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"The Hard Way"

You are a 1st class SOLDIER.

A physical depiction of excellence and mental purity of the highest form.

This idea has been characteristically imbued within the confines of your mind, never able to set foot outside again. The seeds of stability have been sewn into your kind for decades.

Why is it then, that this man seems to have breached those ideas, contradicting the very essence of the syndicate?

You sit in grief, witnessing this man plunging far beyond the depths of forgiveness.

Having grinded the thoughts of your fortune mercilessly in your head, you proceed forward yet again, determined to strike with an apt resiliency to be feared.

He is ready however. He is always ready. Unaffected. Undisturbed. Unscathed.

Mocking you.

He is mocking you. That distasteful, wicked smile dances across his corrupt lips as he beckons with a gloved hand for you to join him once more in his despicable art of savagery.

You heave a great breath of air for personal assurance and take the bait, your spotless blade gleaming from the ambient glow surfacing from the deep pits of below as it edges forward towards its target.

It is then that metal makes contact on metal, relaying messages of certain sophistication not wholly appropriate for the judgment of human ears. Their brief encounter gives way to numerous innocent shards of tiny white light as they escape the intersection of the two blades.

Your eyes meet his, filled with emotion but not. For there is nothing certain about this man. This walking enigma. His glowing green irises reflect a certain residual resentment towards some familiar party.

For the briefest of moments as the two pairs of eyes lock, that air of warmth decides to abandon you then and there, fear taking grip of your character as uncertainty creeps forth through your garments, beginning to envelope your confidence.

Your shaky white confidence…

Feeling infracted, you call forth the one sole thought constantly successful in recoiling those fears away.

And so it is then that you remember once more who you are. You remember.

You are a 1st class SOLDIER.

The force of the second blocked blow by you against the impervious Masamune rocks you to the core, shaking your insides and jarring all parts of your body. The momentum of the attack takes you on a journey several feet back at astonishing speed.

With honed instincts of a great warrior, you immediately plunge your competent blade deep into the ground, eliciting numerous cracks and fissures, as you attempt to halt the trip back to as maximum extent as possible.

As you come to a violent and abrupt stop, your muscles scream in agony but it is of no relevance at the moment as he comes charging in with disturbing speed, poised and ready to strike.

The spotless Masamune travels forth, with a stunning display of blurriness that can only be detected by those of the highest ranks. It fast approaches the neck and with last second effort, you manage to parry the thunderous blow just in time, only to be required to fall back as the blade decides to swing in the opposite direction, and towards your legs. Again it is blocked, but merely through the keen concentration and effort of your enhanced will required to stop something so devastating.

Your arms suffer. As do your hands, singing melodies discontent. Fingers burning in pain from the vibrations of the blade's hilt.

Yet again, you have no time to reflect on this as a dizzying figure dressed in black leaps forth, the tip of his blade set for your most prized possession: your heart.

It is then that you are thankful for the width of your weapon, acting as a shield as it laboriously does its best to absorb the shock of the potent impact.

An impact that sends you back yet again, sliding on one knee, teeth clenched shut while you grimace in pain.

You are not ready. No. Not yet at least. He is however.

He is ready to attack again. He is always ready. Always set. Always fast.

Too fast. He is simply too fast. Unmatchable in his alien quickness.

For every dedicated thought put into striking with the sword, he is eager to match the game, always three steps ahead on his own, appearing to see and anticipate the multiple courses of action from all sides. It is simply mind boggling the amount of variables one has to calculate in order to come up with such a defensive matrix.

You remember this while glancing up at his scornful expression, just in time to miraculously dodge the aggressive swing of his lengthy blade by mere fractions of a hair.

Immediately, you separate yourself a distance of several feet, blade extended forward, shoulders rocking up and down rhythmically as you inhale and exhale with a ferocious temperament, stamina beginning to become tested.

He stands erect, blade by his side, the visible long strands of his straight hair nearly blinding you amidst the glow. And then, it is here that he pauses momentarily, a supercilious smile smearing his spotless face. A face devoid of emotion but also more…

A face devoid of sweat. Fear. Urgency.

Exertion.

And then, like an encompassing hole swallowing all of existence into its depraved stomach of emptiness, that dreadful inclination creeps forth, taking hold of you.

You are fatigued, weary and bloodied. Assumedly decrepit. He however, remains untouched, seemingly taking pleasure derived in his actions.

For a moment, you are not sure if the result of your actions are worth it. For a moment… you hesitate.

And twitch…

But then, like the always welcome adrenaline nourishing a fighter in the battlefield, that soothing phrase of comfort edges its way back to you. And you feel complete again, cleansed from your insecurities.

You are a 1st class SOLDIER.

Like a rejuvenated specimen, you shoot forth with your own display of agility and superhuman quickness, your hungry blade extracted forth, moving even faster, towards its target at surreal velocity.

The momentum of your weapon and body are enough to cut through anyone and anything, or send even the most powerful of warriors back should they have the uncanny ability to somehow deflect the blow.

But not him. No. Not him. Never.

He remains in his spot, unfazed and unmoved from position of earlier as he effortlessly meets your horizontal sword vertically with his.

The sound of two blades merging mimics that of a hammer smashing down on an anvil on the most desolate of nights.

Your blade has stopped but you have not as you continue forth before crashing heavily into the rear of your own weapon, you chest aching from the impact. Hands continuously scorching from the numerous vibrations.

Curious, you are given a split moment to make eye contact with him and it is within the depths of those bitter green pools that you are given the hint to retract or face the consequences.

Heeding the wisdom of your lucid thoughts, you immediately pull back in time for your weapon to be greeted by the chant of impatience from the left.

Another reversal of motion sends the Masamune in the opposite direction, revealing the blunt exposure of your figure.

Your transition is seamless and fast.

But he… as you're very well aware… is too fast.

The pain pinches your right bicep at first, tickling and satiating the senses before frowning and plunging within the lining of your exposed flesh, plucking away inhumanely.

You cry out in agony and fall back limp, you arm partially incapacitated, the grip on your sword lacking its former glory.

But you are given no time to dwell on the injury. No time at all.

You are a 1st class SOLDIER.

Shooting towards you, the large silver haired bullet disappears from line of sight, manifesting at your rear. Your heightened reflexes serve perfect cause as the fatigued muscles in your legs act to spring forward and from certain death.

The attempted fatal blow catches the faceless air and for the first time, a short grunt is heard from your opposition.

A grunt measurable. A grunt calculable.

Not one of distress. No. For this man has never experienced such feeling or emotion.

"How long do you think you can last?"

The call of impatience is clear but is deaf on his lips as he springs forth, in sync with you turning to greet him. His visual receptors are steely, eyelids forming slits.

The first Masamune strike is parried, although with straining physical exertion involved on your part.

The second comes infinitely even on course, impressively trailing only by thought and not by time. However, it too is expertly deflected but not without your weapon suffering great abuse at the hands of its attempted murderer.

The third serves to loosen your hold on your bastion of defense and the immediate fourth prompts a loss in footing and equilibrium.

Like a meek man, ridding himself of his drowsy slumber and the incoherent atmosphere he finds himself drowning in, you give your head a violent shake, feebly attempting to clear the disorientation. Tapping into your physical prowess, you leap with astounding explosiveness back and away, clear from the tyranny.

You feel it this time. Its call heeding your name, beckoning for you to instill its discipline within your practice. The hot, wet, numb feeling in your weakened right arm seems to fade away as a resonating aura of sensational, drug-like euphoria emanates forth from your body, a faint green hue dancing around your proximity. You feel fantastic, on a pedestal like no other.

You have done it. Or rather… he.

He has instigated you into a limit.

The massive blade formerly weighing an incomprehensible weight now floats as light as a feather, clenched as tightly as a vice clamp within your sweaty, gloved fists.

Delivering the man across from you a rueful smile, you shoot the fragment of metal down against the earth, prompting a maniacal inferno of searing hot green energy to race towards him.

The massive wave of elemental fire extends its claws with an eager hunger at its guest as you breathe on in fascination.

It won't be stopped.

It can't be stopped.

Not by anyone.

Or anything…

But this man… if you could call him one, was not just anybody. Or anything for that matter. Just what was he then?

And so it comes as no great surprise to both you and the ethereal flame when it is halted in its tracks. In quite a rude and unforgiving manner, the beam of energy is swept aside rather effortlessly, vanishing like a hollow wisp into the vapors.

He glares at you not with malice or contempt. No. He glares at you, seemingly tired of your antics and it is then that he finally decides to travel to a gear not equipped for you. Not equipped for any other in that matter.

But this is not a problem. For you see, it still does not rattle you despite the crystallization of fear.

You are a 1st class SOLDIER.

His next steps are synchronized and in tune with the wind, even confusing the host surroundings as he dances a dizzying maze of intricate design towards you.

Steady, you call forth your blade once more, now applying a pressure around the hilt both you and it have never truly grown accustomed to.

With heavy power, he brings down the lightning from overtop, raining a slender sheet of metal at your head. Your overhead defensive parry effectively halts the killing blow but as is the case with this particular individual, the force of the shock sends you tumbling towards the floor.

This time, it is clear he has no time for games as he unleashes a barrage of rapidly convoluted slashes from all sides, making you second guess both your vision and sanity.

There is not even a moment to contemplate the offensive any longer. You have played into his hand, relegated to a mere defensive prism, struggling to hold the contents of its life together.

You see the swing from the right but not the ensuing mirror double from the left that shadows it, knocking the blade loose, and opening you up to his glory.

The next strike comes unchallenged. Unquestioned. It is of fearless and non hesitant nature as it travels from the floor up, cutting you diagonally across from the left thigh, all the way across your stomach and chest, and ending up at your right shoulder.

For a moment, you cannot help but laugh inwardly as you revel in your helplessness, your surroundings twirling in all directions, images taking the form of a mirage as they spin circular.

He has sent you spinning you realize. The blood spraying from your motion is across in all directions.

Your muscularly developed back absorbs most of the impact as you shatter through an aged pipe, spewing out more heavy, metallic tasting crimson in the process.

But that is not enough as your speed and heavy frame carry you further, the numerous objects and detritus along the path proving incapable of bringing you to a halt. You make the short descent down the sterile stairs before at last, reaching a finite destination after crashing through a large metal pod.

You let out a sharp but weak cry of anguish as you realize that several loose fragments of sharp and protruding debris have declared home inside your body, dying themselves the crimson of your color.

Swallowing once, you spit out copious amounts of your red life line and hang your head dejectedly, struggling for that often taken for granted neck support from your spine.

His imposing footsteps sound convincingly from up above and stop at the edge of the stairs.

Interacting with your body, you plead for it to grant you one last ounce of strength to in order to muster a stare up at your foe. Once a best friend. A man you trusted.

His demeanor from before has returned. That icy, expressionless stare targeting you from all corners of his visage.

With a quick turn of a heel, the haunting frame disappears from view as the echoes of his footsteps fade into the distance to the tune of an ending song.

You attempt to conjure up tears in light of the situation, having failed the task. Failed. It seems most appropriate to shed some emotion. But you cannot. You cannot for that has been taken from you quite some time back as well.

Was it all worth it? This romantic moment is what you had always hoped and dreamed of. Reveling in the glory of battle.

Will anyone remember this ordeal? If they do, will anyone stop to discuss you and your achievements? Or will they pass unnoticed like the hollow, uncaring air?

As you lay in your own shallow pool of accumulating blood, trembling from the open wounds and the sudden chill seeping through the numerous cuts, you remind yourself once more. You remind yourself in order to maintain composure and the necessary strength that will follow in the ensuing trials.

You remind yourself that you are extraordinary in your own right. You know this.

Faintly, ever so faintly, a wisp of a reminiscent smile takes temporary hold of your mouth as you ponder with a remote sadness.

You are a 1st class SOLDIER.

But… and it is here that the painful epiphany finally strikes in full force… raping your sanctuary within of its haven. Your thoughts bleed and betray you, no longer friendly in their guise.

You dwell upon one final thought as you feel the familiar weight of your somber eyelids descending, making way for the eager and impending darkness…

Finally, you understand. Unfortunately however, you have come to this conclusion the hard way.

And as you drift in and out of the teasing realm of consciousness, your thoughts focus on a single point and arrive at blistering clarity.

You are a 1st class SOLDIER…

…But…

But that does not matter in this case because he…

…He is Sephiroth.


A/N: I bet most readers can guess who 'you' is. Comments would be nice.