his way carefully into the cave beyond.
A bright white light shone inside this cave, at the far end. Seth took a moment to look around, his eyes wide. The room was perfectly circular, each line and curve seeming to have been sculpted by some divine hand out of white marble. He suddenly felt very guilty about walking on this floor in his dusty hiking boots, as though the very touch were a contamination.
I am here.
Seth looked around again. "Where?" he asked aloud.
The throne. I'm on the throne.
Seth looked forward. There was nobody there, just a sword. A very, very, long sword.
Wait. Do you honestly mean to tell me that you're a sword?
That'd be me, yep.
All this time I've been talking to a bloody SWORD?!
Hold the applause.
Seth instantly began to applaud loudly.
I guess I asked for that. Now get over here. Your boots aren't going to make the place dissolve into thin air.
Seth nonetheless attempted to tread lightly as he crossed the cave, lifting the sword from the throne. You know, it's extremely embarrassing to think that I was possessed by a sword.
Pleased to be of service. Put me on. There's a cord on the scabbard you can tie around your waist.
Shrugging, Seth did so, letting the sword hang at his left hip. "Any further directions, O Mighty Talking Sword?"
None. You did what I brought you here to do - you retrieved me. Now you can do whatever you like, as long as you take me with you.
'Kay... Seth drew the sword and held it up to the light, examining the blade. He took a couple experimental swipes. "For such a long sword, you have nice balance."
"Do I want to ask if you have a name?"
Well, you've probably forgotten it in the long time we were apart, so I'll refresh your memory. I am Masamune.
The sword clattered to the ground. Seth stood three feet away, staring with wide eyes at the blade.
That hurt, you know.
Yes. Masamune. What on the Planet is the matter with you? You could have shattered glass with that shriek.
"Let me get this straight. You are Masamune."
Yes, I am Masamune.
"The legendary sword of the famous general Sephiroth."
Legendary? Wow. I'm flattered.
"The sword that ONLY Sephiroth could ever wield."
Exactly. So why are you surprised?
"BECAUSE I'M NOT SEPHIROTH!!"
There was a long pause, Seth's scream echoing eerily in the marble chamber.
You've never heard of logic, either, have you?
"What's logical about this?! I'm NOT Sephiroth! Sephiroth burned down what became my hometown - he killed the last of the Cetra -" Seth narrowed his eyes. "YOU killed the last of the Cetra."
No, you were right the first time, it was Sephiroth that did it. I'm just the sword you used.
"DAMMIT, I AM NOT SEPHIROTH!!" Seth staggered back, clutching his head. "I'm Seth! SETH! My name is SETH!!"
Is it all right if I call you Sephiroth, still? I'm still Masamune, I don't see why I have to call you by a new name when you can still call me--
"SHUT UP! SHUT UP! SHUT UUUPPP!!!!" Seth screeched. "I'm not Sephiroth! I never did those things! I never WILL do those things!!"
There's really no use denying this, you know. You drew me. You wielded me. Only Sephiroth can do that. I really don't see any loophole in this logic.
Seth fell to his knees, making a strangled sound, and hunched over so that he was leaning on his elbows. A sob rippled through the chamber as Seth's shoulders began to shake.
Masamune was frankly at a loss. Sephiroth had never shed a single tear, much less broken down the way Seth was now, and Masamune had no idea what to say. It had never had to deal with this before. Unable to sympathize and yet reluctant to make those sobs louder, the sword lay silent as Seth cried.
You're right, it announced at last, its sharp, steely voice rasping into Seth's mind. You aren't Sephiroth.
Seth looked up slowly.
You WERE Sephiroth. But you're a new person now. This will take getting used to.
"You have a point too," Seth whispered, hiccuping. "How can I wield you if I'm not Sephiroth?"
Apparently, our link is deeper than was previously thought. I wonder how it's possible for us to still be connected in this way, even though you have a new name and a new identity?
Seth sniffled, wiping his eyes, and got to his feet. "Just don't make me do anything Sephiroth would have done."
Why would I do that? Masamune wondered as Seth picked it up and sheathed it.
"You made me come here."
That is entirely different. I wanted to be retrieved. You retrieved me. Mission accomplished, now go home. I am still yours, to use as you see fit. Righteous or wicked, it doesn't matter to me.
"Thank you." Seth walked towards the exit.
As he ducked under the waterfall, Masamune spoke up again, sounding almost meek. Hey, Seth -- I don't suppose you could kill something on the way home, could you?
I'm a sword! I exist to kill things, right? That is the general idea of a sword, right?
I haven't shed blood in seventeen years, Seth. I'm a bit overdue.
"Masamune. Do me a really big favor, and never ask me to kill anything. Talking swords I can deal with. Bloodthirsty talking swords, I can't."
I wasn't asking you to actively seek out something to kill... well, hmm. Maybe I was. Disregard that request.
"Good." Seth had already started down the other side of the ridge.
But, uh, if you get into any sort of danger--
"Yes, Masamune." Seth sighed heavily. "But ONLY in self-defense, understand? I am NOT going to become Sephiroth again."
While the remark was not given any particular edge, to indicate sarcasm or derision or anything of the sort, it sent a cold chill down Seth's spine.
The black chocobo handled the rugged terrain easily, warking happily as it clambered up the mountain without any difficulty. The rider pulled gently at its reins as they reached the crest, signaling it to stop.
The Nibelheim area was beautiful in the fading moonlight, everything painted in shades of silver. Ice crystals sparkled in the air around the peaks of the Nibel mountains, forming a fine, shimmering mist. Farther down the air was strikingly clear, allowing a clear view of the valley below...
The rider narrowed his eyes, his gaze coming to rest on the figure that was moving towards the town. Moonlight shone on short silver hair, and there was a long sword sheathed at the person's side - too long. There was only one sword he knew of forged that large...
A clawed hand gripped the reins tightly as the rider's lip curled in a slight snarl.
Perhaps I was wrong about the boy...
Seth had been out for a little longer than he liked to think about. Towards the eastern horizon, the sky was beginning to grow lighter and the stars were fading, indicating a coming sunrise.
All NIGHT he'd been out.
"YOU are going to explain this to my mother, sword," Seth growled, cresting another hill. The grey Nibel mountains were coming closer and he could just see Nibelheim, nestled in at the foot of one.
How can I? She can't hear me. You're the only one with the psychic link to me.
"I'll write down what you say or something."
And you think that will sound sane and rational? Handing your mother a slip of paper and saying 'Here, this is my sword's explanation for why I was out so late'?
"Oh, f-- I'm screwed no matter what. I mean, I can't exactly tell her myself, either... 'Yeah, mom, this talking sword got me up in the middle of the night and had me go look for it...'"
Maybe when she finds out I'm the Masamune, she'll believe you.
"Oh, joy of all joys, to have my mother know that I was the insane megalomaniac who killed people and wanted to become a god."
You could remind her that it's in past tense.
Seth, don't look now, but I think there's a pack of wolves behind us.
"Now, don't you go changing the subject--"
Seth. There is a pack of wolves behind us. Can't you hear them growling? I know I'm a great conversationalist, but focus on the outside world for a second!
Seth sighed in irritation and withdrew his attention from the new presence in his mind - and no sooner was that done than a low, hungry growl reached his ears. Feeling suddenly cold, Seth turned slowly around, to find a group of five Nibel wolves spread out in a semi-circle behind him. Ten icy lupine eyes caught his, each wolf's teeth bared in a snarl.
"Oh, shit," Seth managed to say before the largest one lunged.
I'm gonna die I'm gonna die I'm gonna die I'm dead I'm dead I'm so dead-- he might have thought - it was hard to tell over his screaming.
There was a scrape of metal against leather and a moon-bright flash of steel, and the wolf that had lunged lay whimpering on the ground in its death throes, bleeding from a slash that had nearly cut it in half. Seth stared at it numbly, feeling slightly sick as he clutched Masamune - how long had the sword been in his hand? Averting his eyes from the sight, he looked at the Masamune. The wolf's blood, instead of dripping down the blade, was... being absorbed... INTO the blade.
This moment of distraction left him vulnerable, and two more of the wolves chose that moment to attack. Seth got one in the ribcage with Masamune's hilt, but even as he sent it flying, the other attempted to bite his leg. A quick swipe beheaded the wolf, leaving Seth to frantically try to shake the head off his ankle. Another wolf got luckier with his arm, tearing into the soft flesh. Seth screamed and managed to get it across the nose with the flat of the Masamune's blade, causing it to yelp and release him.
Two wolves dead, one winded and unmoving, possibly dead. Two still alive.
A swipe of Masamune dealt a fatal blow to one, but left Seth open to attack from another - he swiped downward with Masamune - the wolf saw it coming and jumped backward, then prepared to lunge again, howling... Unable to bring Masamune up in time for another strike, Seth instead shot his hand forward, fingers outstretched --
That was when the nightmare began.
The last wolf leapt aside before the spell was even fully cast, loping away from its would-be prey as fast as it could. But the fiery projectile had already discharged from Seth's hand. Deprived of its intended target, it shot straight ahead like a shooting star--
--straight towards Nibelheim which was closer than Seth had realized--
--striking a house near the town's gates--
--and it went up in a huge conflagration, the fire consuming the dry wood hungrily, flaring into vivid, murderous life.
Seth stared, paralyzed for a moment with disbelief and fear. Around him lay the unmoving bodies of four dead wolves, in his hand lay the sword Masamune, seeming to shine brighter after devouring the blood it had touched, reflecting on its flawless blade the ruddy light from the flames of his burning hometown--
It was too much. Human beings are not often rational in the face of all-consuming terror, and so Seth, following one of mankind's most basic instincts, turned and ran as far away as he possibly could from the fire, from the wolves, from the living nightmare that he had brought to life.
It could have been forever that he ran, under the waning starlight and the slowly lightening sky. He dashed across the dewy plains, unable to stop until his legs, screaming for rest, buckled underneath him and sent him tumbling to the ground, Masamune jarred from his hand.
Scrambling back to his feet, he saw the wolf's head with its jaw still clamped onto his ankle. Whimpering in disgust, he seized the creature's jaws and attempted to pry them apart, but death had made them rigid. Desperate to have the thing gone, he groped around for Masamune. Once the sword was in his hand again, he smashed it repeatedly against the wolf's lower jaw until he heard the crack of bone and felt the clamp loosen. With an agonized cry, he tore the head from his leg and threw it away, sickened by the sight and weight and feel of it. It landed with a disgusting splash in the river.
Shaking from head to toe, heart pounding with rapid force in his chest, Seth dropped Masamune in the grass, suddenly doubling over to be violently ill. When he had emptied the contents of his stomach, his retches turned to sobs. He fell backwards and curled up into a little ball, weak and trembling, and sobbed hysterically.
Even in these depths of agony, he could still feel the sharp, moonlight presence of Masamune in the back of his mind.
I don't even get to have privacy in my own head, was his last waking thought before he collapsed into blissful unconsciousness beneath the rising sun.
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