The pain shot up his wing and down into his back. Sephiroth almost stumbled—almost—as he felt blood run down his leg. Instead, he merely gritted his teeth and ran across to where his opponent stood, a shocked expression on the boy's face that he had actually gotten a hit in. Sora seemed to sense the burning anger that rose in the master swordsman, and he hauled his Keyblade up in desperation as Sephiroth brought Masamune down in one mighty stroke.

As the boy lay unconscious on the ground, Sephiroth stood above him imperiously. Come back and try again when you have more experience, he growled. Then he stalked out of the arena, ignoring the people rushing past him to help the boy. He tossed his long, silvery hair over one shoulder and made his way to the gallery.

After a quick look around to see that the other fighters had gone, he finally let himself give into the pain with a groan. He braced his hands on the rail and sank to his knees, breath coming in hard gasps. He prayed that no one would walk in and find him like this, weak and off-guard.

His prayers went unanswered. The soft scuff of leather on marble announced the presence of another person coming toward his sanctuary. Forcing himself to straighten, he pretended to be looking out at the beautiful rolling hills that surrounded the Coliseum. Just as he composed himself, he heard the footsteps enter the room.

Good, he thought, It's not Cloud.

Dear gods, Sephiroth, I can't believe you were going to let this be! A woman's voice exclaimed from behind him. Suddenly, a pair of firm hands had gripped his wing. Shocked at the contact, he whirled around, intent upon skewering this presumptuous creature for daring to touch him. Before he could draw his sword, however, the wing tore out of her grasp and he felt himself pale in agony. This time, he did stagger backward as half-dried blood cracked and feathers pulled themselves out of their quills.

Dammit, woman, what are you trying to do? he cried, fighting a wave of nausea.

I'm trying to heal you, you big oaf! That's why I'm here, remember?

Sephiroth took a good look at his and realized that she was, indeed, the healer. She was a newcomer. Beyond recognizing her by sight, he knew little else about her, except that she came from his world. He noticed that she had adopted the draped clothing of this world. I will take care of it, he ground out, supporting himself on the stone rail.

Like hell you will, she mumbled, pulling something from beneath the folds of her soft green chiton. A materia belt, Sephiroth realized, filled with mastered Cure materia. Now, turn around, shut up, and hold onto something.

He was so surprised by her brusque manner that he did as she ordered, digging his fingers into the stone. Over his shoulder, he could see her closing her eyes as she rearranged the feathers. He winced a few times when she eased a pinion back into its socket, but otherwise remained silent.

Keep still. She hadn't opened her eyes. Sephiroth would have been impressed at the power starting to flow through her, but he was too busy concentrating on anything but the pain.

A familiar green glow appeared around her hands. The cure spell sent its healing tendrils coursing throughout the wing, up and down each tiny muscle and blood vessel. Like a stream of cool water, it trickled into his back, under his skin, spreading to cover his shoulder and across his chest. It made him shudder in relief, prickling his skin into goosebumps wherever it passed.

Wh—why did you do that? he asked, panting. He slumped forward, knees weak. That had been some lucky shot for Sora; it had caught him just right to be the most painful injury.

The healer was catching her breath, too. I'm a healer, remember? I'm supposed to fix you big tough fighters when you beat each other into bloody ruin. Sweat beaded her brow and ran down her face. Her chiton was dark with perspiration where it touched her skin.

Sephiroth moved the wing experimentally. The feathers were clean now, and there was no pain beyond a bit of soreness. He folded it neatly behind him. Then thank you, Healer. Impressive work. He stood awkwardly for a moment, not sure of what else to say, then covered his consternation by striding from the room.

The woman watched him go, pulling a square of fabric from her belt. She brought it to her mouth just in time to catch the flecks of blood that came up as she coughed. Fighting her own weakness, she waited until she was steady, then turned to go back to her own rooms.

Something on the floor shone in the setting sun. The healer walked over to it and bent down. It was a single, curled black feather, glossy and iridescent. She picked it up and held it close to her face, studying it. Sighing, she put it carefully into one of her pockets, rose, and left.