They said a demon roamed the village at night.
"Could be true." I said.
My subordinate Reno held up a picture of the creature, with its twisted crown of hair and its golden eyes, a huge gun glittering under the moonlight. Though the picture was out of focus, the way mouth curled into a terrifying smirk was easy to see, and made me feel faintly nostalgic. Maybe I had seen illustrations of the beast before? No, this looked like the devilish smile of something else…
Could be him. I thought.
Drinking at the pub a few evenings before I left, me, Tseng, Reno and Rude were swapping mythos of our hometowns over our eighth glass. Reno told us of merpeople. Tseng told us of vampires. Rude told us of the Nibelheim demon. Scratches on the window from nearby branches and the silence of the near-empty pub fell on us after the storytelling session, and shadows followed me home.
Could be it, the drink told me.
Running from Shinra, I hid in Nibelheim, searching for a way to help my baby girl. The memories of Tseng's stories and old Turk legends clawed at me as I waded through the forests, hiding from sight. Sephiroth had gone missing. Genesis had been sighted. Zack Fair and a young trooper boy named Cloud had been locked away under the mansion. They wouldn't notice me, slipping through the woods. Chills ran down my elderly spine. I was surprised I hadn't called it quits long ago; the Turk lifestyle was catching up on me. I was fifty five. I shouldn't have still been doing the job. Entering the mansion, I raided the lower tombs with Cissnei, one of the 'Turklets', as Reno had once affectionately called them. Something stirred in the catacombs.
Could be the wind, I wanted to try and tell myself.
Lifting the lid off the coffin, still searching for my cure, I found him, eyes closed peacefully, and hair ruffled. He was still a picture of youthful beauty. Jealousy raged within me. I wanted his youth. I wanted his flawless features. But below the unmarred face, a world of damage had been done. Scars, both physical and psychological. When I had known him, he wouldn't have let himself slip that far out of perfection. Cleanliness was imperative; hair always to be tidied, suits always neatly pressed. Not even the suit remained. He sat up.
Could be sane.
"Veld." He whispered. "It's good to see you." Ebony hair fell down onto his lithe shoulders, his crimson eyes still sharp and alert. Wisdom beyond his forever twenty seven years shone through them. He rested his arm on the side of the coffin. His back made unpleasant groans as he tried to jostle about into a more comfortable position.
Could be the same.
His left arm wasn't even an arm any more. A claw. A sharp, gold claw. His eyes watched wearily as I traced every inch of him over. He was not himself. This was not the Turk I once knew. He shook his long hair disdainfully over his shoulders. He was not vain. He gazed at me impatiently, waiting for a reply. He was not composed. His cheeks were faintly tear-stained. He was not cheerful. Not goofy, not tidy, not talkative, not companionable.
He simply wasn't.
He couldn't be.