Disclaimer: I don't own the rights to Final Fantasy VII, X, or any other associated materials. Would I really be writing this if I did? Possibly, but probably not.
AN: Sorry for taking so long. As said in my profile, things have been a bit hectic in life outside the internet this year, and most of my fics were put on hold in the meantime. Anyway, hope you enjoy the chapter.
When he next awoke, Sephiroth knew one thing for certain. He was in the ocean. It was only a matter of seconds before he made another discovery.
He was naked. Very, very naked.
Annoying. He had half a mind to blame Zack. Not that he honestly believed the man could have caused anything, it was probably just a result of the Goddess recreating his body, but he wouldn't put it past the former SOLDIER to do a thing like this just to mess with his mind. Especially since Zack had never successfully pulled a prank off on him before, and had briefly made it his life mission to pull one over on the older SOLDIER after he'd taken him under his wing upon Angeal's death.
Well at least he'd been lying face up. His body was different, the original would have been destroyed long before, but he wasn't certain what the limits of this "new" body would be. As it was, he had no intentions of testing whether or not it actually required oxygen. Being given a new chance at life only to drown in his sleep before he even woke up wasn't exactly how he'd like to kick things off. He remained motionless, allowing himself to be shifted by the slowly bobbing water for a brief moment, before reluctantly righting himself and treading the waves. He remembered full well what had happened between him and the Goddess, and he had no intentions of wasting this opportunity.
Of course, it would be considerably easier if he weren't sitting in the middle of an ocean in an unknown location with no land in sight.
In the distance, a term that was considerably different for any of the three results of the Jenova Project than an average human due to their enhanced physical traits, there was something sticking out of the water. Probably nothing important, but he didn't exactly have many options available. He likely would have ended up just picking a direction and swimming anyway, so it couldn't hurt to go towards the only visible object in viewing range.
Luck, it would seem, was on his side. It appeared that a ship, albeit a damaged one with an unfamiliar make, was the object in question. And fortunately it seemed to be going along a path that would bring it close enough to his route that he wouldn't have to chase the thing down. Within a matter of minutes he was close enough for them to see. Or at least that was what he assumed the case was, considering that the ship had slowed considerably and someone was yelling over their shoulder while pointing in his direction.
When a rope came overboard, he didn't hesitate to grab the end and begin climbing. Between the pulling of those above him and his own quick pace, it barely took any time for him to reach the edge of the ship's railing. Awaiting him was a young girl, who grabbed his arm and helped pull him over to the relative safety of the more preferable side of the railing. He dropped to the deck, tumbling slightly before steadying himself by placing a hand on her shoulder. Moments later there were more of the people, apparently having heard her shouts and left to retrieve help, and he noted that they all seemed to be wearing an odd assortment of gear that he didn't quite recognize. And, more importantly, almost all of them were aiming rifles of some sort towards him. Far more unrefined than the many models Shinra had developed over the years, but rifles all the same.
The first thing Rikku had noticed about him was that he was in the ocean. She was the one to spot him, after all, and in turn the first one to react. It was only a matter of seconds after his feet dropped to the deck that she made another rather unexpected discovery.
He was quite naked. He was very, very naked and more importantly, standing in very, very close proximity to her. She was rarely so thankful that their diving gear covered so much of her face, otherwise her blush would likely be bright enough to blind the man in front of her, who seemed to have no particular qualms with standing before a group of strangers without so much as a thread to cover himself.
Now, it wasn't as though she'd never seen a man naked before. When you made a living by spending anywhere from days to months on a relatively small excavation ship, you were probably going to see someone in their birthday suit sooner or later. But that wasn't quite the same. She'd grown up with most of the men on the ship, and most of them had in turn watched her grow up. Those who weren't family by blood might as well have been, so if they happened to see each other undressing or caught one another in the middle of a wash, most of the time it was met with a bit of surprise and a few weeks of joking about it before it became more or less forgotten (Or at least unmentioned).
This person, however, was a complete stranger, and an incredibly unusual one at that. She wasn't certain how it was possible for someone to have such a feminine quality without losing an unmistakable air of masculinity, but he managed to pull it off. Or maybe it was just the fact that he was dripping wet, and the water was doing a rather horrible job of hiding his rather well built frame. Regardless of the reason, she tore her eyes away from him and turned to the side, muttering to her brother as he glared at the unfamiliar face.
"Luimt fa kad dra syh cusa byhdc, bmayca?"
Brother glanced at her in confusion before giving her a wide smirk, finally noticing just what was causing her so much discomfort. Signaling the others to keep a watch over the man, whose eyes were wandering around the deck without paying any real heed to those surrounding him, Brother took his time going below deck to retrieve some extra clothing. The awkward silence (Less so on the part of Sephiroth, given that he didn't particularly care about his current state aside from the fact that he was in another world) continued until the odd blond man with the Mohawk returned, tossing him a bodysuit resembling the ones of his rescuers.
It was more comfortable than it looked, though admittedly the coverage wasn't a vast improvement, but at least he wouldn't be forced to go gallivanting around in nothing but a shiny new skin suit until he could find a clothing store. Yes, that was definitely more comfortable. Especially for a certain Al Bhed teenager.
And now that most of the awkwardness was out of the equation, her paranoid comrades decided to begin questioning him. After all, the last time they'd taken on a stranger they'd accused him of being a Fiend in disguise, and had been attacked by Sin not long afterwards. Certainly they didn't believe that he was actually responsible, but they would need a scapegoat until they could get their "baby" running properly again. When her brother, Brother, jabbed the man in the chest with one of the forbidden Machina weapons, he merely frowned. He didn't seem unfamiliar with the weapon at least.
"One warning. Don't do that again." Oh yes, he definitely knew what it was. Even if Rikku was the only one who understood exactly what he was saying, the warning was clear. But who ever said that Brother was one to care about warnings? When he jabbed the man again, Rikku only registered two things before her comrades were backing away, trying to calm the silver-haired man down.
The first was that, as the newcomer swept his right hand out almost too quickly to see, the Machina weapon flew from her sibling's hands in a burst of flame, skidding across the deck. This was a black mage. And based on the speed of the casting, and the lack of any burns on her brother despite their close proximity and that he'd set fire to something in his hands, it was likely a very talented one.
The second was that, through means she wouldn't be able to explain until much later, a sword which was probably the longest blade she'd ever seen seemed to materialize in the stranger's left hand as it rocketed towards Brother's neck, stopping just centimeters short of the skin. As the green aura that seemed to hover around, no, in, the blade faded away, the strange looking man drew it back, allowing the tip to rest on the ground.
"Don't. Do that. Again." He'd had weapons pointed at him before. That didn't bother him. He'd been threatened before. That didn't bother him. However, before it had always been with a purpose. He was legendary in his world (And from what he could gather, apparently even more so after whatever he'd done to threaten the world), so just about anyone who came after him did so for a reason. However, he'd always hated those who attacked for no apparent reason. Perhaps they had one, but based on his severely limited knowledge, they'd threatened a completely harmless stranger (At least, most would assume that a naked man drifting in the ocean without anything to his name was relatively harmless) with no apparent cause.
The odd man before him could only nod his head, once again clearly understanding the meaning if not the words themselves as he gestured for the others to lower their weapons. It was obviously just for posturing when he spoke again in a false-confident tone, but Sephiroth could hardly blame him for it. Boys will be boys, after all, and even the obviously defeated need to at least attempt to save face.
"Hud pyt, cdnyhkan vnus dra cay. Syopa fa fuh'd syga oui mayja oad."
Then again, maybe he'd overreacted, considering that the younger one (And the only clearly female member of those assembled on the deck, he noted) walked up behind the now-fuming man that had made the threat and slapped him on the back of the head. Perhaps that one was simply paranoid. If nothing else, he seemed to deflate when she scolded him (It sounded like a scolding, anyway. He'd certainly heard it often enough from Angeal and Hojo when their apprentices, or in Hojo's case minions, were acting out of line) in the language that he'd yet to decipher. Maybe it was because she was a leader, or simply because teenage girls had a mysterious ability to make the lives of young men a living hell if they were crossed, but in quick order all of the men were heading back to their stations while sending some anxious glances towards the sword in his hand, as she moved to stand in front of him. This, he decided, was someone that he might be able to communicate with.
"Who are you?" Of course, his bluntness sometimes made communication nearly as difficult as any language barrier.
"My name is Rikku. How 'bout you?"
So she understood his language. Good. Now he might just get something done.
"And this ship?"
"Man, a little rude aren't ya? What is it with all you stranded guys and not telling anyone your names? Do you just not know how to pronounce 'em or something? I practically had to drag it out of the last one." Seeing his confusion, she let out an exaggerated sigh, deciding that he was probably just a bit ruffled from whatever had left him stranded in the ocean. "Oh, forget it. This is an Al Bhed recovery ship. I don't guess you're an Al Bhed hater, right?"
"Yhudran uha? Kuut kneav! You don't know about the Al Bhed?"
"Well that's kinda strange. You're the second person we've found around here lately that's had memory problems like that. Said he got near Sin. I wonder if you knew him…"
"What did he look like?" It wasn't likely that he would, given his origins, but it wouldn't hurt to ask. Perhaps the Goddess had sent him some kind of aid.
"Well, his name was Tidus." He certainly didn't know anyone named Tidus. An alias, perhaps? More likely, it was just a complete stranger. But it didn't hurt to hope.
She lifted her hand over her head slightly, indicating someone taller than her. "He was about this tall, and he had kind of dirty blond hair and blue eyes. Oh, and he was probably around seventeen or eighteen. He was, um, kind of athletic." She blushed at that, but Sephiroth's mind was elsewhere, unfamiliar words echoing through his mind, images that he somehow knew to be true, all from another man fitting a similar description.
"What about my friends, my feelings, my pain!? I looked up to you!"
He knew this boy. He was from Shinra. A standard MP…But what was his name?
"Those eyes! Impossible…"
Had they fought?
"My eyes are burning."
They had. And he'd hurt him. Hurt his friends.
"Why shed tears for feelings that aren't even there?"
Had he honestly believed that? Why?
But that was wrong. Whatever he may have said, it was wrong.
"Face it, Cloud."
Cloud…Cloud Strife, of Nibelheim. He hadn't been created.
"It's my fault."
He was born. Cloud was a normal child, unlike…
"You're nothing but an empty puppet."
Him. Sephiroth. He was the experiment. He was the unnatural creation, born from the minds of Shinra's finest minds.
"And what about this planet!?"
It would be gone. He would have destroyed the world. Because he'd believed he was one of the Cetra…No, not the Cetra. Something else. Something superior even to the Ancients of legend.
"Tell me what you cherish most."
He'd hated the boy.
"I pity you."
And through all of his hate, Cloud had still pitied him. Pitied his inability to understand what made their group so strong.
"Give me the pleasure of taking it away."
But he never could. No matter how hard he'd tried, he was always defeated. For all of his supposed strength, the one he'd called a puppet always prevailed in the end. When it came down to it, the humans weren't the weaker.
"You just don't get it at all!"
It was true. He'd never understood. He still couldn't completely understand.
He was a monster. Just as Genesis had told him years earlier, before he'd devoted himself to becoming a god.
"There's not a thing I don't cherish!"
And he could never care so much.
"Will never be a memory."
Yet all that remained were memories, manifested and sent away for the safety of a world that no longer needed the legendary SOLDIER of Shinra.
He wouldn't make that mistake again.
"He looked like he might be a blitzball player or something. Either way," Her voice, now far more somber than before, shook him from his contemplation and he looked to her curiously. "He went overboard when we got attacked by Sin a few days back. I don't know what happened to him."
"Blitzball?" A sport of some kind?
"Fryd!? You don't even remember that!?" He shook his head, frowning a bit. He never liked being talked down to. "It's a pretty cool sport. Just about everybody in Spira watches it. Man, I can't believe you even forgot blitzball…"
"It's that popular?"
"Yeah, of course. It's pretty much the only happy thing people have these days." Well that definitely didn't sound good. Perhaps there was a more specific reason for his presence in this particular world. "But you'd have to see it to really get it."
"So…you don't know him? Maybe if you were there with him, Sin's toxin got to you too."
"Sin…You mentioned that before."
"Yna oui gettehk? Sin is a huge monster that's been terrorizing this world for centuries! You really must have gotten hit pretty bad if you can't even remember a giant monster. Heck, I'm surprised you remember your own name. Wait, you do remember your own name, right?"
"My name. Sephiroth. And this 'Sin' creature can affect people with this…toxin, yes? From what you've said, I assume it has some kind of memory-altering properties."
"Yep. Ya got it in one."
"And you think that I've been affected by this toxin."
"Well, that'd explain why you can't seem to remember a lot of stuff."
"Perhaps I'm from another world."
"Yeah, another world. That'd be pretty neat, but it's totally impossible. You know, Tidus said that he was from a different time. I wonder if everyone who's exposed to that much of the toxin comes up with these stories…" She noticed his deepening frown, holding up her hands in apologies. "Sorry, sorry. I didn't mean to make fun of you or anything. So let's say that you are from another world. Why would you be here?"
"…A second chance."
"A second chance? At what?"
"Hn. It's nothing. Just the ramblings of a lunatic."
"Riiiight. Anyway, so about this 'world' of yours, what's it like?"
"So you believe me now?" His tone was about as close to playful as it ever had been. Which was to say that if you hadn't known him for at least a few years, then you wouldn't notice the difference at all.
"Well, real or not, I'm sure it's an interesting story."
"I see. If my memory isn't deceiving me," And he was remembering more and more. He wasn't certain of how he'd triggered memories of events after his "death" at Nibelheim, those should have been lost to him when he was created from the memories of before he went mad, but they were coming together. Even if there were still a few gaps here and there, they were returning. "Violent. It was always violent. At least, during my lifetime. I saw most of the world, but almost solely when bloodshed was involved. Aside from those times, I rarely left Midgar."
"A city. The largest on the planet. Some called it the City that Never Sleeps." And some certain officers insisted on calling it the Giant Metal Pizza. At least Zack was smart enough not to write that in official reports…No matter how funny Angeal found it.
"A city that never sleeps. You know, that sounds a lot like how people described Zanarkand before it was destroyed one thousand years ago. A city of machina that never rested. Hm." She shook her head. "So you never got out? Ever?"
"Rarely. I grew up there. I never saw much of a point in leaving when the military wasn't involved." Where would I go? Certainly he could have gone anywhere that he chose. He was revered by most of Shinra, and he made more than enough money to have retired long before hitting his thirties, but where would he be able to live in peace? His only genuine friends lived in Midgar, most of the civilian world treated him as either a monster or some kind of living god, and frankly, he would probably get bored if he wasn't assigned missions on occasion. It was sad really, that he could only find peace with an organization that thrived on war.
Oh well. It doesn't matter now, I suppose.
"So tell me more about this 'Sin' of yours. What is it, where does it come from, does it have any weaknesses? Why hasn't it been stopped?"
"Hey, a chance to answer would be nice. But honestly, there's not too much to tell. We don't really know much about it. Followers of Yevon, basically a worldwide religion," She elaborated at his questioning glance "Say that it was created to punish the people of Spira for their sins. Especially the Al Bhed."
"Why target you?"
"It's because we use machina. According to Yevon, machina is basically evil, and anyone who uses it is a sinner or a heretic."
"Ridiculous." Though it almost makes me wish Hojo were here. Almost. The fool would probably have a stroke when he realized he was trapped in a world of religion and faith, but nearly devoid of technology or science. Now that I would like to see. Then again, he was hardly alone in that. Most of Shinra's employees would probably love to see the man out of the picture, with a little pain beforehand.
"Yeah, we kinda think so too."
"So this ship? It was attacked by Sin?" That would explain the damage.
"Yeah. Our girl's still holding up for now, but we've got so little power left that we were just about to start letting it drift when we found you. At least until we can do a few touchups."
"…What power source does this ship run on?"
"Huh? Oh, it's a bit complicated, but-"
Suffice to say, mechanics were not he former SOLDIER's area of expertise. After a few minutes, he cut her off.
"Allow me to rephrase that question: What do you need to fix it?" Maybe he'd be more willing to learn later, but at the moment he wasn't quite oriented enough to listen to long instructions on the inner workings of alien technology.
"I doubt anything that we could produce until we get to land. Or another ship, but we don't usually have more than one in the area. Why, you offering to help?"
"The impression I received from your…friends…Was that I wasn't really wanted here. You helped me, so pulling my own weight is the least I could do." She raised an eyebrow at that. 'Wasn't really wanted here' was a bit of an understatement, and she doubted he could have missed that whether he understood Al Bhed or not.
"Well like I said, we've done just about everything that we can for the ship. We've got enough food to keep us going for a while too. I guess if you really want to help we could find something."
AN: Not as much as I'd hoped, but since I put basically all of my stories on the backburner for about a year and this one was lower priority than my fics that were much farther along, I think it was a relatively good length…Anyway, hope you enjoyed, and the next chapter should come much sooner than this one.